If you seek high-quality comedy with the cinematic power of drama, then binge-watch “Atlanta.” Anchored by the bold vision of creator, co-writer and star Donald Glover, “Atlanta” offers uniquely riveting television.
Year it began: 2016
Where it can be seen: FX; Amazon; Hulu
Who’s in it: Donald Glover; Brian Tyree Henry; Zazie Beetz; Keith Stanfield
Typical episode length: 24 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 10
Brief plot description: Earnest (“Earn”) Marks, a young Atlanta resident dealing with financial troubles as he helps his ex-girlfriend Vanessa Keefer raise their baby daughter, manages the hip-hop career of his cousin Alfred Miles, who raps under the stage-name Paper Boi.
Why it’s worth watching: “Atlanta” is a beautifully filmed and deeply engaging show that wonderfully blends comedy and drama. Primarily comic, “Atlanta” is both consistently funny and cinematically innovative, with excellent casting and whip-smart scripts (most of which are written by Donald Glover or Stephen Glover). With its ambitious, single-camera directing (much of which is done skillfully by Hiro Murai), each “Atlanta” episode offers wry, yet powerful social commentary on the music business and celebrity culture, while exploring such hot-button issues as economic hardship, racial identity and millennial malaise. Glover’s exquisite performance as Earn grounds the show: combining comic skills with a thoughtful demeanor, Glover makes it easy for us to identify with him as he navigates his challenging world. Henry projects both toughness and wisdom as would-be rap star Paper Boi, while Beetz brings quiet intensity and grace to the role of Vanessa. Stanfield offers an especially subtle and potent performance, providing offbeat hilarity as Paper Boi’s philosophical sidekick, Darius. With its edgily humorous takes on both everyday life and serious topics like an inhuman criminal justice system, “Atlanta” offers programming as artful as it is urgent.