The first few minutes of ABC’s “Queens” look like the nightmare a lot of Utah parents had back in the 1990s: Scantily clad women who called themselves the Nasty Bitches ogling and fondling scantily clad men while they rapped about sex.
The faux music video actually does look very much like what was playing on MTV in 1999. And you’ve got to wonder if a lot of ABC viewers aren’t going to start clicking to other channels as this blast from the past plays on, showcasing the heyday of Briana/Professor Sex (Eve), Jill/Da Thrill (Naturi Naughton), Valeria/Butter Peca (Nadine Velasquez), and Naomi/Xplicit Lyris (Brandy). Even though “Queens” is really “more of a musical and a character drama about these women and their lives. And second chances,” creator/executive producer Zahir McGhee (“Scandal,” “Stumptown”) assures us.
Characters have sung on soap operas before, but you could fast-forward through them and miss nothing. Even the hip-hop performances on “Empire.” That’s not the case in “Queens.” The lyrics are part of the plot, and you’ll need to pay attention.
“What we have been able to do is tie [the songs] to the story,” said Zahir, who went on to compare “Queens” to “Hamilton.”
That’s, um, a brave/self-serving thing to say.
ABC is calling “Queens” (Tuesday, 9 p.m., Ch. 4) a “hip-hop drama,” but if you stick around past the opening you’ll discover it’s a fairly standard prime-time soap opera, albeit one about hip-hop stars.
Briana, Jill, Valeria and Naomi were at the top of the charts and the peak of their fame in 1999, when internal strife broke them apart and sent them in different, far less successful directions. They’re has-beens and they’re not happy about it.
They’re offered a chance for a high-profile reunion, and — after a bit more intra-group conflict — they take it. Which will surprise absolutely no one who’s ever seen a TV show.
But the show is not just about hip-hop. There’s an unfaithful husband. One of the women is a lesbian raised in a religious family. A mother is estranged from her daughter. There’s backstabbing on a morning news show that feels like something straight out of “The Morning Show.” One of the characters is diagnosed with cancer.
All in all, the first hour grinds through a whole lot of soap-opera plot.
“We have fights, but we want to see people supporting one another and coming back together,” Zahir said. “There’s always going to be arguments. … But we do want to be [about] the friendship more so than a rivalry or bickering or backstabbing.”
Of course, a show in which everyone gets along would be a giant bore. And there’s nothing wrong with a good prime-time soap. But the jury remains out on how good this one is. (Only the first episode was screened for critics.)
The cast includes Taylor Sele as the group’s former (and possibly future) manager, Eric Jones, and Pepi Sonuga as “Lil Muffin,” a twenty-something hip-hop star.
The weirdest thing about “Queens” is that it’s on ABC. Don’t get me wrong — it’s great to see a broadcast network embrace a show with a primarily Black and Hispanic cast.
“That is just not common on ABC and not common in broadcasting media,” said McGhee. “And we have the opportunity to tell the breadth of stories about the experience of women of color and Black women in this country.”
But if ever a show cried out for a home that would allow characters to curse, “Queens” is it. And, with the exception of “bitches” and a few other minor swears, ABC is not it.
‘Succession’ is back. At last.
The third season of HBO’s outrageous, dangerous and hilarious “Succession” picks up right where Season 2 left off — although you might have a tough time remembering where that was. Because of the pandemic, the Season 3 premiere on Sunday (8 and 9:35 p.m.) will come two years and four days after the Season 2 finale first aired.
Anyway … when last we saw the mega-rich, mega-messed up Roy family, No. 1 son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) had just publicly implicated his father, Logan (Brian Cox), in a variety of crimes and abusive behavior. Kendall wasn’t lying. His father is 100% guilty. And, furthermore, Logan was plotting to make Kendall take the heat off himself.
That’s just the way the Roy family rolls.
And as Season 3 rolls out, the battle for control of the Roys’ multinational corporation becomes very personal. Logan has always been an avaricious SOB, while Kendall makes like he’s a high-minded savior but he’s basically a younger version of his father. So, to varying degrees, are his sister, Shiv (Sarah Snook), his brothers, Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck), and everybody else in corporate management.
Don’t bother looking for a “good guy” to root for in “Succession.” There isn’t one.
And yet the show is both fascinating and funny, in the darkest possible way. It couldn’t defend its 2020 best-drama Emmy this year because it didn’t produce any episodes in 2021. But it’ll be a contender in 2022.
‘Four Hours at the Capitol’
It isn’t easy to watch, but this 90-minute documentary chronicles what happened at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob attacked and tried to prevent the legally elected president, Joe Biden, from taking office.
There’s horrifying video of the attack, and interviews with those who were there — from Capitol Police officers to insurrectionists.
If, after watching “Four Hours at the Capitol” (Wednesday, 7 p.m., HBO), you still think the insurrectionists were a bunch of well-meaning tourists, your brain is made of oatmeal. Of course, the people who need to watch “Four Hours at the Capitol” probably won’t.