Here’s where I tell you to make time during the holiday break to catch up on one of the best series that aired during 2021: Apple TV Plus’ Swagger. I’ve written about it before, for sure, sharing how this might be one of O’Shea Jackson’s best performances to-date, and about how, very few plot holes aside, the plight of an eighth grade basketball team from the DMV kept my attention for ten straight weeks.
The series, based on the early basketball days of NBA superstar Kevin Durant, didn’t flinch to show the good and the bad that came with each character (clearly some of it was exaggerated for the sake of the story telling) and gave each actor their moment (even if we wanted more of a spotlight for some of them). The chemistry between Jackson and co-star Isaiah Hall, who stars as teen basketball phenom Jace Carson was natural and easy, and anytime the two bonded or argued on screen was a highlight.
There is strong support from the rest of the cast as well, with Tessa Ferrer, Tristan Wilds (The Wire), Sean Baker (Living Single), and the lovely Christina Jackson adding substance to every scene in which they appear. With shows like this, usually I am allll in with the matriarchal figures (see: David Makes Man, Friday Night Lights) and here, Shinelle Azoroh’s performance had me experiencing the full gamut of emotions. Which is a good thing, since it means she plays the role to perfection.
And then there are the young actors, who more than hold their own throughout the episodes. A special mention of a few of them, including Quvenzhané Wallis, Solomon Irama, Caleel Harris, and Ozie Nzeribe, is necessary because they’re dealing with real world problems (in fact the least of any of their issues was basketball) like rape, abuse, absentee parents, and racism and show real nuance and adept ability to maneuver through it all. Here is where the tiny plot holes show themselves, with not nearly enough coverage given to the home situations of Wallis’ and Irama’s characters instead of the unnecessary plot point focusing on Ferrer’s character, or a satisfactory wrap up to the midseason plot where a high school coach was beaten brutally. There just could’ve been more, even in this ten episode model.
Also, I know I’ve mentioned how good O’Shea Jackson, Jr. was before, but when I recently learned that he wasn’t even the original choice to play Coach Ike (Winston Duke (Black Panther, Us) was originally cast in the role and even filmed a few scenes before having to bow out due to injury) and he stepped in and made the role his own to the point that I really can’t see anyone else playing the part of “Icon.”
Anyway, if you haven’t already, let me say again that Swagger is definitely a show you should binge over the break, if not for the acting then just for the bop of a theme song (“Day Ones”) written and performed by Houston’s own award-winning artist Tobe Nwigwe (I’m not saying that’s what made me tune in every week but I will say that I never skipped the opening credits on purpose). It’s a series worthy of your time and any awards for which it’s considered. In fact, I might even give it another look myself.
Swagger is currently airing on Apple TV Plus, and all ten episodes are now available.
We didn’t get to discuss this last week, but casting Kevin Hart as Arnold Jackson on the latest edition of ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience was a genius move. Casting Damon Wayans as Willis Jackson… was not.
I have to say this also: The BIG problem I have with Disney Plus’ Hawkeye is that it’s only six episodes. The action has been stellar and the performances have been more than solid. Also, even though I’ll probably never eat it again, I do have new appreciation for Kraft Mac n Cheese with sriracha sauce.
One more thing about the series: “Rogers: The Musical” looks awful.
Saw the previews for NBC’s new shows–Grand Crew and American Auto–and will reserve judgment until they officially bow early next month. However, based on the previews that aired this week, the second episodes of each were much stronger than the pilots. Which means that there is an upward trajectory for both. So far.
I’m sure Tina Fey has done some problematic things in her career (and if I Googled I could probably find some without a detailed search) but I will say that I love the way she writes sitcoms. From 30 Rock to Kimmy Schmidt to her latest, NBC’s Mister Mayor, the writing is so textured and the jokes are so plentiful. Just wanted to give her a quick high five for her good work.
Less than two weeks until the season premiere of NBC’s This Is Us, Season Six (!!!)
What are you watching? Please leave a comment and let me know.