Wednesday Open Thread: Did you watch Queen Sugar on OWN?

Queen Sugar debuted Part 1 last night on OWN.

Part 2 is tonight at 10 pm EST, with a repeat of Part 1.

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A review of Queen Sugar:

Review: Could OWN’s ‘Queen Sugar’ be TV’s next great family drama?
‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay breathes new life into old devices with Oprah Winfrey-produced series
By Alan Sepinwall @Sepinwall | Monday, Sep 5, 2016 9:00 AM

Other than Sundance’s Rectify, no recent TV drama has been as comfortable in silence as Queen Sugar, the new OWN family drama created by Selma director Ava DuVernay, adapting the novel by Natalie Baszile. The series lingers over moments that other shows might feel compelled to rush through, or fill with dialogue out of fear the audience might grow bored or not understand what’s running through the character’s minds. DuVernay appreciates the power of those silences, and the ways they can make a moment feel sexier, or more unsettling, or more powerful than if everyone on-screen was constantly articulating his or her thoughts. So many of the series’ emotions are conveyed through gestures, tight close-ups, or simply showing one of the regulars going through their daily routine.

As a result, Queen Sugar — about a trio of adult siblings who attempt to run their family’s sugarcane farm in rural Louisiana after their father suffers a stroke — simultaneously occupies the creative space of an independent film and a glossy melodrama. Big things happen on the series (which debuts tomorrow at 10 p.m., before airing regularly on Wednesdays at 10 starting the next night), including death, crime, and very public scandal, but the filmmaking style used by DuVernay (who directed the show’s first two episodes) and others creates such a level of intimacy that Queen Sugar isn’t so much a spectacle as an immersion experience. You don’t exactly join the fictional Bordelon clan, but you quickly come to understand them as if you’ve known them all your life.

The show is, in no particular order, a family drama — of a kind TV has badly needed more of since Parenthood ended — a portrait of a culture clash, an emotional potboiler, and an underdog farming saga, with a marvelous sense of place and command of tone (an extremely serious tone, at that) and several excellent performances, particularly by national acting treasure Glynn Turman as the ailing family patriarch Ernest and Rutina Wesley as his reporter/activist daughter Nova.

Nova and her brother Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) — an ex-con struggling to do right by his young son Blue (Ethan Hutchison), while protecting him from the boy’s troubled mother Darla (Bianca Lawson) — have stayed local and true to the family traditions, whether Nova practicing folk medicine on the side or Ralph Angel learning the farming ropes from Ernest. Their sister Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), on the other hand, has traveled very far, emotionally and geographically, from her roots, as a successful businesswoman whose husband Davis (Timon Kyle Durrett) is a pro basketball star in Los Angeles. They are the perfect couple — him searching for his elusive fifth championship, her held up by sportscasters as a paragon of class, and pursued by reality TV producers to be the non-crazy one on a new show — and Nova and Ralph Angel resent her airs as much as her money when she returns home to help after Ernest takes ill.

Some of the material about Charley’s marriage is sketchy — the team gets mixed up in a rape scandal, and fans turn on the players literally in mid-game, which would seem foreign to all the Laker faithful who had Kobe Bryant’s back during his own trials and tribulations in this area — but it gets her home and adds additional complications to the more pressing matters causing trouble for her siblings, her aunt Violet (Tina Lifford, who was Crosby’s mother-in-law on Parenthood) and Violet’s younger boyfriend Hollywood (Omar Dorsey).

Again and again throughout the three episodes OWN made available for review, DuVernay and company (the third episode was directed by TV veteran Neema Barnette) find ways to stage familiar moments in unfamiliar ways, like how a scene involving the care of Ralph Angel’s son is presented as an off-camera phone call while we watch Blue wait patiently — in a manner suggesting this is far from the first time — for his father, or anyone, to pick him up from school. The eclectic soundtrack features everything from hip-hop and blues to U2, and the visual compositions for most scenes make sure to capture the beauty, and at times harshness, of where the Bordelons were born and raised. Brick by brick, these approaches knock down the fourth wall that exists between the characters and the audience. It’s not that Nova turns into Abed from Community and starts pointing out the cliches of the genre, but that it quickly feels less like watching a fictional story than being a fly on the wall to witness a real family’s problems.

As Charley contemplates whether she wants to really put her cosmopolitan life on hold to learn how to grow sugarcane and save her birthright from falling into the hands of an unscrupulous local farming magnate, Ernest’s friend Remy (Dondre Whitfield) tries to warn and encourage her about the prospect at the same time.

“This work is going to test your soul,” he tells her. “But I think your soul can handle it.”

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32 Responses to Wednesday Open Thread: Did you watch Queen Sugar on OWN?

  1. Ametia says:

    This commander-in-chief forum airing tonight on MSNBC with Trump & Hillster is a big fucking joke

  2. rikyrah says:

    One Answer to School Attendance: Washing Machines
    When washers and dryers were added to 17 schools through a new program, attendance rates shot up.
    MIMI KIRK @marionekirk Aug 22, 2016

    Dr. Melody Gunn, the former principal of Gibson Elementary in St. Louis, couldn’t figure out why student attendance was on the low side. All of Gibson’s kids were provided free or reduced lunches, and the school facilitated transportation.

    In talking to parents, Gunn discovered that many didn’t have easy access to washing machines. Or if they did have machines, they couldn’t always use them because they couldn’t afford detergent, or their electricity had been shut off. For these families, laundry had to take a backseat to more pressing needs such as food and rent.

    It turned out that when students didn’t have clean clothes, they often stayed home from school out of embarrassment. Logan, an eighth-grader, spoke about how difficult it is for others to understand his problem: “I think people don’t talk about not having clean clothes because it makes you want to cry or go home or run away or something. It doesn’t feel good.”

    Gunn reached out to the Whirlpool company to see if it could help, and it donated a washer and dryer to her school. She then invited students who had missed more than 10 days of school to bring in their clothes for laundering. Whirlpool later gave 16 more schools in districts in St. Louis and Fairfield, California, washers and dryers through a new program.

    “After just one month, we saw an impact,” Gunn tells CityLab. The more long-term results of the program have actually been remarkable. The first year saw over 90 percent of tracked students increase their attendance, with those most in need of the service averaging an increase of almost 2 weeks. Teachers surveyed reported that 95 percent of participants showed more motivation in class and were more apt to participate in extra-curricular activities. The results support research demonstrating that chronic absenteeism isn’t because of kids’ lack of smarts or motivation, but is largely due to coming from a low-income household.

    With the United States confronting such profound problems as structural inequality and racism, clean clothing may seem like a band aid on a festering wound. Gunn says that as a public educator, she’s simply looking to serve her public’s needs and provide a model for other communities to emulate. “What’s around me is what I can control,” she explains. “This is our responsibility. It’s a need. It’s not a want.”

    Whirlpool says it will expand the program next year to at least 20 additional schools, including one in Baltimore and one in Nashville. Over 300 schools have expressed interest in the program.

  3. Stand strong, my Native bros & sisters. Don’t give an inch. #NoDAPL #NoDakotaAccessPipeline

  4. Oh nooo! I’m so sorry. She went through so much. May her soul RIP.

  5. Ametia says:

    I loved Queen. Looking forward to tonight’s episode.

    Complex family characters and experiences.

    Thanks for the post, Rikyrah.

  6. Ametia says:

    Happy HUMP day, Everyone!

  7. CarolMaeWY says:

    We don’t have access to that network. All those channels and no OWN.

  8. rikyrah says:

    Good Morning 😊 , Everyone 😆

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