This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

January 8, 2010

Images for No. 1 Ladies

I was very happy to see that the amazing HBO series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, has been nominated for three NAACP Image Awards: Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for Jill Scott, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Anika Noni Rose.

I first wrote about the show the night after its premier:

Last night, about halfway through The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency I realized that I had been tense since the program began. It only took me a moment to figure out why. I had been so looking forward to it, so hopeful for it. But I feared that I would be let down.

But what I suddenly felt at that moment was…relief.

Also, a sort of a feeling of revelation. It is actually possible to depict Black people (and, more specifically, Black African people) without having the required one good White person? Perhaps the White school teacher from Britain with a heart of gold…. Or a White American missionary who begins the tale with ambivalent feelings about the dark people but, through a series of heartwarming interactions and growth-inducing traumatic experiences, comes to terms with both his underlying racism against Blacks and his disappointment with his God…. Or a White female Australian there to save the apes from the ravages of a changing global ecosystem and the bias and ignorance of the natives who have lived amongst the apes for generations….

No? None of these obligatory White characters are present? Just Black Africans going about their daily business and lives? Africans who are proud of and happy in their country (Botswana, in this case) and are not looking to escape to somewhere else? Africans who have the capacity for tremendous good, tremendous bad, and all levels of complexity in between? Africans who face plagues and violence and the tug-of-war of the old and the new with bravery and grace?

The very notion of such a program appearing on my television set is almost too much to comprehend….

I did comprehend the program. And wrote about it regularly. (My posts on the program can be found here.) Sadly, the series is not currently filming a second season and it does not appear as if it will any time soon—although the show’s producers and HBO are said to be “in conversations” to figure out a way to bring it back. I really do miss The No. 1 Ladies and hope that these discussions will be fruitful. Until then, I know what I will be rooting for if I watch the Image Awards.

August 30, 2009

Missing No. 1 Ladies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 5:32 pm

Usually—along with the cooling temps, shortening sunlight hours, and back to school sales—fall, for me, means looking forward to the new seasons of my favorite television shows. “Heroes is all set September 21st to begin down the road to redemption; “Nip/Tuck” appears ready for more delicious guilty outrageousness in October; Sports-wise, a couple of weeks of US Open grand slam tennis starts tomorrow and the NFL is preparing to use this football season celebrate the 50th anniversary of the AFL—with, hopefully, particular attention to the league’s pioneering Black players.

For me, the only thing missing is “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

All through the summer, I feared that the program would not be coming back. No promos for HBO’s fall line-up featured show. On No. 1 Ladies’ discussion boards and Facebook pages fans lamented the lack of word and commitment about the show’s return. Little by little the C-word began to leak out. Was the show…canceled?

Well, apparently not—though what exactly is the show’s status is not entirely clear:

The acclaimed BBC-HBO adaptation of the popular series of mystery novels by Alexander McCall Smith, starring Broadway veteran Jill Scott as Precious Ramotswe, a lady detective “of traditional build” in her native Botswana, is still alive HBO president Michael Lombardo told Canwest News Service at the semi-annual gathering of the TV Critics Association.

Despite strong reviews, the series did not fare as well as other recent HBO dramas like True Blood and Hung, or established programs like Entourage and Big Love, all of which will return with new seasons.

True Blood is averaging 11 million viewers for HBO, and is the pay cable channel’s most-watched series since The Sopranos.

It would be “an incorrect assumption” to think that The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has been cancelled, though, Lombardo said, even though it was pointedly left out of HBO’s programming announcements for the 2009-’10 season.

“We’re actually in conversations now and are trying to figure out the next step,” Lombardo told Canwest News Service.

Two of the series’ original creators, feature-film directors Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, passed away shortly after production began on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective‘s first season.

“It’s been a challenge because, as you know, the creative vision behind that show unfortunately passed away,” Lombardo said. “So we’re trying to figure that out.”

HBO’s programming president, Richard Plepler, concurred.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency did very well for us critically and with audiences, and we’re very proud of it,” Plepler added. “So we’re going to try to figure out a way to get it back.” [Source]

I hope they figure out a way PDQ. I really miss Precious and Rose and all the rest. And I do not know if I can continue to justify paying for HBO for “True Blood” alone.

March 31, 2009

Blogger Call-Out: No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 3:04 pm

In commenting over on the Blackinformant, I mused whether some of us who blog and who plan to regularly watch the HBO series “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” might want to blog about the program on a weekly basis. Duane was down, and further suggested that folks follow his lead and drop HBO a line saying how appreciative we are that this program is on the air–as well as doing the same for other programs on other networks:

I say, let’s make a list of shows out there that do buck the trend (programs that are either by us or for us) and thank the networks, producers and advertisers for quality programing. I figure if they can hear from us when something is garbage, they should also hear from us when it is something that we like. The more they hear from us, the more incentive they have to keep producing programing like this.

Elsewhere on the web, I have been enjoyng other conversations about the program. Professor Tracey was also loving the show, saying “What a relief to watch something sappy, sweet, and sassy, all at the same time.” Diary of an Anxious Black Woman took issue with the accents and the portrayal by Black Americans of Black Africans, but concluded “I can see enough subversive elements in the story to keep me interested in checking this series again.” That Black Girl Site was very much looking forward to the premier, but no word yet if it lived up to her expectations.

So anyway, if anyone else out there is blogging about the program, I guess just tag you posts “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” and search around for what others are writing about it. And consider taking the Blackinformant’s advice. One last thing, if you do not have HBO and consider subscribing to watch the program (as That Black Girl thinks you should) then do not forget to let them know that The No. 1 Ladies’ is the reason why.

March 30, 2009

Liking Ladies’ No. 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 11:47 am

Last night, about halfway through The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency I realized that I had been tense since the program began. It only took me a moment to figure out why. I had been so looking forward to it, so hopeful for it. But I feared that I would be let down.

But what I suddenly felt at that moment was…relief.

"Botswanan flag." futureatlas.com, http://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/506956546/

"Botswanan flag." futureatlas.com, http://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/506956546/

Also, a sort of a feeling of revelation. It is actually possible to depict Black people (and, more specifically, Black African people) without having the required one good White person? Perhaps the White school teacher from Britain with a heart of gold…. Or a White American missionary who begins the tale with ambivalent feelings about the dark people but, through a series of heartwarming interactions and growth-inducing traumatic experiences, comes to terms with both his underlying racism against Blacks and his disappointment with his God…. Or a White female Australian there to save the apes from the ravages of a changing global ecosystem and the bias and ignorance of the natives who have lived amongst the apes for generations….

No? None of these obligatory White characters are present? Just Black Africans going about their daily business and lives? Africans who are proud of and happy in their country (Botswana, in this case) and are not looking to escape to somewhere else? Africans who have the capacity for tremendous good, tremendous bad, and all levels of complexity in between? Africans who face plagues and violence and the tug-of-war of the old and the new with bravery and grace?

The very notion of such a program appearing on my television set is almost too much to comprehend.

I will say that I liked the program. Loved it even. I am sure it is not perfect. I am not certain if the gay hairdresser will be treated with the humanity that will save his character from the perils of stereotype, for example. And of course, I wish that something of equal quality can be done with a book by a Black author. I sense that if I look carefully enough I will see clear signs of a “White gaze” in the depictions of this program–Africa and Africans as seen, still, by White men who, perhaps, have romantic ideas about the continent.

I will have to look at my recording of the program to assess any further nuances of my reaction. Again–the program was just so new that I could barely concentrate on anything other than my great relief and contentment.

I will also say that I loved Ms. Jill Scott. In this world of unworthy “artists” getting the fame and recognition that is more rightly due others, sometimes the fates get things right. And Jill Scott is one of those cases. She was stunning to look at and stunning to listen to. We were even treated to her amazing singing voice.

And the cinematography is like…visual poetry. Apparently the series is being shot on location in Botswana. It is rare that we get beautiful shots of an African landscape that are not immediately followed by a voice-over describing a migrating herd of some four-legged species of animal.

I see that Madonna is in the news again concerning her child and her wish to adopt another child from his country of birth. I suspect more people get their image of “Africa” through lenses such as this than will get it through the tale of Precious Ramotswe and her investigations.

But I can hope.

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