While white Hollywood (is that redundant?) has been giving lip service to programming for black audiences, Tyler Perry has been laughing all the way to the bank, cranking out hit films and TV shows. This month he dropped two more series on BET, Sistas and The Oval, which are sure to find audiences starved for entertainment.
“If Sex and the City were brown, this would be it.” That’s Perry’s description of Sistas and it’s spot-on (at the risk of sounding cynical, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if this was the entire pitch for the show). Sistas is centered on four single black women in their mid-thirties of varying degrees of economic success as they struggle to find happiness, often settling for sex instead.
“Andi” Barnett (KJ Smith) is a high-powered divorce attorney trying to make her bones at a new firm and in a long-term relationship with a married man (Chido Nwokocha) who swears he’s leaving his wife any day now.
Karen (Ebony Obsidian) has just kicked her boyfriend, Zac (DeVale Ellis), to the curb after he cheated on her yet again. It’s not clear what exactly is going on with Zac, but when he shows up to beg Karen to take him back, his questionable fashion choice is a t-shirt riddled with holes.
Sabrina (Novi Brown) is a bank teller who goes on a date with a customer, Calvin (Anthony Dalton), despite concerns that he’s “on the down low.” The only apparent evidence of Calvin’s homosexuality is the fact that he’s impeccably groomed and jacked (but then, all the men of Sistas are jacked). Perhaps he could have borrowed Zac’s t-shirt to come off a little more heteronormative.
“Danni” (Mignon Von) is the brash over-the-top one — the Samantha, if you will — who is constantly broke, enjoys a good push-up bra and doesn’t think twice about asking a friend’s date “Do you like dick?” Her dance card is, as yet, clear. Go figure.
If you’re into SATC and Tyler Perry, Sistas is right in your wheelhouse.
The Oval, on the other hand, is a whole other monster: a savagely dark soap opera populated with a cast of characters who are relentlessly cruel and/or horny. Simply put, this show is bonkers.
It’s the story of the 46th president, Hunter Franklin (Ed Quinn), a white man married to a black woman (Kron Moore), who clearly feels she has married beneath her station (at one point, she hisses at him “I’m the one with the Ivy League education”).
We’re not talking like Dynasty or Yellowstone bonkers; The Oval is way beyond that. It’s almost as crazy as Days of Our Lives, circa 1995 when Marlena was possessed by the Devil… but enough about my personal life.
With Tyler Perry as the creator, writer, producer and director, you might expect the show to exhale and give you a bit of a laugh — don’t. This show is pedal-to-the-floor psychodrama, resting only long enough to set up the next moment of appalling behavior.
It would be almost impossible to discuss the plot without a torrent of spoilers, but know that the premiere episode has it all: seemingly consensual and brutally reciprocated spousal abuse, multiple seductions, fake claims of rape, totally you-cannot-be-serious coincidences, abduction, a cult…
The Oval also has a kind of Upstairs, Downstairs vibe to it, as the White House’s head butler is the patriarch of one of the show’s families. They appear to be a group of solid, upstanding decent people who are trapped in a viper’s pit with no hope of rising above the fray.
Seriously, if it’s over-the-top you want, The Oval delivers the goods. If there’s a potential problem for the show, it’s where to take the crazy from here, cuz they’ve already set the bar very high.
Catch up with The Oval and Sistas on-demand and watch new episodes Wednesdays at 9pm and 10pm, respectively