From writer and director Alonge Hawes comes a great new series that I just happened to get a sneak preview of. "Black On Both Sides" is a drama that I want to say can feel a little harsh towards anyone who happens to be Caucasian. But I also know full well that it may not be harsh enough. The underlying message is one we've all heard a zillion times before. Racism. Privilege. A maybe subconscious, but no less forceful push to conform. As an average white dude, I really want to believe that Alonge Hawes has perhaps pushed the racism envelope a little too far. I want to, but I realize that wishful thinking and good intentions rarely ever pave a solid road.
"Black On Both Sides" focuses on Anansi Moor's ambitions and dreams of becoming more than the sum of his collective parts. He not only wants to be the boss, but he wants to be the best boss. Period. In order to be the best, he needs his team to be the best. This series starts with his promotion within Legacy Wireless, the company he works for and also introduces us to the main characters. We're quickly led to believe Anansi is the perfect guy. A master with words, an excellent head on his shoulders and the ability to motivate - and get the team moving. This image tarnishes slightly within the first episode by introducing some, for lack of a better word, thugs that Anansi has dealings with. A little more when we meet his daughter and much later, a bombshell of sorts. I won't give away any more details, and recommend seeing for yourself. You'll be glad you did.
Aside from the main plot, "Black On Both Sides" has a strong message. It's about how easy it is to succumb to the pressures of a better life. Just how much a person is willing to give up when in fact, he shouldn't have to give certain things up at all. Pushing aside your identity to please and move up? Giving up your culture one piece at a time to get the job? It's sad, but also so damn true. Unless you're one of those people with a swastika tattooed on your skin somewhere, you may feel a little uncomfortable at times watching this. Only because you know that "Black On Both Sides" is telling it the way it is.
The scenes with the owners, and upper echelon management of Legacy Wireless were very eye-opening for me. Alonge Hawes handles these characters pretty well for the most part. They are white people, as I'm sure you've guessed. They almost come across as racist, without knowing they are being racist. Save a line here and there about diversity within the company, these guys probably have no idea just what they are doing or asking. I'll leave it to the viewers to either agree with me or not. But it's real and to the point. How many of us consider ourselves to be completely opposite a racist person? But still manage to do racist things sometimes and maybe not even know it? If nothing else, "Black On Both Sides" will have you thinking.
The production itself is generally pretty well done. There are audio issues, but it's not too bad except for a low, buzzing hum that pops up here and there. Mainly in the first episode. Where this series does shine however, is the acting. I expected as much. Having seen previous works from Alonge Hawes, I would expect nothing short of great casting. The large troupe here elevates this series in a serious way.
Bottom line? A great show. Although geared towards a black audience, anybody can, and will find something here to think about. And the drama is not just centered around race issues - there is a story. Four episodes deep and I'm liking what I've seen. A little more tweaking in the post-production would have definitely elevated my rating. However, since this show hasn't been released yet, some tweaks are still possible. I will return and update once the series premiers but even if nothing changes, an excellent series overall. Three and a half stars.