Category Archives: A Look Back

A Look Back at Half & Half

Last weekend, Twitter was ablaze with talk of the 30th anniversary of the premier of the iconic A Different World.  Fans watched and live-tweeted their favorite episodes while reminising about the impact the show had on a generation of TV viewers. The show produced many stars including Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, and Jade Pinkett-Smith.  Another A Different World alum is writer and producer Yvette Lee Bowser.  After A Different World, Bower went on to executive produce another classic black sitcom that also recently celebrated a milestone anniversary.

Half & Half

On September 23, 2002, Half & Half premiered on the now defunct UPN.  The series focuses on a pair of half-sisters who are attempting to build a relationship while living in the apartment building owned by their father. The series stars the ageless Rachel True as Mona, the older, more level-headed sister and  Essence Atkins as Dee Dee, the younger, more sheltered spoiled sister. The cast also includes the mothers, portrayed by television legends Telma Hopkins and Valerie Pettiford as Phyllis and Big Dee Dee and Obba Babtunde as Charles Thorne, Mona and Dee Dee’s father.  Chico Benymon and Alec Mapa round out the cast as Spencer, Mona’s best friend/coworker and Adam, her assistant.

Half & Half

Half & Half was my everything.  My 22-year-old self LOVED the dynamic between the sisters. And as a twenty-something, recent college graduate, I found myself drawn to the show.  I tuned in to experience the sisters’ journey of discovery as they tried to navigate their careers and dating while balancing family/daughter/sister duties. I could relate. My Monday nights were all about Girlfriends and Half & Half.  But whereas Girlfriends was where I wanted to be, Half & Half was my reality.

Half & Half

While I loved all of the characters on the show, Mona Thorne was my favorite.  She was an OG Awkward Black Girl.  Her eclectic taste in music, her boho fashion sense, and her hilarious relationship with her mother reflected my life at the time (sidenote: I am still convinced that Phyllis  Thorne is based on #MyMomBarb). Mona helped me embrace my quirky and awkward self. Mona was also a natural hair, curly girl icon for me.  Her curls were ALWAYS popping!  I didn’t realize it at the time, but seeing Mona’s natural hair helped me embraced my own. She represented a different kind of black girl magic. The kind my younger self desperately needed to see.

At it’s peak, Half & Half was the fourth highest rated on UPN.  However, when UPN transitioned to The CW, the show was axed before the start of the 2006 season.  The untimely demise of Half & Half left a hole in my Monday nights and my soul. For over a decade I have wondered “Who did Mona choose..Chase or Lorenzo?” But alas, that question will remain one of televisions great unanswered questions.

You can catch reruns of Half & Half on BounceTV.  Fifteen years after it’s birth, it remains one of my faves.

A Look Back at SOMETHING NEW

It was Saturday night and I was seated for the 7:00 PM screening at Southpoint Cinema in Durham, NC.  Anticipation does not begin to explain what I was feeling. Something NewA few months earlier while seated for  Pride and Prejudice at the same theater, I watched the trailer of  Something New and was overcome with excitement.  Fast forward two months.  On opening night,  Friday, February 3, 2006, I received two separate calls from friends telling me I HAD to go see the movie. Now this would not have been a miraculous event had it been ANY other two friends, but these two generally agreed on very little. So I was immediately even more psyched to see Something New.

After I saw the movie, it instantly became one of my all time favorites. Aesthetically it is gorgeous. I think director Sanaa Hamri’s background in music video added an extra something to the visuals. And the table scene in the beginning, with the camera circling the table is AWESOME! You feel like you are in the middle of the women’s conversation.

The screenplay is something special. Writer Kriss Turner transforms the basic rom com  into a film that addresses issues of race and class in the context of a romantic relationship.  The premise is simple, but complicated. Sanaa Lathan plays Kenya, a black, professional woman who is very reserved. Brian, played by Simon Baker,  is a white gardener/landscape artist who is a free spirit. She doesn’t do dogs, he owns one. They are complete opposites. Something NEw 3

Something New effectively addresses the issues and adversities that a mixed race couple might face. I loved the “Black Tax” references, although honestly, I had never heard the term before (but was familiar with the concept). One of my favorite scenes occurs in the grocery store where Kenya wants to talk about her hard day and Brian isn’t in the mood for another race chat. The question of right and wrong is never debated, that’s your opinion, but the honest dialogue is refreshing.

something_new06

When Mark (Blair Underwood) enters the picture, he and Kenya look like the perfect couple. He understands her world, moreso than Brian. He is a much better fit, not because he is black, but because he is wealthy, educated and is a member of the  high society community Kenya is accustomed to. But he does not have her heart. And ultimately that’s the only thing that counts.

The only gripe I have about Something New is the limited amount of  screen time dedicated to  Kenya’s girlfriends played by Golden Brooks, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and Taraji P. Henson.  Although the opening  table scene was great, I would have liked more interaction with them. However, they did deliver some of the more comedic moments in the film.Something New Women

The flaws in Something New are overshadowed by what works in the film.   As the first major studio film directed, produced (Stephanie Allain), written by and starring women of color, I am proud of Something New. I am inspired by it and the work these amazing women put into making this historic film.  It is the epitome of Black Herstory.

Something New is currently streaming on Netflix.