TV Review - The Chi
My thoughts here are based solely on seeing the first episode only, but I suppose it can be difficult to form humor out of gang violence where the victims are children, including a 16-year-old who dies unjustly. However, Waithe got Rick Famuyiwa to direct her first episode. Famuyiwa recently directed Dope (2015), a comedy that does bring humor to gang activity, including people being shot. He walked a fine line, but he pulled it off. Waithe, however, really pulls back on the comedy and I'm not sure if the series is better for it. Waithe's network is Showtime and Showtime already had a comedy set in the South Side of Chicago called Barbershop. Showtime also had a drama set in Chicago called Soul Food, so previous projects probably weren't a consideration, but of course Chicago is a big enough place that Waithe's series here could carve out its own niche.
Alex R. Hibbert (Moonlight and Black Panther) co-stars as Kevin Williams, a young black kid, probably 12 or 13. He has a sister who walks with him to school and who teases him as any older sister would. Kevin has a crush on a girl named Andrea. In order to be closer to her, Kevin signs up for the same school musical as her. The school is doing a production of The Wiz. Kevin is nervous about singing but the teacher encourages him to do so and his voice isn't that bad. Things change when Kevin witnesses the murder of Brandon's brother, Coogie, played by Jahking Guillory (Kicks and On the Block).
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, criticism of police shooting and killing unarmed black men was always countered with the black-on-black crimes in Chicago. It's not unlikely that the tension the black community feels with the police will come into play in this series. Nothing here will come close to what Netflix's Seven Seconds did. However, this series doesn't feel like that's its chief goal. Its chief goal appears to be to depict the life and loves of regular people in the South Side of Chicago.
Jacob Lattimore (Sleight and Collateral Beauty) also co-stars as Emmett Washington, a young black guy who is commonly referred to as a player. He's not only having sex with Kevin's sister but he's having sex with others. One of whom named Tiffany he got pregnant and managed to avoid until Tiffany drops the baby and paternity test on his front door. Actually, because Emmett lives with his mom Jada, played by Yolanda Ross (How to Get Away with Murder and The Get Down), the baby is dropped on his mom's front door. It's a moment of comedy, but Emmett having to learn to go from womanizer-to-father will probably be mined for some laughs. Yet, this series will mostly be a dramatic story about how he steps up and becomes a dad, something regular people in the black community whether in Chicago or elsewhere have to handle.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Available on Showtime.