Welcome to The Indiependent’s Top TV of the Decade! Christopher Burns takes us through why Donald Glover’s Atlanta made his list…
As its creator once put “I’m not making a TV show, I am making an experience”, Atlanta has transformed over the course of its two seasons. Donald Glover’s show about four African-Americans finding their way in the eponymous city launched with a satirical, sharp tongue and a deadpan black comic edge. Its main characters; Earn (Donald Glover), Paper Boi (Bryan Tyree Henry), Darius (Lakieth Stanfield) and Van (Zazie Beetz) were dropped into various situations ranging from the tragic, the humorous and the absurd – but the show has since matured in ways no one could foresee. After a strong first season, the show’s second season became unlike anything on television (or film) in 2018.
It plunged our heroes into a surrealist nightmare, albeit one still wrapped up in the show’s socio-political rags. The episodes grew into high concept, genre defying segments that showcased Glovers’ genius from comedy (Paper Boi’s attempt to get a hair-cut) psychological horror (Darius’ night trapped in mansion with the very Michael Jackson-like Teddy Perkins) celebrity obsession (Van’s trip to Drake’s New Year’s Eve party) and downright horror (Paper Boi getting lost in the woods). Under the artistic eye of Glover and, frequent director/collaborator Hiro Murai, Atlanta has become an intense examination of racism, poverty, the Black experience in Trump America – and it’s a show that rebels against its very medium.
It was in 2017 when French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema famously crowned Twin Peaks: The Return -an 18 part TV show – as their number one film of that year. It was a controversial and defiant move, but the idea of a TV show scaling a film list is perhaps no longer viewed as extremist move – and if it was to happen again, you wouldn’t bet against Atlanta topping it.
Words by Christopher Burns