This two-part HBO drama depicts the life of a black American working-class family in St. Paul, Minn., over a long and busy weekend. Interestingly scripted by playwrightMichael Henry Brown and directed by Carl Franklin (“One False Move”), densely plotted film probably overreaches. Still, it’s a noble attempt at bringing something relatively new to TV.
The show, which is lit to resemble videotape, more than casually resembles co-exec producer Charles S. Dutton’s Fox series, “Roc.””Laurel Avenue,” however, billed as a miniseries, ain’t no sitcom: Three members of the extended Arnett family are involved in drugs, and there isn’t a lot of laughter.
Central characters are Jake and Maggie Arnett (Mel Winkler, Mary Alice), who live with their son (Scott Lawrence), a high school basketball coach; 16 -year-old daughter Sheila (Malinda Williams); and elderly Uncle Otis (Jay Brooks).
The large and unwieldy cast also includes fraternal twins Yolanda (Juanita Jennings) and Rolanda (Rhonda Stubbins White), a policewoman and recovering drug addict, respectively; Marcus (Monte Russell), who works in a clothing store; and Woody (Dan Martin), an aspiring musician.
Not surprisingly, virtually none of the plot threads is resolved. Some might call this a cold slice of reality; others would designate it poor storytelling. In either event, pic might have worked better as a 2 1/2-hour movie.
Strongest aspects are Brown’s naturalistic dialogue and acting that’s terrific, though a less documentary style would have helped; too often, the lines are either spoken too softly to be heard or simply buried by the soundtrack music.