Issa Rae’s ‘Insecure’ stands tall
Not sure what you’re up to this weekend (unless you read the Weekender, in which case, I am all-knowing), but if you’ve got a stretch of free time, a few spare pints of Häagen-Dazs, and haven’t already devoted yourself on a weekly basis to Issa Rae’s HBO comedy “Insecure” — I recommend binge-watching the first two seasons and catching up before Sunday’s episode (at 10:30 p.m.).
“Insecure” is notable for a number of reasons. For one, it’s part of a growing presence of black creators, talent, and programming on HBO, including Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams’s returning “2 Dope Queens” comedy specials; Terence Nance’s late-night tour-de-force, “Random Acts of Flyness”; Drake and Future the Prince’s forthcoming high-school drama, “Euphoria”; and LeBron James’s barbershop talk show, “The Shop,” arriving next month. If HBO can course correct after airing Matt Damon’s winceworthy Damonsplaining of diversity to producer Effie Brown in 2015’s “Project Greenlight,” it may inspire other networks to follow suit.
But “Insecure” also marks a significant shift (or return to form) in the tried-and-true tradition of HBO “bunch of friends” comedies: Likable characters. Lovable, even. After bestie-based offerings like “Girls,” “Entourage,” and “Togetherness,” I'm among those exhausted by exhausting people and their exhausting relationships with each other.
“Insecure” shows us the flaws and foibles of its crew (we see everything from Issa’s internalized work-rage to her precariously low credit score, we see Molly’s struggles with self-worth and the burdens of independence), but the show also reminds us over and over why we love them enough to show up every Sunday. The writing and performances deftly capture both the thin ice and deep waters of close friendships.
(It’s also got the best music supervision on TV. I watch every episode with my friend, Shazam.)
I’ve damn near torn through couch cushions clutching them whenever Molly gets tangled up in Dro’s iffy open relationship; I’ve thrown them across the room when Issa and Daniel silently wrangle with whether they’re living together or just living, together; and I’ve sunk between them when the well-intentioned caucasity of Issa’s co-workers goes horribly, awkwardly awry. (Apologies to my couch.)
And while you can still pick up traces of Rae’s formative character-self “J” from her early Web series “Awkward Black Girl” (Issa is far better at rapping while driving), “Insecure” also represents the intensifying hot streak of Rae as a producer, writer, and performer. It’s a show coming into its own led by a woman who is just getting started changing the game. “Insecure” has never felt more confident.