Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sam I Am

I don't know if you've heard about You're the Worst. These days, you can barely tell what has reached the people from what hasn't. One second critics are hailing shows like Mr. Robot, the next execs are cancelling Community (I'll never forgive you for that, NBC).

Here's the thing, though: You should have heard about You're the Worst, because it's kind of the best. Currently running its second season, the FXX sitcom features some of the best writing and acting available for consumption on television these days. Even more striking, it features female characters that dominate every scene they touch, with a ferocious sense of self-worth tempered by a jolting self-awareness. People who get paid to talk about entertainment these days normally eat that stuff up. Or, at the very least, they claim to.

But the most dynamic character on the show is not a star, or featured character. It's Brandon Mychal Smith's "Sam," a hardcore rap artist with a firm command of both vocabulary and life.

On this woefully unappreciated sitcom, on a TV station whose name sounds like an aisle sign in Radio Shack, we have found the most unabashedly unique black character in our modern generation. Sam does not tap dance for the white people who surround him in nearly every scene, nor does he impose physical violence upon them as a means of self-affirmation. He's an educated and strong man, who proudly defines the world around him instead of letting it define him.

I pray this show survives to keep bringing its excellent timing and hilarious dialogue for several more years. And more importantly, to teach screenwriters in Hollywood that a black character can not only work, but excel when not forced to fit into one of the few predefined categories that they're most comfortable with.

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