THE GET DOWN had a strong viewership last year. Granted, I only say this because a lot of people wrote about; blogged about it; and posted its praises on FB and Twitter. This year, the reviews are mixed. Mine has a strong stance – it still sucks. Let me explain.
The acting is still on struggle. None of these people are believable, except Boo and Shaolin Fantastic.
Boo is the little guy. I hope he doesn’t take offense to that because he’s still a teenager, so a growth spurt could happen any time, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s all good. You’re a star now!
He’s a star because he kills every performance as a Get Down Brother. When it’s his turn to rock the mic, I get excited. That is what I need as a viewer. He and Shaolin Fantastic kill every performance every time.
They’re also very strong in day-to-day scenes. I actually care about Boo now. He’s gotten mixed up in the drug game (thanks to Shaolin), and I can see where this is going – Boo will get caught up one day and end up in jail. In the 70s, jail is nowhere a black male youth needs to be. That could ruin the rest of his life. I have some faith that even if he does go to jail, he has supportive family and friends behind him.
As for Shaolin, he is going with the flow of his life. He has no family. The Get Down Brothers are his new family. He is homeless. He has no guidance. Since he is figuring it all out on his own, he’s in true survival mode. To stay alive, he takes a bigger role in the drug game. Being mixed up with Clarence and Fat Annie will cost him one day, but right now, he is living like a local rock star. Unfortunately, his survival behavior is rubbing off on Zeke.
Here is where we get into the struggle acting: Zeke. Zeke has decent dialogue and a great storyline, but this actor is atrocious. He is so unbelievable as a nerdy hip hop wordsmith from the Bronx. Every time I see him, I sigh because I anticipate being reminded that this isn’t real. And you don’t want that while watching a made-up story. You want to be emotionally tricked into thinking this is happening right now. You want to be involved. You want to care, but that just almost never happens with him.
There is one time where I was tricked. Zeke was pressured into making good with a hot-shot New York politician. This guy also played in “House of Cards”, which I thoroughly enjoy. Anyway, Zeke attends a meet-and-greet at an exclusive club somewhere in Manhattan where he’s expected to mingle with potential Yale peers. The hot-shot is responsible for making this all happen for Zeke. He seems to be a nice, older, rich white man. Everything about this scene is similar to Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” – the black male on display for white male curiosity and consumption. It was very zoo-like, “Hey! Look at the negro” type of thing. (It always blows me how exotic we black people still seem to be to some in America. It’s very interesting).
It is in this scene that I was alert and tuned into caring about Zeke. Now, a few things could have been happening. Because the situation is something I have experienced, this scene could have triggered the very real emotions of “get out”, so I’m not clear on whether Zeke did a good job of acting or whether real life kicked in. I’ll go with the latter.
Shaolin, with all his flaws, crashes the meeting. He and Zeke pow wow in the restroom where some white kids (predictably) snort coke. Shaolin knocks some over, and the kids are enraged. Shao attempts to replace the coke, but one of the kids says, “What is this? Nigger coke?” What’s interesting is that my first reaction was not anger. I literally thought, “Oh, that’s a thing? People say that?” It’s similar to when I saw the Michael Che special on Netflix. He shares an instance where an intern, because he makes a mistake, says “Whoops! I screwed the pooch”. Che is puzzled and is surprised that after 30-something years, he had no idea that’s a white people saying. In the same fashion, I didn’t know “nigger coke” was a thing (it’s probably also because that’s not my vice of choice).
And then, on cue, I got angry.
Shao gets angry first and pulls out a gun. I’m not a violent person, but I do believe there’s a time and place for everything. That was the time and place. All of the micro aggressions he and Zeke experienced in that club were on par with that reaction.
Because of Shao’s reaction, along with Zeke cussing out that hot-shot a little bit later, Zeke is no longer being considered for Yale.
What I love about Zeke’s storyline is that he is fearless. The hot-shot waves his white male privilege over Zeke and threatens that he will use it to destroy him throughout the days of his life. Zeke reacts to it as if he’s speaking to an ant – unbothered. I just wish the casting director would have chosen someone stronger to embody that message. Luckily, the message was strong enough to overcome the “training wheels” acting performed.
The director must know the acting is terrible (or maybe the editor) because they’ve adopted animation. It seems like they want us to look at “The Get Down” like a comic book. With this perspective, I was able to swallow some of the corniness and awkward comedic moments.
Dizzee’s love for his beau gets a fair shot in animation. His beau gets locked up for tagging while Dizzee escapes. For one – if my boo leaves me hanging, he’s no longer my boo, but Dizzee’s beau is obviously more forgiving. Meh. While in jail, Dizzee sends him letters of his adventures in the real world. Before they’re reunited, Dizzee overdoses on angel dust. We are left at the end of episode 3 with Dizzee sprawled out on the dance floor unconscious. Uh-oh. Somebody is going to jail…
A lot happened in these three episodes – Mylene’s storyline and the acting is atrocious (I obviously really like this word). Papa Fuerte and his sister-in-law get it in. Pastor Ramon is completely clueless about those two because he is hungry for more notoriety in the church, and he’s planning to use his daughter to get it. The Get Down Brothers have signed a music contract with Fat Annie (ugh). And the hot-shot is about to blow up Papa Fuerte’s spot.
The series is interesting to talk about because it’s just all over the place. Overall, it’s mediocre at best. I am not looking forward to watching the last episodes, but I’m getting paid to do it, so here goes…
Season 1, Episode 7-9
The Get Down streaming now on Netflix
Jennifer spends her nights writing, her days securing insurance for TV shows, and her in-betweens blogging about the silliness and seriousness of life on her blog.
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Jennifer Ford | Contributor