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'American Soul' Episode 2 Recap: The Continuous Revolution Is In Progress

Character storylines begin to intersect and it's showtime on Soul Train in the second episode of BET's American Soul.

Don Cornelius (Sinqua Walls) has gotten his money, he’s managed to book Gladys Knight (Kelly Rowland), and now it’s time to go into production. But the beginning of the episode is saddening. We have the first black-owned and black-controlled TV show, and at the tippy top of the episode, there’s “a caviar eating, golf playing, Sinatra lovin’ white boy” named Brooks Donald (James Devoti) insisting Don needs him to be able to work with white advertisers and land the dream account, Coca Cola. Even though he’s a drunk and a screw-up, he’s Don’s only hope. (Are they Greenbook’ing Soul Train?) One of the greatest things about the first years of the show was Johnson Products’ work with black-owned ad agency Burrell Communications in the creation of the incredible Afro Sheen and Ultra Sheen commercials. You can’t help but feel that Don himself would be furious at the inclusion of this Brooks  character telling his TV self, “You colored guys have no idea the power you have,” and calling his wife “sweetheart.”

Cornelius spends this episode hanging out with Gladys, setting advertisers up with celebrity impersonator call-girls so they don’t drop the show, and ignores his wife’s phone calls until it’s possibly too late. The picture of American Soul Don, if not Don in real life, is becoming clearer: he’s singularly focused on accomplishing his dream, to the detriment of his marriage. But he’s also afraid of blowing it, and he covers that fear with machismo and the exterior of unwavering confidence. He recounts his run-in with the cops on his first day in L.A. to Gladys the way he wishes it had gone; with him standing up to the cop. Then immediately after, stands up to a Motown label rep when she dictates the terms of Gladys’ performance. Our guess is this inner conflict is going to be the driver in Don’s story as the show continues.

The Clarke twins kill their Soul Train audition and are added to the show, although Kendall (Jelani Winston) reveals to his mom that he got called for service and doesn’t know how long he’ll stay on as a dancer. Tessa gives Brooks her a** to kiss and finally gets praise from Don after the first show. Gerald gets his first discount booking at the club (thanks to the act being in town for Soul Train) and has a new side hustle: honey.

Then there’s JT (Christopher Jefferson). Bless his heart. After JT walks in on his landlord “taking the rent money out of (his) mama’s a**,” (prepare to clutch your pearls!) JT hooks up with an old high school friend for a reparations-by-robbery mission. His friend sells him on the idea of justified retribution for the pillaging of Africa (Raise your hand if you just learned CRIP was an acronym for Continuous Revolution in Progress while watching this episode.) Obviously, the robbery goes left, a cop is shot at the scene - and it’s the “good cop” from Cornelius’ traffic stop in episode one. Another cop is called for back-up, and it’s Tessa’s husband. Is this Crash? As big as L.A. is, in these two episodes we’ve had our primary and now secondary characters cross paths and intersect in random ways. Now JT’s on the run and shook. Guess he’s not going to join the Clarke’s in the Soul Train Gang.


What this episode got right: The first episode of Soul Train was replicated almost exactly - the on-air part, anyway— from Don’s clothes, to his lines, to the performances. The set and energy were spot-on (thanks in part to legendary choreographer Fatima Robinson). The on-set pettiness was probably spot-on, too, based on insider stories from original show dancers.

What it could have done without: Joseph Clarke’s (Joseph Lee Anderson) entire storyline. After a misdirection with another soldier injured in the field, we all believed Clarke is heading home. Someone asked on Twitter just as Joseph was boarding the chopper to head to his departure point, “They ain’t about to do this coming home party like they did James on Good Times, are they?” Damn, damn, DAMN!” They sure did. I’m certain this will connect to Kendall’s draft dilemma, but did we really need to go through that?

What we absolutely don’t believe: That the demo for “Midnight Train to Georgia” was called “Midnight Flight to Houston.”

What we don’t understand: Why Gladys Knight is a major character in this show. We’re waiting to see where they go with this.
We will say, criticism and questions aside, we’re all the way invested in American Soul, and curious to see how these storylines are woven together into the larger fabric of the Soul Train story as the series progresses.

American Soul airs Tuesdays at 9 pm ET/PT on BET.

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Daniel Kaluuya And Lakeith Stanfield To Star In Fred Hampton Movie

Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield are reportedly being considered for roles in the upcoming film, Jesus Was My Homeboy, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The movie, which will be produced by Ryan Coogler and distributed by Warner Bros., will depict the assassination of Black Panther activist Fred Hampton.

If the ink dries on the deal, Kaluuya will play Hampton. Stanfield will play William O’Neal, the FBI informant who went undercover and infiltrated the Black Panthers in order to obtain information that assisted in Hampton's assassination. Jesus Was My Homeboy will look at the rise and death of Hampton through the perspective of FBI informant O'Neal.

As previously noted, Fred Hampton was an activist and organizer of the Black Panther Party who quickly climbed the ranks to become its chairman of the Illinois chapter and deputy chairman. He was murdered in 1969 at the age of 21, by a tactical unit with orders from the FBI and Chicago Police Department.

Shaka King will reportedly direct the film and and produce from a script he wrote with Will Berson. Jesus Was My Homeboy does not have a release date at this time.

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HBO Releases 'Leaving Neverland' Trailer And March Premiere Date

Since the reveal of a contentious documentary on Michael Jackson was announced, the conversation surrounding HBO's upcoming project has continued to increase. Now, the powerhouse cable network unveiled the Leaving Neverland trailer which depicts the recollections of two men who were reportedly sexually abused when they were boys by Jackson.

Within the trailer, James Safechuck and Wade Robson discuss certain moments that they held as secrets for decades. "He told me if they ever found out what we were doing, he and I would go to jail for the rest of our lives," Wade says in the visual. The Dan Reed-directed film also features interviews with the two men's families and significant others.

In response to the doc's Sundance premiere, Jackson's family issued a statement calling out the reel's developers. "The creators of this film were not interested in the truth," the family's statement reads. "They never interviewed a single solitary soul who knew Michael except the two perjurers and their families. That is not journalism, and it's not fair, yet the media are perpetuating these stories."

Watch the trailer below ahead of its two-night premiere on March 3-4.

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Don Cheadle as Mo in 'Black Monday,' Episode 4 ("295")
Erin Simkin/SHOWTIME

'Black Monday' Recap: Mo Feels The Weight Of Playing God

Another week, another dive into Black Monday. In this week's episode, “295,” Mo tries to salvage his plan to get the Georgina company’s shares after Blair and Tiffany Georgina’s surprise breakup in the previous episode threw a wrench in that plan. By the end of this week’s episode, Mo gets what he wants but it doesn’t go as planned. Don Cheadle told VIBE that Black Monday was “ a good way,” and this episode shows just that, starting with Mo’s God complex.

Stop Trying To Be God

You need a certain cocktail of self-aggrandization and delusions of grandeur to walk around with a God complex. Mo has that cocktail coursing through his veins. The entire episode revolves around Mo’s attempt to control the actions of humans by placing them in certain situations he is sure will yield his desired results. Only someone blinded by their obsession with being right wouldn’t see having to fix a “foolproof” plan makes him a fool.

The writing expertly showed that when you play God your creation is your reflection, especially in the tense scene at Mo’s dining room table with Blair and Dawn. He turned Blair into a cocaine-addicted party animal to show him how empty life is without having someone you love. Then, in one scene, Dawn exposed how all Mo did was build Blair in his image without realizing that part of his plan was to inadvertently show Blair just how miserable Mo really lives.

Even ostensibly innocuous details carry a huge emotional weight thanks to Black Monday’s writing and Cheadle’s consistently engaging performance. The writers literally had Mo on the outside looking in at forces out of his control at the end of the episode when he’s looking into the bar. It’s at this climactic moment of the show that Mo realizes his own mortality by getting what he wants but missing out on what he knows he needs.

It’s also at this moment that the show’s most boring lead character grew into someone worth watching.

Blair Is Here

For the first three episodes, Blair was as interesting as paint on the wall; always in front of your face but in the back of your mind. Before a single character utters a word in this episode, Blair is chain-smoking cigarettes, snorting coke and dressed like a Saturday Night Fever extra. He died “for a song and a half” and was electroshocked back to life, all in the first minute of the new episode. Blair has finally joined the Black Monday party and the show is better for it.

Mo molding Blair into his image allowed Blair to tap into a new level of confidence.  Blair’s exchange with Dawn about the implicit racism and sexism in 1980s films like Teen Wolf was rewind-worthy hilarious and ends with Blair remarking, “My favorite line from the movie is, ‘I’m not a f*g, I’m a werewolf. Oh, Michael J,” easily one of the funniest 1980s critiques on a show full of them.

The episode also entangled Blair in the show’s first love triangle, ensuring that Blair’s character growth is probably not done. With Blair now being compelling, following Dawn and Keith’s character-defining performances in the previous episode, Black Monday has set up its four most accomplished actors to be able to carry entire story arcs without relying on each other. But, the Black Monday world got bigger than those four in this week’s episode.

The Wall Street Mythology

There’s not enough time in a 30-minute episode to flesh out every character’s backstory and fully formed personality. The most surprisingly funny part of episode “295” was the story arc of Jammer Group traders Keith and Yassir (Yassir Lester) trying to stop Wayne (Horatio Sanz) from completing a “The LaGuardia Spread”. The arc showed that Black Monday has an ingenious way of speeding up character development: mythologize Wall Street.

On Black Monday, “The LaGuardia Spread” is when a trader takes a huge position on a stock, goes to LaGuardia Airport and waits to see if they made a huge profit or debilitating loss. If you guess right, you come home. If you guess wrong, “you don’t come home ever. You get on a plane and you f**king disappear,” according to a frantic Keith. Wayne was nothing more than a bumbling joke punchline of a trader before this episode. In only a few minutes of screentime we find out Wayne slept with his wife’s sister, has some weird dislike for The Howard Stern Show’s weekly guest Jackie Martling, and is so money hungry that he’d be giddy at the news of a mad cows disease epidemic and it’s positive effect on his “LaGuardia Spread” trade.

A similar result happened before on Black Monday. In the series premiere, the Lehman twins (Ken Marino) laid out the Georgina Play, the foundation of Mo’s plans to get all the shares from the Georgina company from Blair after he marries Tiffany. That Wall Street myth led to their grandfather setting himself on fire. That myth also showed that at any moment any person you see on screen become valuable because of what they about know how this fictionalized world works. As long as Black Monday continues to use the inherent absurdity of Wall Street as a machine for character development, this show could begin entering the conversation for one of the best ensemble casts on television.

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