You know the black intellectuals who hate BET? The ones who write academic screeds about Basketball Wives and who show up at every dinner party discussing why Tyler Perry is doing a disservice to the entire diaspora? Those are all the folks in my Google+ circles. We’re an annoying tribe that tweets about how media images of black folk need to be more high-brow, more hoity-toity and maybe even completely inaccessible. So imagine the shock and awe last week when I mentioned that I was tuning into my new favorite show — VH1’s Single Ladies.
Let me say this first — I know. The only reason I started watching was that I was still working in talk radio at the time, and I was producing a segment on the show’s debut. The first episode premiered in May, to not-so-favorable reviews. Blogger Awesomely Luvvie called the show “horrid,” and deemed the pilot episode “2 hours of really stunted acting.”
Author Helena Andrews was pained by the wardrobe, writing, “The sheer number of shiny spandex see-through mini-dresses on parade during the debut episode made me question my own definition of “grown and sexy.” My colleagues in the office found it indigestible. And writer Michael Arcenaux tweeted, “This show has me going ‘Y’know, Homeboys in Outer Space wasn’t so bad.’”
But for some reason, I was drawn in. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. And I just. Kept. Watching.
Lo and behold, seven episodes later, Single Ladies is still here. In fact, it’s been picked up for a second season. And, well… I kinda love it.
I love it for all the reasons it’s been panned — the negotiable acting. The implausible story lines. The oft-times cringe-worthy one-liners. (Lisa Raye’s character seems to get the majority of these gems, like in the fourth episode, when she hears about a gourmet cook who refuses to perform oral sex on women. “I thought chefs tried everything at least once,” she deadpans.)
(I also have to say, I wait with baited breath every week to see what ridiculous one-liner Lisa Raye is going to drop next. She delivers them the same exact way every time. And it’s awesome.)
I love Single Ladies because it’s simultaneously ridiculous and delicious. It’s a show where 40-something actresses portray 30-something socialites with 20-something wardrobes and teenage antics. In one episode, Lisa Raye’s character invites her friends out to meet men at yet another party, but the resident Caucasian girl (played by Charity Shea) refuses, citing family issues. “I can’t,” she says. “My husband and I have marriage counseling morning.”
Lisa Raye, in so many words, advises her friend to forget about therapy and go meet some ballers. Charity puts up zero resistance as she puts on her freakum dress.
Seriously. In what world does this happen?
In the world of Single Ladies, that’s where.
It’s the same world where Stacey Dash’s apartment is ransacked and robbed, and an hour later she’s on her couch, having wine and a laugh with her girlfriends. It’s a world where a supposedly driven fashion intern is late for a major event because she’s pulled over by cops for getting frisky with a stoner in a steamy jalopy. It’s the world where your suitor enlists his boy to offer you ten thousand dollars for sex, just so he can determine whether or not to consider you a whore. And it’s a world where you can tell that same suitor you stole an expensive piece of his jewelry, and instead of calling the cops (or his cousin), he decides it’s time for you two to make your relationship official.
“Let’s do this,” he says.
In the morning, he brings you breakfast in bed.
The plot twists and turns are either so unlikely or so predictable that they venture into the realm of hilarious. And maybe that’s why I keep tuning in. Christina dumped the professor she was sexing in the bathroom? How will this affect her grade?! (She fails. But of course.) Val took five pregnancy tests and they all say she’s pregnant! Just kidding — all the tests were past their expiration date. Darryl is coming to April’s birthday party? Maybe they’ll reconcile! But wait… His gift is a box of divorce papers.
The show is just this side of a telenovela. So, yes, it’s bad if you expect it to be some beacon of modern black culture, or some layered reflection of contemporary urban life. But if you just accept it for what it is — a glossy lifestyle magazine-in-movement with gorgeous actors, tiny dresses and unintentionally hilarious dialogue — you’ll get a big kick out of it. And if you’re like me, you’ll keep tuning in, simply to be amused and entertained.
I certainly prefer it over anything by Tyler Perry.
Veronica Miller is a writer and former radio producer living in Philadelphia