TV Review - The Chadwick Journals: Season 2

Damian T. Raven in 'The Chadwick Journals'
In 2007, The DL Chronicles aired on Here TV. It was only four, half-hour episodes, but it was about gay, African-American men struggling with their sexuality and perceived forms of masculinity. The series was cancelled, but it developed a cult following on video. The cult following resulted because the black LGBT community is an under-served community. However, even when it comes to venues or networks dedicated to LGBT content, still the black gay experience remains supremely under-served. The creators of The DL Chronicles are Quincy LeNear Gossfield and Deondray Gossfield, two black gay men who were married on live television at the 56th Grammy Awards. The Gossfields realize the community is under-served, so they wanted to make more of their series, but to produce an episode well is costly. Since they have to produce episodes independently, it's not easy or fast.

In 2011, the Gossfields decided to take the idea from their series and change the format a little bit to make it easier and possibly cheaper to produce. The DL Chronicles had episodes that had multiple actors, sometimes four or five. It had multiple locations, sometimes shooting on the street and in stores. Each episode was a half-hour, but the Gossfields abandoned all that. For this new series, they only use two actors for the most part. It only has one location and each episode is only about 10 minutes.

The title of the new series comes from the narrator of The DL Chronicles. Damian Toofeek Raven played Chadwick Williams, a writer working on a book about black, gay men. The series was similar to Red Shoe Diaries and in that case Chadwick was like David Duchovny's character, meaning Chadwick was never an active participant in the stories. He merely sat at his computer, often shirtless, and wrote about these so-called "down low" or DL men, a derogatory term for black, gay men who publicly hide their orientation or sexual preference. Chadwick did voice-overs, talking about these men, but he never interacted with them.

This new series changes that. It makes Chadwick a more interactive character. It makes him more a participant in the story. It allows the audience to learn more about Chadwick's personality and why he's writing the book about these DL men. The first season has Chadwick meeting one of the DL men at his office or home and interviewing him. It's basically just the two guys in a room having a conversation.

The reason it worked so well is because it did provide insight into who Chadwick is and why he's doing what he's doing. It was so well acted, not only by Raven but also by Nic Few who played Donovan, the DL man who was being interviewed in the first season. Donovan's story was compelling and also very heartbreaking, connecting to Chadwick's back-story. There was a great sense of empathy by the end. However, this second season doesn't have the same sense of empathy. It's colder and doesn't reveal much.

Thomas Hobson as Niquarteli
Thomas Hobson co-stars as Niquarteli, the DL man in question who isn't really a DL man of the traditional sense. He's more a conduit to two other DL men whom we don't meet, but we see glimpses of them, if only to provide us with moments or flashes of sexy, shirtless, black men. The details of Niquarteli's life is best learned by listening to him, but he comes across as very arrogant and almost snobbish. It's ironic because Niquarteli criticizes his boyfriend for being smug and matter-of-fact when that's exactly how Niquarteli behaves here with Chadwick.

Ingram Anthony plays Nigel Hemingway, the boyfriend of Niquarteli who owns a bus and limousine company. Yet, spoiler alert, Niquarteli has a second boyfriend named Victor White, played by Justin C. Irving. The different thing here is that Niquarteli is in a poly-amorous relationship, a triad as he calls it where all three sleep together. A threesome or any poly-amorous relationship, especially within the LGBT community, is a good idea to explore, but this series goes about it in a not-so-great fashion.

Other TV series like Six Feet Under or even Noah's Arc briefly touch upon the idea of threesomes but never go deep into it. It's basically mentioned and then dropped. The Happy Sad, a film by Rodney Evans, also touched upon it, but instead of bringing Nigel and Victor into the room with Chadwick and having them honestly talk about this relationship or how a triad like this would work or how the people in it feel, this series turns the whole thing into a thriller where Niquarteli is portrayed as being a psychopath.

It's not a bad idea to turn this series into a thriller, at least for one season. Ever since the beginning, the DL man as a concept is a person who lies and cheats, as well as engages in other risky behavior that could be harmful or deadly. This season takes that concept to its extreme and shows us how a DL man or a man associated with DL men could be an actual killer. It makes the second half of this season's four episodes exciting and had me on the edge of my seat, but the Gossfields ultimately leave it as a cheap thrill.

It's cheap because we don't learn anything substantial about Niquarteli. We learn what his job is and that he's in a triad relationship, but we don't get much deeper than that, and learning about an obsession with the number 9 isn't enough. Last season, we learned so much about Donovan's back-story and we truly got a sense of who Donovan was and why he did what he did. Here, Niquarteli as well as Nigel and Victor remain a mystery. This season leaves us with more questions than answers.

For example, we're not sure how much time has passed since last season and this one. Chadwick says Niquarteli is 24-years-old. No offense, but Niquarteli doesn't look that young. Hobson gives a good performance, but he doesn't seem the appropriate age. Hobson looks a little like Brian J. White and that actor is 41. It's also unclear what Niquarteli says to Chadwick prior to the beginning of their scene in the first episode.

Ingram Anthony (left) and Justin C. Irving
In Episode 2, there is a sex tape between Nigel and Victor. It's hot. Nigel who looks like a darker-skin Raz-B and Victor who kind of looks like a slightly, darker-skin El DeBarge, both make a sexy pair. The sex tape seems like it was shot on Victor's cell phone. It seems authentic, but then all of a sudden, we cut away from it and when we cut back, the sex tape looks like it was shot by the Gossfields themselves. The quality jumps up and it's a bit jarring, but because the two actors are so attractive, you forgive it.

In Episode 3, Niquarteli asks Chadwick about religion and wants to know if Chadwick believes in God or not. Chadwick dodges the question. I didn't need Chadwick to give Niquarteli what he wanted, but he should have at least revealed that answer to the audience. It would have helped to inform us more about Chadwick's character, which should be the point of a series named after him.

In Episode 4, Chadwick asks Niquarteli, "Why come to me?" Niquarteli doesn't answer and that's unfortunate because it reveals the faultiness of the premise of this whole thing. In that same episode, Chadwick also says, "It's like a horribly written movie-of-the-week." Aside from interesting stuff about monogamy or faithfulness, Chadwick's comment is a perfect summation.

However, the Gossfields film this series very well. The cinematography and framing are interesting, even though it's mainly two people trapped in a room. Plus, it gives something intriguing to an under-served community, including some great eye-candy, if three sexy black men hooking up is appealing to you.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains language and sexual situations.
Running Time: 10 mins / 4 eps.
Available on YouTube.


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