TV Review - Thurgood

Thurgood originally aired on HBO in 2011. It was released on DVD this year. It's about the life and times of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to become a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. It's based on the one-man Broadway show by George Stevens, Jr. It's actually not based on the show. It is the show. Unlike HBO's adaptation of Angels in America, director Michael Stevens didn't adapt it at all. He rather went the route of Spike Lee's Passing Strange but with less visual flair. Thurgood is just a filmed stage act.

Laurence Fishburne stars as Thurgood Marshall. He was nominated for an Emmy for this performance. There's no denying that he's good in it. Fishburne is mostly professorial but funny, witty and quite charming. He's alone on stage at the JFK Center for the Performing Arts aka the Kennedy Center, and he absolutely holds the audience's attention. One great moment is when Fishburne calls out some late-comers to that audience but does so in character.

There are some great personal stories like Thurgood's great grandfather getting kicked off the Eastern Shore of Maryland as a slave and returning as a freed man to buy land. Most of his early stories though reveal what shaped his becoming a lawyer. Some of those things include his father teaching him how to fight both verbally and physically, particularly if anyone called him the N-word. Thurgood's teacher also punished him by forcing him to memorize the U.S. Constitution.

One phrase Thurgood keeps repeating is the "law is a weapon." As a result of his teacher and his father, Thurgood fights using the law as a weapon. Considering the racism that was still a prominent way of life, Thurgood had quite the fight ahead of him, and Thurgood's career is a perfect history lesson and layout of the Civil Rights Movement in the early 20th century, buttressed by the cases of Plessy v Ferguson and Brown v Board of Education.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14 for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 45 mins.


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