It is difficult enough to keep up with all the broadcast, cable and high profile streaming series on television.
So I don’t often get around to watching low-budget episodic web series.
But I made an exception for “Dark Justice,” a web comedy series about the first black cop to work in an all-white police department because it has some Western New York connections.
The six short segments that total 35 minutes and were written and directed by Rochester native Mike Gerbino is available for viewing on You Tube, Funny or Die, streamnowtv, the “Dark Justice” home page and a few other places.
And it has its very funny moments dealing with racial issues.
Rochester native Che Holloway, 25, plays the black cop, who is surrounded by a bunch of clueless white co-workers and is even foolishly shot by one of them.
That results in the arrival of an Al Sharpton-like character, Rev. Charles X. Maxton, played by Buffalo actor-comedian Jon Cesar. Some courtroom scenes in the series were also shot in Buffalo. The sound engineer, Benjamin Jura, and the cinematographer, Travis Cannan, also are from from Buffalo.
I didn’t die laughing, but the six episodes of this broad comedy have about as many laughs as any network comedy. It also won some kind of international web series award, though Gerbino wasn’t exactly doing a huge dance about the win.
In a telephone interview, Gerbino, who is based in New York City, explained his motivations in creating the series.
“It was largely Black Lives Matter, and what has been happening between Ferguson and New York City, there is a lot of tension,” said Gerbino. “For me, it seemed very intense and I wanted to figure out a way to lighten it up a little bit.”
A hip hop artist who has several family members who are policemen, Gerbino added: “It just seemed that no one was walking the line between the two conversations at all. It walks the line a little more than you would expect…. It takes a stance pointing out racism in policing and the system of policing, but there also is an element of poking fun at the local Al Sharpton-type of activist who comes in, as well as the young, white, well-meaning millennial activist that comes in. It is trying to take a less hard stance.”
Gerbino said he is shopping the episodes around to see if he can get production companies interested and added there might be a second season on the web.
He concedes it is hard for a web series to get traction.
“So far, it is almost impossible,” he said. “It is an over-saturated market. No one is really interested in giving internet content a fair shake unless it’s been on a certain number of different platforms. We’ve had a little bit of help in that it is a controversial subject and a relevant subject. But even then, we are still trying to figure out how to get people to watch.”
Try it, you may like it.
The reviews for Chris Rock’s performance as Oscar host were overwhelmingly positive, with some understandable complaints about his monologue content.
Some critics and some people on Twitter were upset with his crack that black people had more important things to protest in the 1950s and 1960s when there also were years when there were no black Academy Award nominees. Rock’s critics noted that all the mistreatment of black people by law enforcement that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement now is worth protesting, too.
However, Rock’s intent in his joke was to note that more than a half century ago blacks had bigger things to worry about than not being nominated for Oscars. He could have avoided the criticism by doing what many columnists do when they fear being misinterpreted. He could have added a few lines. Something like: “I’m not saying we don’t have important things to protest now. We clearly do. But not getting an Oscar nomination isn’t one of them.”
However, that would have slowed down the joke. And Rock might have thought that some of his later jokes illustrated that he was aware that there are important things to protest now.
If you missed the episode of the ABC comedy, “black-ish,” that ran a week ago, I suggest you find it online or On Demand. It dealt in serious and comic ways with how African-American adults explain to their children how some members of the police have mistreated black citizens for decades and why it continues to happen today without consequences in the criminal justice system. The father, Andre (Anthony Anderson), and the mother, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), had a parental debate how to handle talking to their children about the injustices that continued in a fictional case in the episode that didn't result in an indictment.
At one point, Andre asked Rainbow, “when was the last time we won?”
“O.J. Simpson,” she replied.
“It shows how desperate black people were for a win,” he replied. “We had to root for this idiot. (Pause) Besides, the glove didn’t fit.”