By Tristan Davis – Features Editor
You would be hard-pressed to find a show that dedicates itself to modern issues better than FX’s “Atlanta.” Co-written and produced by “Community” alum Donald Glover (a.k.a. rapper Childish Gambino), the comedy/drama revolves around three young men trying to make a splash in the booming Atlanta hip-hop scene.
Those three young men are rapper Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), visionary and right-hand man Darius (Kieth Stanfield), and Earnest “Earn” Marks (Glover), a Princeton dropout and Paper Boi’s cousin turned manager. After Paper Boi’s self-titled single scores heavy radio time, the three begin an adventure through the Georgia streets toward hip-hop glory.
There’s a lot to like about this show. Like most original programming on FX, the cinematography is terrific. Director Hiro Murai jam-packs each episode with overhead views of Atlanta ghettos, wide-screen tracking shots that follow a single character across the screen, and clearly knows when to flex his drone budget. It compliments the work produced by the all-black writing team, who by now have given us something to like about each character. There’s Glover’s affability, Stanfield’s often-puzzling thoughts on different social issues, and Alfred’s snappy responses to both of them.
Social issues are where “Atlanta” separates itself from anything else on television. In episode two, Alfred and Earn find themselves stuck in an Atlanta prison awaiting bail (and that’s as much as I’ll say about that). A noticeably-impaired man walks around the waiting room, talking to himself and dancing before drinking a cup of urine courtesy of the public toilet. One of the prisoners mentions to Earn that he’s in every week, to which Earn responds, “why is he in here every week? He looks like he needs help.” Both the writing and the camera work are nearly outshined by the soundtrack, which features many Atlanta-based artists like Migos (who make a cameo in episode 3) and lesser-known OJ Da Juiceman.
Each episode runs just a half hour so there is plenty of time to binge. Halfway into its fresh-man campaign, “Atlanta” has already been renewed for a second season and established itself as a top-tier show. And unlike other programs, it does it in under an hour.