A review of episode nine of VH1's Single Ladies after the jump. You can read all my reviews of the show here.
Single Ladies did a good job of bringing the entire ensemble into one story – about a dinner party Val hosts – which allowed all the actors to play off of each other (always a good thing for actors, by the way) and for the writers to start revealing information to slowly complicate every one of the romantic relationships.
We find out Malcolm has an ex-wife that he still dotes on out of guilt for his infidelity when they were married. We start to see just how much April is feelin' Reed. We begin to see a little more of how Val's desire to please can cause real displeasure. And we get to see Christina and Omar really vulnerable.
It feels like the show has a better sense of pacing and plotting than it did earlier in the season where every other minute some high drama was occuring for no other reason than the writers seemed to just want to have things happen – and happen in a big way.
Here we see how Keisha's insecurities about giving her heart to a man bump up against the fact that she already loves that man. And so we don't get a big blowout, we get an adult conversation about the unfinished business in Malcolm's life.
One could debate whether or not Keisha is smart or not for letting Malcolm's declaration of love put her off her instincts about his ex-wife drama – especially since every time Malcolm opens up about his past it is some bullshit that you know will come back to bite him and Keisha on the ass – but as rendered it felt real.
We see how Val's devotion to a man can really tip over into a distasteful control freak tendency. I liked that Jerry used it as a way to be really cheesily romantic and I like that it was Val's decision to take that romance to the next level.
Similarly, I really enjoyed Omar's incessant calls to Vincent, who didn't show up for the dinner party. Travis Winfrey balanced the comedy of those scenes with just enough heft to help us see just how much he likes Vincent. I don't really understand why Vincent didn't show up or why when he did he offered no explanation and chastised Omar for not telling him the party was a priority. But Omar is primarily a comic character so it makes sense that the writers played so much of Omar's story for laughs and let Winfrey do the work of grounding it.
I do hope though that tonight's Omar plot is not purely comical though. It would be interesting for the show to explore how a confident out gay man who has a healthy sex life can be floored by unexpected love. Omar really was upset that Vincent wasn't at that dinner party. Let's not forget that.
It was also quite enjoyable watching April get really jealous that Reed slept with Denise Phillips (played by Kelly Rowland, the finest woman in the world if you didn't already know that). Charity Shea plays exasperation really well and was well-served in getting to show it quite a lot in this episode.
The show was too on-the-nose with that ending ("Maybe next year you two won't be single ladies" "Don't jinx it!") so we know everything is about to fall apart, but it was actually a really enjoyable low-key episode that advanced the ball and gave everyone some new things to play.
- I was struck by how April's "never go back" commment about sex with black men passed without comment. It didn't necessarily need comment because we know how April gets down, but I'm not sure if the line was meant to put off Reed in that moment or be just a joke. I didn't work for either of those goals, but it also didn't derail the scene. Not sure what the writers intended but I'm not sure what making it a throw away line – if indeed that was the intention – actually means.
- Kelly Rowland should have had one of her new songs on the closing credits. Kelly – get it together. Your album drops tomorrow.
- The George Michael soundtrack to Val and Jerry's sex was just totally out of place.
What did you guys think?
Wow! Two in a row. Well thought out and certainly concise. Even the things I disagree with are backed up by clear, reasoned explanations that make your observations interesting and worth consideration. Well done.
I put the following at the end of last week’s comments but I don’t know if you saw it.
I’ve been meaning to tell you that all of your reviews are numerically off by one because you count the 2-hour-movie as an episode but VH1 doesn’t. They treat the movie as its own separate entity. I only mention this for cataloging purposes. So,in the future, if a person wants to juxtapose one of your reviews with an episode, they will always be off by one. This above is actually a review of episode 8.
In support of the reviewer, his early reviews were meaningful examinations of the show. However, it is evident that the later ones were less detailed and marked by his frustrations with the endless problems the show was demonstrating. Clearly the last two reviews you read and commented on are more thorough again in response to your comments and the vast improvement of the show. Was there a change in direction or staff?
The last two episodes are better and the story, pacing and even blocking are much better.
I have to admit I had high hopes for this show, so the early episodes were horrifying because I wanted the show to succeed. But no matter how I tried to find the good in the episodes I had difficulty moving past the major disconnect. The actors are in their forties and no dialogue indicates any different, so it is difficult to understand the story lines and dialogue. Maybe more experienced or gifted actors would have been able to do more with the scripts, but the majority of the leads were not able to elevate the dialogue.
Like the first episode, the glimpses of beauty are present in this episode, though so much of the action is superficial lacking meaningful commentary on single life in the millenium, which is the focus of the show. It often feels like the content of this show is aimed at one audience, but everything else is aimed at another audience.
I look forward to the show’s continued growth.
Great review again! You hit the nail on the head when you said that Keisha had an adult conversation with Malcolm. For presumably, successful and savvy women Val and Keisha and April to some extent often exhibit the most juvenile behavior. Their actions and conversations often baffle me. While women like men often compartmentalize their lives or can be functional in one area and stunted in another, the plot does not indicate any intentional characterizations of this sort. I wished that at least one of these women were professionally competent and the show elegantly illustrated this without hyperbole.
What did you think about the scene where Val’s assistant (English young lady) tells them about her ‘situation’ with her new beau? This scene and Val’s ‘conversation’ with Jerry strict an interesting cord when we think about ‘adult conversations’ and character development.
Good to know about the numbering. I’ll go back and put notations in at a later date.
The first few episodes are abysmal, but I would argue the last two are downright great. And the more I think on it Single Ladies is not all that dissimilar from a lot of television shows that take some time in their first season to find the right tone and pacing. I think the writers seem to be more comfortable with the show as a drama, rather than a straight comedy (which it failed spectacularly at in the early going).
As far as your critique of the actors, I don’t necessarily disagree. Though I think LisaRaye’s work in the Isaiah Washington episode was great, no doubt a function of working opposite a great talent like Washington. And I think Travis Winfrey’s underplaying of Omar is paying tremendous dividends. Stacey Dash and Charity Shea have been severely hampered by terrible writing in the early episodes and a lack of focus on who they are supposed to be.
Sonia – I totally agree that the work lives of the three leads are woefully underdeveloped.
For instance, it’s weird to me that Val’s control freak tendency shows up when she’s hostessing and not in the way she runs her business (I think back to the robbery and the fear to challenge a cheapskate customer). And I continue to really dislike the “April wants to be an A&R exec” story because nothing about it feels true to life and nothing about it tells me anything about April as a person (though perhaps it was just a vehicle to get her to date Reed). Worst of all, Keisha is now a realtor and it’s only mentioned in passing.
I would like it if the three leads were consumed by something other than their love lives.
To your question: I liked the Christina pep talk scene because it had the rhythm and humor of real conversation. I also liked it because Clementi got to play a slightly different note as Christina (her wild child thing is beyond tired). I don’t necessarily think it was “mature” in the traditional sense, but it was real and true to the way I think people talk about sex sometimes.
On the flip side, I really dig the way Jerry never seems to trip even when Val does things that probably annoy him. He comes across like a man who has lived long enough that he realizes that there are speed bumps in relationships that you just have to slow down and go over slowly. I also think on another level that it was a clever way to get the two characters to be intimate.
Thanks for commenting.
YES, poor character sketches and development further hampered by the disconnect I detailed in my comment to Demetrius. Until the aforementioned are addressed, this show will not be all that it can be!
The last two episodes were good but not great not even in relation to the first two. I do agree that like many other shows, this show needed time to find its legs, but even with that there isn’t one facet of the show that I can say was flawless, on point, from the beginning.
Though I had high hopes for this show, my critique is no different than the dozens of other shows I have examined this year. And I appreciate your blog and commentary for helping me to continue viewing long after I would have normally stopped.
Your work here is exceptional. I only wish you would review some other shows, for I’d love your insight on some of my favorites like Dexter, The Good Wife, House and especially Hawtorne, though not a favorite of mine you’d really have a lot to say about that one. And I know you are probably looking forward to Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal. My hope is that we have a show which helms in another 90’s like era for black tv and movies.
I have rather purposefully tried to write about black shows because no one else does. The assumption of the industry is that black tv and film’s worth is only measured by how many black folks watch. There is little to know critical attention paid to black filmmaking and television, to such a degree that people actually resist the notion that our art should and could be critiqued.
I don’t know that I can really bring anything to a conversation about Dexter, The Good Wife (which I don’t care for), or any of Shonda Rhimes work (which I think is downright awful) that isn’t already out there. I have considered writing on True Blood though. We shall see.
Thank you for the kind words!
I know I don’t care for Grey’s Anatomy, but I really look forward to Scandal because I think the concept has potential, but I am anxious about the inclusive corporate directed vehicle that Rhimes may allow it to become. For the life of me I cannot understand how Grey’s got so much hype for its inclusive or blind casting when…well just arghhh!
I agree with you on the lack of constructive and meaningful examinations of black shows. I have been thinking about starting a blog in this vein, but the problems are:
1. there aren’t many black dominate shows.
2. the audience for what I envision seems non-existent at times.
3. there is often so much backlash from the shows and viewers who seem to be blinded by their apparent love and appreciation for their shows and stars, that they can’t appreciate or comprehend constructive criticism. Education is important but a course in critical thinking and logic is what we really need in our pop culture especially in the black community.
4. contemplating the lack of ability or interest black shows have in developing ‘good shows’ is depressing. And by good shows I don’t mean the content has to be ultra conservative, good vs. evil morality drool, but it should be exemplary in conceiving its vision and assembling a competent team including funding to realize it.
Why can’t black stories get green lit? And when they do, they don’t seem to have the same support needed to succeed. I can’t name a black show on tv that I could point to as exemplary. WHY?
Suggestion: you can put the titles of the episodes for easy referencing.