New York, Atlanta and Tokyo : when cities steal the show
Numéro checked out all the new TV series to find the best three original creations, and in their own way each of them pays tribute to a big city.
Atlanta (FX) : the city of hip-hop
Crucible of the civil rights movement and home town of Martin Luther King, Atlanta is a major symbol in the social struggles of the United States. Today it’s also the epicentre of an anti-establishment and eclectic hip-hop scene, from Abra and Iggy Azealia to rapper Young Thug. With this powerful identity it was the perfect choice for Donald Glover – better known by his stage name, Childish Gambino – for his very first production which has us following the daily life of two cousins, Earnest “Earn” Marks and Alfred “Paper Boi”, striving to make their mark on the local rap scene, and the accompanying highs and lows. What follows is a series of questions deeper than their thirst for fame, as they both query their identity beyond the systematic clichés of black rapper/bad boy the mainstream is so keen to reduce them to. After four years of playing in Community and appearances in 30 Rock, Donald Glover is now taking his first incredibly successful steps as director, but also auteur, actor and even producer of his own series. Semi-autobiographical, Atlanta follows in the wake of Insecure also about the often confusing daily existence of young Afro-Americans today. Glover’s comic vein is more subtle than ever with just the right dose of melancholia. After 10 thirty-minute episodes, all both touching and humorous, we definitely want more.
High Maintenance (HBO) : reefer smoke rings from Brooklyn to Queens
It’s hard to do something new about New York, the source of urban inspiration that’s been portrayed from every angle on the big and small screen. HBO owes some of its most resounding successes to the Big Apple: the magical metropolis full of hot men in Sex & The City, then ten years later the irony and realism as portrayed by Lena Dunham in Girls. Much nearer to the latter, High Maintenance focuses on the travels of The Guy, a marijuana dealer who spends his days cycling through the city making deliveries. A nickname behind which hides an outlandish 30-something who takes the viewer on a trip through a colourful and richly contrasting capital. Every episode focuses on the story of one character: a former alcoholic who lives with his daughter and her husband, a young ultra-connected writer, the complicated moving to Queens of a Midwesterner and their dog… The politically incorrect pitch of this new indie nugget is delivered by Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld who’d already developed the concept as a self-funded web series in 2012. They sketch out a biting yet tender portrait of the city, whilst avoiding the clichés thanks to the impartial viewpoint of The Guy, the timely placed man. With weed being the final link between these New Yorkers, from Brooklyn to Manhattan, a web of characters reveals itself, with its share of unexpected commonalities. Enjoy !
Midnight Diner - Tokyo Stories (Netflix): the poetry of a nocturnal Tokyo
Originally Midnight Diner was a 15-volume manga by Yarô Abe, which became a best-seller in Japan before making its way on screen. First as three seasons of a TV show, then came two films released in 2015 based around the ultra-efficient dialogue of the Japanese author. A vastly popular success that seemed destined to remain local until Netflix picked it up and produced a new series that’s now accessible to an international audience. Given the minimalism and simplicity of the original story, it’s full of surprises: the narration is centred on a greasy spoon café in the Shinjuku neighbourhood in Tokyo. Customers drift in and out of this warm, popular ambiance, open from midnight ‘til dawn, and the links are gradually woven over cooked meals and glasses of sake. Director Joji Matsuoka introduces the city in an incredibly authentic manner via this place on a street so modest you’d barely notice it. Over ten episodes, the plot unfolds and relationships are delicately woven between individuals with all the modesty that characterises them. Beyond the basic pleasure of discovering Tokyo and its rhythms via this format, the narration’s magic totally works.