A look at HBO programming

Photo Courtesy of shadowandact.com
Photo Courtesy of shadowandact.com

Jeff Turner

HBO has often drawn criticism for lack of fair representation behind the camera, and for the most part in front of the camera. There have been efforts to diversify their shows (the misguided Dorne subplot from “Game of Thrones”) but most have fallen by the wayside. In recent years, the network has been associated with white people, with people falling back on “The Wire” as a form of tokenism.

Representation is a big problem, especially behind the camera, but another big problem in HBO’s case is the fact that when they do take a risk, no one watches their shows. Programs like “Treme” and “Looking” were trying to tell different stories, but no one watched them. Eventually, they got the ax.

That will be one of the two big struggles for “Insecure.” It will have to justify its existence when some viewers might be more content just sticking with “Girls.” Creators Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore do a good job of distinguishing themselves. For one, these characters are a little older, more mature and ergo with less potential to try the viewer’s patience. It is a little more existential, Rae (playing herself) is seriously wondering if she’s going to die alone.

Another big thing is also going to be how it will distinguish itself compared to Donald Glover’s “Atlanta,” which is proving to be a boundary-pushing achievement. “Insecure” still has the potential to become a layered examination on the fear of getting older, and to expand even beyond that.

Grade for this piece: B

The pilot of “Insecure” airs on HBO on Saturday.

One pilot that didn’t hold up was HBO’s other new series, “High Maintenance.” It is technically the seventh season of the web-series of the same name. It’s not terrible, but it drags in a way that makes it almost unbearable.

The aspect of the show that works follows creator Ben Sinclair as he makes deliveries to his New York City clientele. It’s an easy premise for a series, two or three encounters and bizarre situations with weird humor that will appeal to the show’s stoned audience. The one encounter Sinclair’s character (named “The Guy”) has with clientele is humorous, unexpected, weird and offbeat. The viewer doesn’t see the ending coming.

The show starts to get insufferable when we follow Max and Lainey, two upscale 20-somethings who can somehow make rent and pay for hundreds and hundreds of dollars for drugs. What is it with these shows and these kids who can afford these drugs? Where is this money coming from? It’s just lousy writing.

They party constantly, and after Max hooks up with another dude, he wants out of his toxic friendship with Lainey. That all falls apart, because Max is largely toxic himself. The show is trying to say something deep on their friendship and on millennials, yes, but it’s also intolerable to watch, which should always be the first step.

So there’s one show pushing the boundaries of representation and another show with narcissistic white people in it.

Grade for this piece: C