SUPERIOR DONUTS once again tries to tackle issues relating to gentrification, but as with their previous efforts to address more serious topics, their desire to be edgy without offending anyone resulted in a mess. This episode was neither funny nor enlightening–I would call it boring. High praise would be “fine”. Franco, inspired by the death of his childhood friend, decides to return to painting, using the side of the donut store as his canvas, but the mural causes controversy. He paints a portrait of his deceased friend Bam Bam, but Bam Bam was a gangster. Fawz, the recently elected head of the Uptown Business Council, is tasked with getting it removed.
Franco loves Bam Bam, because Bam Bam encouraged him to stay out of the gangs and pursue his dreams. But Randy and James aren’t fans–he had a long criminal record including drug trafficking and assault. Arthur encourages Franco to use his talents to paint a mural on the side of his building, but isn’t pleased with the result–a giant portrait of the man, complete with him wearing a hat with a pot leaf on it and a gun by his name. I have a few issues with this. Franco insists that Bam Bam was more than just a gangster, but then paints in a way that frames him as the stereotypical gangster. Why not show him engaging in his philanthropic acts?
The Bam Bam mural becomes a gathering place for those who knew him. Randy and James immediately get suspicious. They say that gang tensions in the neighborhood are already high and that someone is going to get murdered. This plays into the troubling idea that large gatherings of black people are inherently dangerous. It’s the idea that causes cops to wear riot gear and forcibly break up peaceful protests. The people assembled around the mural aren’t doing anything that could remotely be considered dangerous. They’re mourning, singing, and leaving gifts, yet Randy assumes the scene will turn violent.
No one calls Randy out on this problematic attitude. The writers could have decided to show her the error of her thinking, but instead, Fawz gets the mural painted over so the “problem” goes away. Fawz reacts to being elected head of the Uptown Business Council as one would expect–he lets the power go to his head, suggesting that instead Franco paint a portrait of him with jets flying overhead and an eagle or a dragon. It’s amusing enough, but the rest of the episode is so muddled and misguided that it’s too little comedy too late.
There’s a semi-interesting conversation where Arthur agrees that the neighborhood needs to move forward and attract more upscale businesses, but argues that they need to balance that need with preserving the cultural identity of the neighborhood. Franco appreciates Arthur sticking up for him, even though the mural gets destroyed in the end. However, it’s not enough to simply present ideas. A good show would engage with them.
Final thoughts: with the exception of Franco, almost every black character we’ve met in this show has a silly name. There’s his best friend Sweatpants and his childhood friend Bam Bam. We met another one of Franco’s childhood friend, a man who due to Bam Bam’s influence stayed away from gangs and became a children’s book author. His name? Big Mike. Why can’t he just be Mike? I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t a single person of color on Superior Donut’s writing staff.
Season 1, Episode 10 (S01E10)
Superior Donuts airs Monday at 9PM on CBS
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor