The whole fol­low-your-dreams thing

Luke Davies on At­lanta

The Monthly (Australia) - - VOX -

a chance of break­ing out any wider. “You’re older,” Earn tells him. “You have no real fan base. You’re not white and/or sell­ing sex.” Pa­per Boi seems re­sis­tant to the idea of be­ing man­aged – es­pe­cially by his cousin. But when Earn suc­ceeds in get­ting Pa­per Boi’s sin­gle played on an in­flu­en­tial ra­dio sta­tion, the part­ner­ship be­comes a lit­tle less in­for­mal.

Dar­ius, who could best be de­scribed as Pa­per Boi’s side­kick, floats at the edges of scenes. But Stan­field, who played Snoop Dogg to a tee in F Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Comp­ton

(2015), is com­pelling, and com­i­cally deft, in his quiet, loopy weird­ness. As the sea­son pro­gresses he be­comes more and more en­dear­ing – at times a scene-stealer.

It’s 28 years since Jerry Se­in­feld and Larry David cre­ated their own show about, well, nothing re­ally. But Se­in­feld

was tightly struc­tured, each episode wound like a coiled spring. Se­in­feld was cir­cu­lar – nothing hap­pens, nothing mat­ters, no one goes deep and no one gets hurt, it said. We never wanted Jerry, Elaine, Ge­orge and Kramer to change; they were sim­ply so formed, and the plea­sure was in watch­ing those forms col­lide, over and over, in the spe­cific con­text of each sto­ry­line.

At­lanta is not about nothing – not in that way. It is pi­caresque and open-ended. The char­ac­ters grow and de­velop, seek­ing some­thing, at times, be­yond a Se­in­fel­dian self-in­ter­est. The show has an ap­par­ent hap­haz­ard­ness and slight­ness that tells you it’s not to be taken all that se­ri­ously. And yet be­neath the limpid, gen­tle sur­face hides a moral com­plex­ity. Different episodes hit different the­matic beats: broadly, as so­cial com­men­tary, about race and cul­ture; more specif­i­cally, in the char­ac­ter arcs, about re­spon­si­bil­ity and in­tegrity.

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