Adapted from humorist Hadjii’s 2006 debut feature by the same name, “Somebodies” is a messy but vibrant comedy that marks BET’s first foray into scripted series, after years of criticism about the channel’s reliance on musicvideos and general lack of programming ambition. The episodes don’t really go anywhere, but the star-writer-producer has a genial Everyman presence and surrounds himself with a rich array of characters. Although hardly a breakthrough, the show does provide a window into an African-American experience that’s increasingly underrepresented.
Hadjii plays Scottie, a career student at a southern college (the shooting takes place near the U. of Georgia in Athens). While his buddies and roommates have begun to get along with their lives, Scottie remains seemingly paralyzed, prompting one friend to joke that he has “sperm that’s gonna finish college before you do.”
Scottie also has an ex-girlfriend, Diva, (Kaira Akita) who remains in his life, alternately spending his time trying to woo her back or meet other women. That’s when he isn’t kibitzing with his friends, enduring his eccentric relatives or attending church, where he’s treated to oddly amusing sermons by his fire-breathing reverend (Tyler Craig).
As directed by Hadjii and Rusty Cundieff (“Fear of a Black Hat,” “Tales From the Hood”), the half-hour episodes (two are combined for the premiere) don’t really arc in a conventional sense, playing more like extended sketches that come to a rather abrupt end. Nevertheless, the banter among the guys about race and women can be funny, and some of the gags — including one in a future episode about a co-worker of Diva’s who insists that everybody taste his food — have a nicely universal quality. Perhaps inevitably, Scottie is frequently the least interesting character, mostly because we’re looking over his shoulder.
“Somebodies” isn’t an unqualified success, but does indicate how BET (and for that matter, other cablers) can produce inexpensive scripted fare that possesses a distinctive voice. In that respect, the series vaguely resembles the Brit-coms now finding their way to the U.S. — small, personal stories that follow characters over a relatively brief span.
Such offerings don’t figure to be huge hits, granted, but “Somebodies” provides further evidence that in today’s fragmented market, there’s room for something — however flawed — for everybody.