"Black men have a softer side" proclaims narrator Garret Morris in the introduction of NBC's latest show and for once it is not being said as a bad thing. It's mainstream broadcast tv but it feels Youtube fresh.
"Grand Crew", a New Year's offering from NBC that originally aired on Peacock and features a friend group of African-American men "unpack[ing] the ups and downs of life and love at a wine bar" according to IMDB recently premiered and it's much-watch tv. That particular synopsis misses the point that Noah, Wyatt, Anthony, and Sherm represent the truth that straight black men of today are not the block reaching hyper-masculine figures that we've been previously portrayed.
Of course it's something I've always known through my personal friends, colleagues, and family. Either way you wanna put it, no one's bangin' or thuggin' all the time and it doesn't mean that you are gay or socially awkward. Check out the video below and you'll see what I mean.
Ironically, I haven't been excited about a show like this since Patrik Ian Polk's "Noah's Arc". It's a mere coincidence that "Grand Crew" star Echo Kellum's luscious afro and pollyannaish approach to love and relationships is reminiscent of the earlier Noah played by Darryl Stephenson. Kellum's performance is heartfelt and humorous.
(Left: Darryl Stephens as Noah in 2004 Right: Echo Kellom) (Photo Cred: Twitter @EchoK)
However, Nicole Byer's "Nicky" and Noah's sister is the comedic heavyweight even working some political humor into the pilot. Spoiler Alert: When Noah proposed to his girlfriend of 3 months things don't go well and she's there to pick up the pieces. And while we're going back to the sausage party she perfectly counterbalances the male ensemble.
Earlier shows and movies like "The Wood", "The Game", even Donald Glover's "Atlanta" have endeavored to show the variety of emotion and capacity for joy possessed by black men. "Grand Crew"s strives yet to do it again perhaps in a more direct way. As the narrator closes "brothers are out here feeling things"
Why it matters that their straight guys:
The show is only two episodes in; so no one really knows what's going to happen in the character's story arcs. However as it stands now all of the crew reminds me of the heterosexual barber and co-workers that I would swap relationship and dating stories with.
In reference to the title and my subsequent mentions of sexuality, I think it's important that while some cultures are experiencing the type of extreme toxic masculinity that results in murders others are filling the void of upholding the culture and enjoying wine without the implication that they are either LGBT or neurally diverse or some other qualifiers. Everyone deserves joy and "Grand Crew" is black boy joy for 2021.