Stellar mini “Miracle’s Boys,” based on the novel for young adults by Jacqueline Woodson, is further proof that programming featured during Black History Month should be incorporated into skeds year-round. The poignant and expertly produced drama about three half African-American, half Puerto Rican brothers navigating life in Harlem without parents would be a welcome addition to any primetime network schedule. As it stands, the six half-hour episodes will air over three nights on the N, the nighttime network for teens from Noggin.
The net’s first mini boasts a cadre of big names behind the camera, including Spike Lee, LeVar Burton and Ernest Dickerson. Program offers a realistic look at the contemporary teen experience through the struggles of the Bailey boys.
After the untimely death of their beloved mother, Milagros (Spanish for Miracle), eldest son Ty’ree (Pooch Hall) gives up his scholarship at MIT to return home and take care of his two younger brothers, 16-year-old Charlie (Sean Nelson) and 14-year-old Lafayette (Julito McCullum).
Charlie has just been released from a year in juvenile detention for robbery, and his homecoming is hardly a smooth transition. The once sensitive and musically gifted youth emerges solemn and angry, hardly conversing with his siblings since their mother’s death.
Ty’ree, barely an adult at 20, struggles with his new role as head of the house, juggling everything from social services and bill collectors to preparing balanced dinners every night. It doesn’t help that he has to swallow his pride working in a mailroom while watching his friends enjoy their college careers.
Lafayette, who once looked up to his brother, is disillusioned by “the new Charlie” and his newfound street cred — an unexpected result from his stint in juvie.
Mature themes are handled very matter-of-factly here, devoid of forced sentiment or blatant morality lessons. Series also eloquently captures the vibrant, tight-knit community of Harlem, where support systems come from the most unlikely of places.
Perfs are a bit inconsistent, ranging from acceptable to impressive, with Nelson’s Charlie the standout. Save for some of Lee’s trademark camerawork, the series has a unified feel despite the rotating roster of directors and flows easily from one episode to the next.
Athletes Jorge Posada and Tiki Barber appear briefly in cameos that smack of stunt casting but thankfully don’t interrupt the story. Linking the episodes together while adding a nice bit of narrative is the theme song, written and performed by Nas.