“Run the World” is a perfect show, set in modern Harlem, and is a love letter to the beauty of our culture. The only criticism I have for this perfect show is that it’s only eight episodes.
“Run the World” follows a group of smart, funny and vibrant 30-something Black women, fiercely loyal best friends, who live, work and play in Harlem. As they strive for world domination, they each navigate career highs and lows, hookups and heartbreaks that cause them to re-evaluate who they are and where they are going. At its core, it’s an authentic and unapologetic show about enviable friendship and not only surviving but thriving together. “Run the World” is developed by Leigh Davenport and loosely based on her own experience of living in Harlem.
On Starz, “Run the World” is destined to become an important series in television’s history books. It’s a well-written, witty dramedy deserving of all of the accolades they are receiving.
In the pilot, we are introduced to Ella (Andrea Bordeaux), a frustrated writer who jokes that her on-and-off-again lover, Anderson (Nick Sagar), is her “Big,” a “Sex and the City” reference. Thankfully, Ella is nothing like the whining, over-the-top Carrie Bradshaw, and this show blows “Sex and the City” out of the water so forcefully it’s embarrassing.
Ella’s level-headed friend Sondi (Corbin Reid) quickly reminds her of the differences between the two men, a nod, I suspect, to the “Sex and the City” stylist Patricia Field, who is a consultant with her brilliant colleague Tracy L. Cox bringing the cultural fire to all of the characters’ clothing. Heads up, Black Hollywood, Ms. Cox is one to watch.
The other dynamic characters of the show’s central foursome include tenacious advertising exec Renee (Bresha Webb), a Taurus bull with a magnetic personality and always on the cusp of divorcing her husband Jason (Jay Walker), and the conservative Whitney (Amber Stevens West), teetering on a breakdown as she moves toward her impending marriage to her longtime boyfriend, Nigerian doctor Ola (Tosin Morohunfola), and the only man she’s ever been with.
Three-dimensional characters (thank you, writers’ room), each of these women has their motivations with their flaws and strengths perfectly woven into the texture of each episode of the series. They are alike in many ways but it’s easy to see, quickly, what makes them distinct.
In one of the later episodes, we discover that they all share the same therapist (Rosie O’Donnell).
Now to the brilliance of Yvette Lee Bowser, the creator of the iconic series “Living Single” and “Dear White People,” the Netflix series she spent several seasons steering into shape. What she’s
helping to craft with “Run The World” isn’t superficial banter of girlfriends during cocktail hours. There is something purposeful behind even the lightest joke, and the dialogue flows when spoken by the leads which have such perfect chemistry, it’s easy to forget that we are watching a television series. There is an authentic intimate friendship on display.
And the creative team did not shy away from showing the encroaching issue of gentrification. Now to the look of “Run the World” which is the sole responsibility shared between four directors: Millicent Shelton, Justin Tipping, Jenée LaMarque, and Nastaran Dibai. Each director portrays Harlem with an eye for detail that highlights the beauty and pride that is rarely seen in shooting the city, let alone Harlem. A nod to production designer Diane Lederman who has used her superpowers to give each character’s apartment a personality and a purpose. That takes skill.
Now to the sound which is courtesy of Emmy award-winning and four-time Grammy award-winning artist Robert Glasper who composed the series alongside fellow series composer Derrick Hodge. AAFCA award-winning Morgan Rhodes is the music supervisor.
“Run the World” is—in my opinion—a perfect show for a myriad of reasons but the most poignant is telling the stories of African-American women, looking at their lives in their 30s, with questions and passion. There is nothing like it on television today, and I take this opportunity to repeat myself—it’s a perfect show.