WHY: Season 1 Episode 1
Immediately, ‘Snowfall’ hits you over the head with imagery you are not quickly going to forget. It contrasts the highs and lows of life in the ghetto with beautiful visuals and acting.
The show begins with a familiar look into life in the Los Angeles ghettos in the 1980’s. We have the loud streets populated by a close-knit black community. Granted, this is something that we have seen countless times before, however, in the middle of all this, we meet Franklin who is played brilliantly by Damson Idris. Franklin, from the very start, appears to be different from the ‘wrong-side-of-the-tracks’ neighbourhood he was brought up in. He, in the first few minutes, stops some kids from stealing, and tells his friends that he won’t drink because it “just don’t make me feel good”. He is someone we can trust, someone who understands the racism around him and plays that to his strengths.
When we find him selling weed with his uncle, however, I felt disappointed in him, a testament to the excellent character building by writers Dave Andron and John Singleton. Franklin finds a way to justify his decisions though, he knows that being a black man where he is in America doesn’t afford him the same options as others and that means he has to make money, however he can, even if that means selling to the rich white families who live down the road. This justification turns around and bites him later though when stakes are risen. Even still, I can understand why Franklin chooses to sell cocaine instead of sticking with the safer, less rewarding choice; how else is he going to ‘make it’ and prove himself to his family?
Franklin’s story in the first episode is riveting, well written, and genuinely interesting and thought-provoking; asking what you would do when life hands you those “shitty options” that Franklin deals with. The secondary storylines, however, offer slightly less in the way of brilliant television. There’s the storyline of Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson) for instance, the disgraced CIA agent who wants back in on the action. While touching on the unimaginable reality of government backed cocaine pushing, his storyline is overused, especially when paired with the similarly tired trope of mysterious drug lord and dangerous mafia-style family.
Perhaps the whole story is something that we have seen before, with the dangerous streets and charismatic character who wants to do more with his life. This specific version, however, manages to feel different. While the B stories leave a lot to be desired, Franklin and his way of going about his life is fresh and exciting to see, right down to his love for not only his friends and family but his home too. Throughout, the show gives its characters two opposing options, the easy way out or the harder, higher reward option. Teddy takes the latter because he wants more from his life, just like Franklin, he doesn’t want to be left behind, doing an office job that just about allows him to get by.
All of the characters, both innocent and guilty are grounded by life’s “shitty options”, a quote from Franklin that, I think, perfectly emulates the true meaning of the show; making the best of what you’ve got. Critics who have branded Snowfall as glorifying the selling and consumption of cocaine, fail to see how the life these characters ultimately choose to lead is either a last resort or what makes them stand out in a society that will always paint their ‘otherness’ as a negative.
Overall, ‘Snowfall’ presents a gritty and real look into the origins of the crack cocaine epidemic in 1980’s Los Angeles, with a main character who proves to be loving, headstrong and hardworking all at once, even if those qualities are used to sell drugs. Franklin will have you rooting for him no matter what, setting up what I’m sure will be a thrilling season.
Having just been greenlighted for its third season set to start in 2019, you best catch up on the two seasons this great show already has to offer.
WHO: Damson Idris
WHERE: BBC iPlayer
WHEN: Season 1 & 2 now available
WHAT: Black Earth Rising
WHY: In the penultimate episode of the series as Kate and Florence race back to the UK to retrieve their last bit of evidence in Eve’s case file against Patrice Ganimana, someone else will stop at nothing to get there first.
WHO: Michaela Cole
WHEN: Monday 22nd October, 9pm. Catch up on BBC iPlayer
Read Jo Hamya’s review of Black Earth Rising here.
WHY: The second episode of the highly anticipated drama sees its lead character Raza struggling with being a police informant, he must find out as much as he can about Big Shot, The London connect of El Adoua. He sinks deeper in as Dadir takes a much deeper interest in his life as he spends more time with him and The Bridgetown Crew.
WHO: Sharron D Clarke, Roger Jean Nsengiyumva, Nabhaan Rizwan, Sunetra Sarker
WHERE: BBC 1
WHEN: Tuesday 23rd October, 9pm
WHY: Cookie and Luscious’ new artist treasure seems to be their way of trouble but she is snatched up by Empire’s new CEO who has some new ideas for the company but will the Lyon family be interested?
WHO: Taraji P Henson, Terrence Howard, Gabourey Sidibe, Trai Byers, Bryshere Gray, Jussie Smollet
WHEN: Thursday 25th October, 10pm
WHAT: Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners
WHY: Part 2 in the sees David looks at how in 1834 the government arrived at the decision to compensate Britains 46,000 slave owners with the equivalent of 17 billion pounds today. He also investigates exactly what happened to the wealth generated by the slave trade and the compensation pay-out, revealing links to the expansion of the railway network, Britains industrialisation in the 19th century and more.
WHO: David Olusoga
WHERE: BBC4 Also available on BBC iPlayer
WHEN: Thursday 25th October, 11pm
WHAT: Hip-Hop Evolution
WHY: Interviews with influential MCs, DJs and moguls trace the genre’s dynamic evolution from the 1970s through the 1990s in this documentary series.
WHO: MC Hammer, NWA, Wu-Tang, Grandmaster Flash
WHERE: Netflix UK
TBB’s recommendations by Jade Fakokunde