×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

SXSW TV Review: ‘David Makes Man’

Among the new series screening at South by Southwest is “David Makes Man,” presenting its first episode before a bow on OWN this August. While the episode represents only a glimpse of the show to come, it’s promising — both for OWN and for the South by Southwest confab — that this show is, from its first moments, quite so lived-in and credible. It joins, on Oprah Winfrey’s dedicated network, a suite of accomplished dramas including “Queen Sugar”; at the Austin festival, it’s a welcome step outside pure genre, and into a world in which the concerns of young black boys are paramount.

The first TV project from playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, an Oscar-winner for “Moonlight,” tracks the code-switching life of David (the gifted young actor Akili McDowell), a young man who works hard in school and harder at trying to balance the many requirements of his life, including a sort of street apprenticeship with dealer Sky (Isaiah Johnson). David’s home life is challenging, both on its merits (his mother, played by Alana Arenas, isn’t using anymore, but has to work too hard and be away for too long) and for the contrast it provides to his life at an elite magnet school. In the show’s pilot, David deals with things he’s long known — his family’s somewhat precarious situation, the fact that he can’t triangulate between school and the streets forever — with new revelations about just how much even the most comfortably situated of his classmates are hiding, too.

McCraney is working within a familiar milieu — here, as in “Moonlight,” we are plunged into a section of the Miami metro area in which black and brown faces predominate. And here, again, we watch the battle for a young man’s soul, one in which a drug dealer is on the side of the angels. But TV presents the opportunity to build a world, and — though stilted in moments — interactions with a teacher played by Phylicia Rashad suggest a universe that “Moonlight,” with its focus on its protagonist’s tightly bound inner life, wasn’t trying to find. This viewer, at least, remains curious and eager to see more of David’s story, one that is told with élan and confidence and played with preternatural skill. South by Southwest is lucky to have “David Makes Man”; should the series continue on the path its pilot sets, viewers seeking a well-told story about life among economically struggling people of color, one still too rarely told, will soon enough be able to count themselves lucky too.

‘David Makes Man.’ OWN. One episode screened for review.

Cast: Akili McDowell, Alana Arenas, Isaiah Johnson, Travis Coles, Phylicia Rashad, Nathaniel McIntyre, Cayden Williams, Ade Chike Torbert, Jordan Bolger

Executive Producers: Tarell Alvin McCraney, Dee Harris-Lawrence, Mike Kelley, Melissa Loy, Michael B. Jordan, Oprah Winfrey

SXSW TV Review: 'David Makes Man'

More TV

  • LAST MAN STANDING: 150'th Episode: L-R:

    'Last Man Standing' Renewed at Fox

    “Last Man Standing” has been renewed at Fox, Variety has learned. This is the second season of the family multicamera comedy that will air on Fox, but the eighth season overall. (Its first six years were on ABC before the Alphabet canceled the series. Fox picked it up a year later.) “‘Last Man Standing’ roared [...]

  • Lauren Corrao

    Freeform Taps Lauren Corrao to Replace Karey Burke as Original Programming Head

    Lauren Corrao has been named executive vice president of original programming and development for Freeform. Corrao takes over the role from Karey Burke, who was named the head of ABC Entertainment in November following the departure of Channing Dungey. Corrao will report directly to Freeform president Tom Ascheim. In her new position, Corrao will oversee [...]

  • Allison Mack Sex Cult

    HBO in Production on NXIVM Sex Cult Documentary Series

    HBO Documentary Films is currently in production on a documentary series exploring the NXIVM sex cult case, which implicated former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack among others. The series, which is to be directed by “The Square” and “Control Room” helmers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, will follow a range of people who joined the NXIVM [...]

  • Barry Killing Eve Pose

    'Barry,' 'Killing Eve,' 'Pose' Among 2019 Peabody Winners (EXCLUSIVE)

    “The Americans,” “Barry,” “The End of the F***ing World,” “The Good Place,” “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette,” “Killing Eve,” “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” “Pose” and “Random Acts of Flyness” have been named the entertainment winners at this year’s Peabody Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. Additionally, “Sesame Street” has been named the winner of the Institutional Award [...]

  • Les Miserables BBC

    BBC's 'Les Miserables' Recreates the Dark World of Victor Hugo's Novel

    Director Tom Shankland didn’t want his “Les Miserables” to be anything like the stage-musical version of Victor Hugo’s sweeping historical novel, nor like the 2012 Tom Hooper feature-film musical.  For the BBC limited series — a drama starring Olivia Colman, Lily Collins, David Oyelowo and Dominic West, which aired the first of its six episodes in [...]

  • PBS, Walter Presents Air Belgian Crime

    PBS, Walter Presents to Air Belgian Crime Drama 'Professor T' Nationwide (EXCLUSIVE)

    PBS Distribution and Walter Presents are set to bring Belgian crime drama “Professor T” to audiences across the U.S. “Professor T” will be the second international title distributed under the Walter’s Choice banner, the partnership between PBS Distribution, the home video arm of PBS, and streaming service Walter Presents, which brings non-English language drama to [...]

  • Wendy Williams' Husband Kevin Hunter Will

    Kevin Hunter Out as Executive Producer on 'The Wendy Williams Show'

    Kevin Hunter is out as an executive producer of “The Wendy Williams Show” on the heels of Williams’ announcement that she plans to file for divorce from her husband of 22 years. “Kevin Hunter is no longer an executive producer on ‘The Wendy Williams Show,’ ” said a spokesperson for the daytime talk show, produced [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content