We are at a very interesting age of television, the 2010s rang in an era where TV shows were free to be even more experimental and creative with their storytelling than ever. This also led to more TV shows not only about minoritized groups but by people who belong to these minoritized groups. Shows like Pose and Insecure are revolutionary in their representation of the people their characters represent. And there is Donald Glover’s Atlanta, a genre-bending, surreal trip about a young black man struggling to make enough money to support his daughter and make ends meet by managing his cousin’s burgeoning rap career.
Atlanta is the creation of Donald Glover, who is a rapper, singer, songwriter, comedian, and now showrunner and writer. Its first two seasons were met with unprecedented critical acclaim and commercial success, so much so that FX, the network that greenlit the show, renewed it for two more seasons after the show’s second. Atlanta came as a surprise for everyone, even for diehard fans of Glover who were excited for the show for years. From the first episode, most people could tell that the show was special. It has a very distinct style of storytelling that allows for the fusion of genres and tones. Because of this, the show has great narrative flexibility.
By narrative flexibility, I mean the show can tell many different types of stories. This is why the show can have moments of commentary like when the show unflinchingly shows how disabled people in prison get mistreated unreasonably; and also have moments for humor like having an invisible car gag in an episode. The common thread here is how both of these moments are done through the show’s use of surrealism. Atlanta’s world has a thin layer of surrealism that makes the show unpredictable, while still allowing for it to be grounded when the show needs to be. This allows the show to tackle heady topics like police brutality, racism, poverty, homelessness, and dealing with your past while still being a fun and humorous show.
The cinematography in Atlanta is stellar as well, creating an arthouse aesthetic for the show that makes it stand out from other shows. The show has a lot of elements taken from the film, like drone shots of the city and tracking shots, this adds to the immersion effect that the world of the show can have. This really points back to the direction and writing from Donald Glover and the team. Atlanta is a one-of-a-kind show that should be watched if you love good television, you can catch up before the show finally returns with its much anticipated third season on Hulu where it is streaming.