If You Liked Hustlers, You’ll Love This New Series

Welcome to “What’s Good,” a weekly column where we break down what’s soothing, distracting, or just plain good in the streaming world.
Photo: Courtesy of Bell Media.
What’s Good? P-Valley on Crave
Who It’s Good For: Since Hustlers is the most recent cinematic phenomenon starring strippers and set predominantly in a strip club, I’m going to make the easy comparison here. If you loved Hustlers, you’re going to want to dive into the neon-hued, dollar-bill-lined paradise of P-Valley. The vibrant yet grounded drama is for anyone who loves being immersed in the world of their TV shows. After the first episode, The Pynk club — and its cast of characters — starts to feel like home (you know, if your home was full of squeaky pleather, sky-high stilettos, and hollering patrons). This show is a character-driven drama hiding under the spectacle of stripteases and trap beats.  
How Good Is It? For a full 24 hours after P-Valley debuted on Starz (Crave in Canada), my Twitter feed made me feel FOMO I haven't experienced since we were ordered to stay home indefinitely. It was like my feed had been invited to The Pynk Club for Mercedes Sundays and I hadn’t. If you don’t know the joy and awe of watching Mercedes (Brandee Evans) shimmy up a pole with no music, only the sounds of her glorious thighs slapping metals and the grunts of a gymnast conquering her routine, you’re in for something special. When I finally caught up on the pilot episode (directed by Canadian and former R29 powerhouse, Karena Evans, whom we have to thank for that Mercedes pole-dance scene) I knew my envy was warranted. Believe the hype. 
P-Valley is based on Katori Hall’s 2015 play Pussy Valley and even though its name may be censored, there’s nothing tame about the series. We’re introduced to the Mississippi club, run by flashy diva Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan), through Autumn Night (Elarica Johnson) when she shows up for an amateur “booty battle” night and wins. She gets a job after that and we’re thrust into the happenings of the club and the Dirty South small town it’s in. Mercedes may be a mean girl at first glance, but before we can judge a book by its unfriendly looks and territorial twerking, she’s given layers. This is what P-Valley does so well. Everybody’s got depth. From Autumn, whom we know has been abused from flashbacks, to Keyshawn (Shannon Thornton), who shows up to the bar with a baby and some nasty bruises, to a rapper named Lil Murda (J. Alphonse Nicholson) who is prowling for something unexpected — there isn’t a one-dimensional character in the bunch. 
P-Valley is one of those shows that gives you an adrenaline rush from its singularity. There’s nothing like it on TV. But its world is so fully formed, you’ll also feel a pang of instant familiarity. It’s so good I have no idea how it’s doing all of the things at once. It’s a commentary on ambition and poverty while also criticizing small-town church politics and dirty money. P-Valley never over-explains or treats its audience like anyone but locals. In doing that, it makes you never want to leave The Pynk. But it also respects viewers enough to tackle tough shit like colourism, gender-based violence, and class discrimination without preaching to us. Plus, the pilot gives us an inkling of a sweet romance (though I’ll bet it’s not going to go smoothly) between Autumn and Andre (handsome-ass man Parker Sawyers), a dude she finds taking pictures outside of the club during one of her many panic attacks. 
Bottom line: Come for the glitter, stay for the grit.
Things that are also good:
• Letting your best be good enough. Go easy on yourself this week
• Remembering Naya Rivera by rewatching her best performances on Glee
• Revisiting '90s disaster classic Twister with Vulture
• Turning your brain off for a couple of hours to watch Nia Long and Omar Epps go head-to-head in the B-list thriller Fatal Affair
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