HBO has done an excellent job with half-hour series about a specific group of people, told from a particular perspective that seems to encapsulate a relatable demographic that everyone knows someone from. From Sex and the City and the empowered single woman, to Girls, which deals with the entitled generation, to Entourage, concerned with the excess of Hollywood and power shifts in friendships, to Looking, which showcased gays in San Francisco, each of these shows have been great and completely different, even though they all fit into this broad genre.
Now, the network continues that tradition with INSECURE. It stars producer and actress Issa Rae (Awkward Black Girl) as Issa, a woman unhappy in her long-term relationship and feeling like she hasn’t accomplished the things she wants to in life. Along with her employment-challenged boyfriend, Lawrence (Jay Ellis, The Game), her hot, unlucky-in-love, lawyer best friend, Molly (Yvonne Orji, Sex (Therapy) with the Jones), and her well-meaning, but racially-tone-deaf co-worker, Frieda (Lisa Joyce, Billy & Billie), Issa wonders if this is as good as life gets, or if there’s anything left to do to better it.
What sparks this bout of self-doubt and evaluation, you may ask? Well, as INSECURE begins, Issa is turning twenty-nine and looking towards her 30s. As many a young person in their twenties believes, Issa thinks that wherever she is when that monumental milestone hits, that’s likely to set the tone for the rest of her life. So she understandably thinks that this year might be the one in which to make a change. Call it a quarter-life crisis if you will, though I’d say it’s probably closer to a third-life crisis, but it’s about that struggle of switching over from childhood to the adult world, realizing you cannot go back and you’ve already wasted a lot of time.
As a thirty-three year old myself, I find this incredibly naïve, but also, something I went through just a few shorts years ago, and I’m sure I’m far from the only one who will see themselves in Issa. What will be interesting to see is if the show’s protagonist undergoes the same shift that many others do, coming to realize that thirty isn’t that old, and there are still plenty of chances to chase your dreams. Or will she give up? This is likely a several year thought process, perfect for a TV series likely to run a few seasons.
I greatly applaud Issa Rae for making this series, as well as starring it. She is telling a tale that will echo among many viewers, and doing it in a creative, entertaining way. While INSECURE shares plenty of DNA with the other series mentioned in the first paragraph, it’s a lot more than just a retread, bringing a new angle to the experience of life at another formative age. The show is funny and the characters are likeable, but there’s also plenty of depth and complexity in their motivations and inner monologue, which is wonderfully shown in facial expressions and tone.
The whole cast in the series is great. I admit, I find Joyce’s Frieda super annoying and don’t necessarily want to see more from her, but I am certain that’s by design, and all it will take is one good episode to help us understand Frieda and turn that distaste to sympathy. Similarly, given that the show is unfolding from Issa’s point of view, it’s easy to dismiss Molly as less serious, or Lawrence as an uncaring bum. Yet, it’s also apparent from the actors’ performances that there is more going on than we’ve seen, and I expect to care about both of them by the end of season one.
In short, I liked INSECURE, and I think it’s got a good tale to tell. Check it out when it begins airing Sunday at 10:30/9:30 CT on HBO, or the series premiere is already streaming now on HBOGo and HBONow.