“Run the World” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yriAaWlKnJw ) opens with a big, Harlem bang of beautiful African-American perfection. The only criticism that I have for the perfect show is that it’s only eight episodes.
Set in modern Harlem, New York — a place filled with the beauty of Black and Brown, we get a glimpse of the rarest of flowers — spirited, successful, complicated, and fully fleshed out, three-dimensional African-American women.
“Run the World” is developed by Leigh Davenport and loosely based on her own experience of living in Harlem.
The series focuses on four friends chasing their dreams and carving out their destinies.
On Starz, “Run the World” is destined to become an important series in television’s history books. It’s a well-written, witty dramedy deserving of all of the accolades they are receiving.
In the pilot, we are introduced to Ella (Andrea Bordeaux) a frustrated writer who jokes that her on and off again lover, Anderson (Nick Sagar) as her “Big” a “Sex and the City” reference. Thankfully, Ella is nothing like the whining, over-the-top Carrie Bradshaw, and this show blows “Sex and the City” out of the water, so forcefully it’s embarrassing.
Ella’s level headed friend Sondi (Corbin Reid) quickly reminds her of the differences between the two men and a nod, I suspect, to the series “Sex and the City” stylist Patricia Field is a consultant with her brilliant (brilliant) colleague Tracy L. Cox bringing the cultural fire to all of the characters clothing. Heads up, Black Hollywood, Ms. Cox is one to watch.
“Run the World” is culture and possesses its own vibe that’s never been seen before, and could only be done by creative folks of color.
The other dynamic characters of the show’s central foursome include tenacious advertising exec Renee (Bresha Webb), a Taurus bull with a magnetic personality and always on the cusp of divorcing her husband Jason (Jay Walker), and the conservative, Whitney (Amber Stevens West), teetering on a breakdown as she moves toward her impending marriage to her longtime boyfriend, Nigerian doctor Ola (Tosin Morohunfola), and the only man she’s ever been with.
Three-dimensional characters (thank you, writers’ room) each of these women has their motivations with their flaws and strengths perfectly woven into the texture of each episode of the series. They are alike in many ways but it’s easy to see, quickly, what makes them distinct.
In one of the later episodes, we discover that they all share the same therapist (Rosie O’Donnell).
Now to the brilliance of Yvette Lee Bowser, the creator of the iconic series “Living Single” and “Dear White People,” the Netflix series she spent several seasons steering into shape. What she’s helping to craft with “Run The World” isn’t superficial banter of girlfriends during cocktail hours. There is something purposeful behind even the lightest joke, and the dialogue flows when spoken by the leads which have such perfect chemistry, it’s easy to forget that we are watching a television series. There is an authentic intimate friendship on display.
And the creative team did not shy away from showing the encroaching issue of gentrification. Now to the look of “Run the World” which is the sole responsibility shared between four directors: Millicent Shelton, Justin Tipping, Jenée LaMarque, and Nastaran Dibai. Each director portrays Harlem with an eye to detail that highlights beauty and pride that is rarely seen in shooting the city least alone, Harlem. A nod to production designer Diane Lederman who has used her superpowers to give each character’s apartment a personality and a purpose. That takes skill.
Now to the sound which is courtesy of Emmy® award-winning and four-time Grammy® award-winning artist Robert Glasper who composed the series alongside fellow series composer Derrick Hodge. AAFCA award-winning Morgan Rhodes is the Music Supervisor.
“Run the World” is —in my opinion — a perfect show for a myriad of reasons but the most poignant is telling the stories of African-American women, looking at their lives in their thirties, with questions and passion. There is nothing like it on television today, and I take this opportunity to repeat myself — it’s a perfect show.
“Run the World” now playing on Starz.
Executive producers: Leigh Davenport and Yvette Lee Bowser.
Starring: Amber Stevens West, Andrea Bordeaux, Bresha Webb, Corbin Reid, Nick Sagar, Stephen Bishop, Tosin Morohunfola, Jay Walker, and Erika Alexander.