×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: HBO’s ‘Random Acts of Flyness’

It was initially hard to understand what HBO meant when it first described “Random Acts of Flyness” as “a fluid, stream-of-conscious response to the contemporary American mediascape.” But it becomes clear exactly what that means barely two minutes into the series, a surreal shapeshifter that defies categorization with every (purposefully) jarring cut.

Under creator Terence Nance’s watchful and discerning eye, “Random Acts of Flyness” stitches everything from found footage, to satirical skits, to interviews reenacted through stop motion animation together with beautiful cinematography to create a sort of televisual collage. Together, they all reveal incisive truths about what it means to be black in America — or actually, “reveal” isn’t quite the right word, and neither is “show.” Instead “Acts of Flyness” wants to make its (white) audience feel what it means to be black in America.

A cartoon details a possibly dangerous scenario in which a black man accidentally gets into the wrong car, and has to assure the scared white woman that she doesn’t, in fact, need to call the police. A segment filmed like an old children’s program is called “Everybody Dies!” starring Ripa the Reaper, a leering woman who stares into the camera and sings cutesy songs about the constant, justified fear of death. A storyline filmed as a vertical iPhone video of Nance riding a bike and ending up in an almost wacky chase with a winded cop contrasts with very real clips of police brutality against black people filmed in exactly the same way. Neither unfolds in a linear fashion, because that’s not how these things work in reality, either. In these moments, it almost feels like the show is set at a tilt, its images visceral and strange and searing.

But “Random Acts of Flyness” doesn’t want to act as some grand education on race for the benefit of white America. In fact, its premiere episode makes a point of stopping the show from being exactly that halfway through. At the tail end of an elaborate infomercial sketch about the potential danger of “white thoughts” — or as guest star spokesman Jon Hamm puts it, “Albinitis” — the show interrupts it with a sharp cut to Nance getting a text while editing that sketch, which suggests that maybe, just maybe, they should “address whiteness less, and affirm blackness more.” He looks at the text and nods, sending the show into a much different (but no less relevant) world that allows blackness the room to breathe and examine itself outside the context of who’s oppressing it.

There’s so much to look at and feel while watching this show that it can sometimes be overwhelming — which, of course, is the entire point. It can be chaotic as it careens from one thought or medium to another, but it’s never random. It’s meticulous with its choices, designed within an inch of its life to confront its audience and make it pay attention. And even when “Random Acts of Flyness” is hard to stare at directly, it’s always worth listening to what it has to say.

Late-night series, 30 minutes. Six episodes; two watched for review. Airs midnight on Fridays on HBO.

Crew: Executive producers: Terence Nance, Tamir Muhammad, Jamund Washington, Kishori Rajan, Kelley Robins Hicks, Chanelle Aponte Pearson, Ravi Nandan and John Hodges.

 

 

TV Review: HBO's 'Random Acts of Flyness'

More TV

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Malik Yoba to Reprise Role in 'New York Undercover' Reboot at ABC

    Malik Yoba, who starred as Detective J.C. Williams in the 90s show “New York Undercover,” is set to reprise the role in the ABC reboot, sources tell Variety. Picking up 20 years after the end of the original series, “New York Undercover” will follow detectives Nat Gilmore and Melissa Ortiz as they investigate the city’s [...]

  • Chris Burrous dead KTLA anchor

    KTLA Anchor Chris Burrous' Cause of Death Released

    An investigative report on KTLA anchor Chris Burrous has determined that his cause of death was attributed to methamphetamine toxicity, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. Burrous, 43, was found unconscious at a motel in Glendale, Calif on December 27, and later died at the hospital. The death has been ruled as accidental. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • THE MASKED SINGER: Rabbit in the

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of Feb. 11: 'Masked Singer' Easily Tops Competition

    Fox’s “The Masked Singer” was the highest-rated broadcast show of the week in both Live+Same Day and Live+3. For the week of Feb. 11, the unscripted singing competition series went from a 2.4 rating in adults 18-49 to a 3.4, a rise of 42%. In total viewers, the show went from 7.8 million viewers to [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Josh Cooke Castle Rock

    Josh Cooke Joins Katey Sagal in ABC Comedy Pilot 'Nana'

    Josh Cooke has been cast in a lead role in the ABC hybrid comedy pilot “Nana” opposite Katey Sagal, Variety has learned. Cooke will play Alex, a fire chief in Indianapolis who is a newly widowed single father of two girls. It’s clear that he is in over his head with the girls, but he [...]

  • Maggie Lawson

    Maggie Lawson to Star in Fox Comedy Pilot 'Geniuses'

    Maggie Lawson has been cast in one of the lead roles of the Fox multi-camera comedy pilot “Geniuses,” Variety has learned. The pilot follows a blue-collar couple in South Jersey trying to get by and raise four kids, three of whom just happen to be certified geniuses. Lon Zimmet will write and executive produce. Lawson will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content