Atlanta is a comedy like nothing else on television. The FX series is the brainchild of Donald Glover, who merged his two career paths as a comedy writer and a hip–hop artist to produce one of the most original and evocative story lines in modern television. Glover plays “Earn,” a Princeton dropout who has moved back to his home turf to try to earn a living for himself, his ex–girlfriend and their child. When Earn learns that his cousin, Alfred, is an up–and–coming rapper under the name of Paper Boi (played by Brian Tyree Henry), he convinces his cousin to hire him as his manager, and the two attempt to turn his fame into something larger and far more lucrative.
What makes this series so great is Glover’s ability to subvert expectation at nearly every opportunity. The show is first and foremost an introspective look into the lives of black people living in Atlanta, employing surrealism and surprise to elicit emotions that are simultaneously wonderful to experience and necessarily upsetting. This is paired with a comedy that is dry and unordinary, and a rhythm that is meditative and humming—altogether entrancing the viewer into a state of exposure that makes him or her more susceptible to absorb new ideas.
Violence plays a key role throughout the series. Danger often appears suddenly and disappears without explanation. A shooting takes place in the first few minutes of the series, but is never actually confronted or resolved. Later in the show, a character named Darius (played by Lakeith Stanfield) is confronted aggressively in a shooting range when he uses a picture of a dog for target practice. Darius argues that it is in fact far more disturbing for people to use pictures of humans for target practice, but the response that this elicits escalates to the point where Darius is asked to leave the range. Rather than providing a discussion around brutality, the show merely presents it and moves on—a tactic that generates important conversation, and through a medium that makes it endlessly accessible for anyone who watches it. What makes this series so great is that the messages within it resound in your mind long after the episode has ended.
In addition to unparalleled social commentary, the show features exceptional acting. Glover’s reserved and lulling effect, while delightful, also allows for other characters to shine. This show provokes thought through laughter, making the series one of the most genius creations out there in modern television.