Created by and starring Donald Glover, ATLANTA is a laid-back and quirky comedy-drama series about a college dropout who works his way into his rapper cousin’s entourage to become his manager and take him to the next level. I just finished the first season and liked it a lot, though I didn’t quite fall in love with it the way some critics did.
The first season starts off really well. There is so much charm and comedy to be found in little interactions in daily life, and Glover mines it to great effect. We’re introduced to Earnest (“Earn,” played by Glover), his friend and co-parent Van (Zazie Beetz), rapper cousin Alfred (“Paper Boi,” played by Brian Tyree Henry), and Alfred’s eccentric buddy Darius (LaKeith Stanfield). I fell in love with the characters pretty quickly, which made it easy to laugh at the numerous little funny bits.
The show is described as highly episodic, more like short stories than an overall story arc. That worked fine for me. In the second half of the season, though, the show became more experimental, adding touches of the surreal and some subtle social commentary. That’s all good, though it wasn’t as strong as that terrific setup and doesn’t quite pay it off. In later episodes, Earn becomes somewhat one note, playing eternal straight man to the weirdness. No longer quite strong as a dramedy and not quite pointed enough to be the next SEINFELD.
This aside, I liked this one a lot and will be checking out the next three seasons. While the first season’s second half didn’t quite live up to what I thought the show could be, it’s a ton of fun, and I look forward to see what else these characters get up to.