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Queen Sugar (OWN)
Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
The drama about three siblings taking over their late father’s sugarcane farm, created by Ava DuVernay for Oprah’s OWN network, stands out to Thede because there is clearly an “unapologetic directive from the beginning of that project to make it for women, by women, about women.” It’s the first series to be completely directed by women.
“There are men on the show,” Thede says. “But, this is a show that says, 'We don’t need men to create something great. We appreciate their efforts and we’re going to employ them in the capacity that they’re equally qualified, too, but we also aren’t going to be under the thumb of men to create greatness,’ and I think the show’s gotten a lot of really good buzz because of that.”
Thede said the show’s premiere “ripped out my heart and put it back in several times." She was blown away by the acting, which she called "the finest I've seen."
"The show is not afraid to be ugly and beautiful and heartbreaking, and doesn't give a crap about how many times you cry during an episode," Thede adds. "You will deal.”
A lot of that has to do with the power of DuVernay, who Thede calls the “Mother Teresa of creative arts.”
“With Ava, she’s introducing the world to all of these [female directors, writers, and actresses] who never would have had that access. She’s just so unselfish,” Thede says. “I can’t speak for her, but I can say that to me, it feels like something bigger than her and she knows that.”
Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
In Thede’s opinion, Atlanta has become this “mini-Hollywood of the South,” and she’s interested to see Atlanta creator and star Donald Glover’s take on his hometown.
The dramedy, loosely based on Glover’s own life, looks at a rapper who just got his big break, but it’s really a closer look at a city that’s been underrepresented on television. Glover has said it’s a show designed "to show people how it felt to be Black,” and the way this show looks is a big reason why Thede wanted to watch it.
“They’re kind of playing with things and trying different things,” Thede says. “It’s showing that Black people and Black shows can take risks. Everything doesn’t have to look the same. It doesn’t have to look Black, it doesn’t have to look white.”
For Thede, it also feels like a show that is a response to the roles Black people too often play on television. “There’s always this thing that Black people always have to be dressed in loud colors and be talking very loudly and it’s like this is a show that is the antithesis of that stereotype,” she says. “This show seems quiet and reserved, but like, subversive.”
The FX series is different than anything on TV right now, she added. It “feels unscripted and un-acted, as if I'm just literally watching their lives unfold.”
Glover didn’t call Atlanta “Twin Peaks with rappers” for nothing.
Loosely Exactly Nicole (MTV)
Mondays at 10:30 p.m.
The title apparently says it all with this new MTV show from comedian Nicole Byer, that is loosely based on real events in her life.
“This is going to be very much Nicole being Nicole,” Thede confirms. She believes this show from the Girl Code star is a good complement for anyone who loved Inside Amy Schumer. The perfect way to cope while Schumer's on hiatus.
Byer’s show deals with race and gender in a funny way, but it’s not afraid to get serious. This includes an episode where Byer’s asked by a casting director to give a “Blacker” performance — something that really happened to her.
This Is Us (NBC)
Premieres September 20 at 10 p.m.
Thede would like to congratulate whomever made the trailer for this NBC series. “When I watched it, I was like, ‘Wait, what is going on?’” she says. “But, like, in a good way.”
Thede wasn’t the only one who was intrigued by this NBC drama, which tells the story of people born on the same day, since it’s the most watched trailer among the shows premiering this fall.
While Thede doesn’t know what’s going on, This Is Us reminds her of the Sally Field show Brothers & Sisters, which “everybody loved and was, like, heartbreaking, and I had to stop watching it because it made me cry every week.”
Thede is definitely planning on having the Kleenex handy for this one and is hoping she will get to use them. “What they’re trying to do is beautiful, so I hope the show is as intense as the trailer,” Thede says. “Whoever cut that trailer is good at cutting trailers. But, I hope that means the show is also good.”
Premieres September 21 at 8:30 p.m.
This ABC sitcom is looking to show the lighter side of having a child with disabilities by looking at a mom (Minnie Driver), who will do anything for her son who has cerebral palsy. Unlike the casting in most shows, the actor playing Driver's son, Micah Fowler, really does have cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination.
“By and large, people with disabilities, physical or otherwise, have zero representation on television; it’s appalling,” Thede says. “It continues the stereotypes and the ostracizing of people with disabilities in society.”
Thede believes that TV plays a very large part in normalizing — again, there’s that word — the way we look at people who are different from us. She’s also excited to know that this is a comedy, not a drama. “Guess what, people with CT can be funny, too,” Thede says. “We have to stop looking at people as the ‘other,’ so I’m all for shows that can do that.”