Awkward Black Girl ‘The Waiter’ review: Performance anxiety

Just a slight warning: if you’ve never watched the show, it’s a bit crude. I know this site is crude too, but this episode also has some explicit imagery. Use discretion. And also, you should probably start at season 1, episode 1.

Who said web series don’t deserve the same amount of attention we give TV series? If you don’t know what The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is, well get ready for a treat. It’s a series created by filmmaker, then-aspiring but now-producer Issa Rae who stars in the lead role. And, for the most part, it’s kind of the best thing that has ever happened. (Rae has teamed up with Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice/Scandal EP Shonda Rhimes and is developing a comedy series for ABC titled I Hate L.A. Dudes.) I just haven’t ever gotten around to talking about it because I didn’t think there was really ever any need. But about a month ago I just thought… why not review it? I do it with all of my other favorite comedies (sort of)! And thus, here we are.

As a whole, Awkward Black Girl has been a fantastic avenue to showcase personalities of black people that isn’t just the stereotypical loud caricatures we see on television all of the time. In fact, Rae has openly admitted that she wanted to show a character that was black… and awkward, but was procrastinating until she read in a column, someone asking “Where’s the black Liz Lemon?” — she then jumped at the opportunity. But by that same vein, the series takes a lot of those stereotypes and plays with them in a way where the supporting players aren’t all that well-rounded, but the lead character gets serviced well enough. Season 1 was all about the love triangle and who J would choose, while giving quick nods to POC problems (like interracial dating, though it has also been mentioned that the writers don’t brainstorm “issues” to talk about… they just come up in passing).

This second season has been a lot more structured, crazily so even. Where season one was about reaping comedy from a band of one-note characters, this season is more about the evolution of the series’ leading character — a change for the better — while still keeping its signature crude humor. Thus far this season, J has finally begun to push herself into becoming a more confident person. She’s quitting her job. It’s happening. But the problem is, and this was one that many commenters voiced when it first happened a couple episodes back, once J leaves her job: the series loses its main source of comedy. Can it survive without the constant good material the writers blessedly exploit from their caricatures?

In short, the answer is yes. The past two episodes have been heavily focused on where J is going next in her life. They’ve used the same structure to include someone from the work group, as in “Whoa! That person just popped up in this random place.” Last episode, it was Darius at the job interview. This episode, Sister Mary shows up at a sex toys shop. But it works — especially in this episode with Sister Mary, who has always had such a two-sided coin personality about her. (“That’s when I was Delores, motherfucker!”) But it does beg the question how they will incorporate everyone down the line, especially J’s archnemesis Nina.

Apart from that, this episode didn’t garner that many laughs from me as a typical ABG episode can. But herein lies why I said this new format for the series going forward works: the writers have already set up our understanding of the core characters and we’ve already grown to love them so much that by now I’m much more interested in their journey and evolution as people than I am in the comedy. I mean, I want to laugh and that’s great and it shouldn’t stop being the format it is. But the point is that a long time ago this show slowly became something where we root for J no matter what, and it’s now finally capitalizing on that by showcasing her desires and aspirations.

One of which, by the way is basically… just getting it in. And it’s great that we can have a show where it’s just about a woman wanting sex (which has been the topic of many a conversation on the series for a few episodes now) without being pigeonholed. Then again, the last time J had sex was before the series began and she and White Jay have been dating for a while, so it’s not like anyone should think she’s sex-crazy… but still, great to see the series taking the bull by the horns… as it were. And of course, White Jay and J are so much of the same personality (it’s why they clicked so well when they first met) that when J can’t be the assertive person she wants to be in the moment, she finds it extremely appealing that her counterpart can. It’s almost as if they complement each other in those little moments that by the end of the episode J’s like: let’s make this happen. There’s something about his assertive outburst that allows J to feel confident enough in taking control and giving in to her desires. It’s so easy and fluid.

Anyway, a good episodic outing! It somewhat deviated from the other main arc of the season, but I suppose since the last episode focused only on J’s career that this aspect of her life and story needed to be fully serviced. Erm… no pun intended.

The song featured in the middle of this episode is “Take Control” by NeoPopSicle. Listen to the entire song on a somewhat sister site (literally) Womazing.com by clicking here!

Tags: | Categories: Recaps
About the author: Mike
Mike
Mike's a television junkie located in Miami, where he spends all of his time watching TV with his best friends couch and cable access.

Posts from around the web:
  • http://twitter.com/laviyah laviyah

    love the show, love her!

  • Brittany

    ABG is my favorite web-series, it is my love! I didn’t know IssaRae was teaming up with the amazing Shonda Rimes! Now I’m extra excited!!!