Originally posted Friday, February 8, 2019 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
BET wanted to revive the upscale romantic 1992 drama “Boomerang” and green lit it last year. But it did so without any writers or firm ideas how it would look.
They listened to several pitches and chose Ben Cory Jones (“Insecure”) and Lena Waithe (“The Chi”) to make it work.
The final result is more of a spin-off than a reboot because it focuses on the offspring of the original main characters more than a quarter century later. Eddie Murphy, Robin Givens and Halle Berry do not show up in the new series though Berry is an executive producer.
Set and shot in Atlanta, this “Boomerang,” which debuts at 10 p.m. February 12, features 26-year-old Simone (Tetona Jackson), who is in advertising like her dad Marcus, played originally by Murphy.
Simone - whose mom was Berry’s Angela - quits her family’s ad firm at the start of the show to go out on her own. Her confidence in life coupled with her nonchalant attitude toward relationships are similar to that of her father.
In the opening episode, she calls in a classic booty call and after she dismisses the man, he is the one who gets upset with her callousness.
“Men do it,” Jackson said. “Why can’t women?”
Tequan Richmond (“Everybody Hates Chris,” “General Hospital”) is Bryson, the charming son of tough-as-nails Jacqueline, played by Givens in 1992. He also happens to be in advertising and has a thing for Simone.
“He has a chip on his shoulder and strives for validation all the time from her,” Richmond said.
The show also gives plenty of time to a tight group of their friends including dancer Tia, preacher David and sexually fluid digital producer Ari.
Waithe, who won an Emmy for writing and acting wth Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show “Master of None,” brings that type of easy-going sensibility to “Boomerang.” The writing is refined, the scenarios grounded more in reality than “Empire”-like glossy soaps.
Jones dubs it “emotional realism.”
He said the core of the show is the cast and its chemistry: “It’s how young Millennials are learning and loving. We show them at work, at play. We are giving them a full 360 view of 20-somethings.” `
Jones also thinks the wild-card potential break-out character is Tia, played by YouTube star Lala Milan.
“I’m definitely the comedic relief,” Milan said.
During a scene shot in December, the core cast is sitting on a stoop staring at their smartphones. Simone notices on social media that her ex-boyfriend had gotten engaged and tries in vain not to sound petty and jealous.
“I’m happy for him,” Simone says unconvincingly.
“It feels forced,” Ari says.
“It wasn’t that long ago,” Simone says, “that he was laying on my bed talking to me about wanting a baby. Now he’s married to this other b*tch. But whatever. It’s cool.”
Tia starts following the girl in question on Instagram. “She followed me back!” Tia exclaims. “We’re friends now!”
Simone looks at Tia and rolls her eyes. “Can one of y’all escort her out? Please?”
Leland Martin, who plays super cool Ari, said the writing is what makes the show work. “I have no idea where it’s going when I read a script,” he said. “I feel comfortable with that. The characters pop off the page. We’re in good hands.”
The show also embraces Atlanta as a character. “We’re not just filming here,” Jones said. “We want to be part of Atlanta. We shot in location at Cascade Skating Rink. We shot at Silver Skillet. We went to Goldrush [a strip bar.]. We’re filming at locations recognizable to any Atlantan.”
Taking a break on set at a modern Midtown home in December, Waithe said she has had a “love-hate relationship with BET” over the years.
She said many great shows created by black artists such as “Atlanta” and “Insecure” are on other networks such as FX and HBO. Her show “The Chi” is on Showtime. Why aren’t these shows on BET? she thought.
“When I heard about ‘Boomerang,” I thought I could bring my level of talent and sophistication and brand of comedy to this brand I respect and love so much,” Waithe said. “I want to raise the bar for BET.”
She also admired the original “Boomerang” and wanted to give it a fresh spin.
“I was nervous,” she said. “I said this is special and important to us. I don’t want to get it wrong.”
She compared the 1992 film to Michael Jordan. She wants this version to be LeBron James. “We’re not mimicking the film,” she said. “We’re inspired by it.”
Richmond agreed. The movie “was one of those cult classics. We watched it every day for weeks. I have to keep saying I’m not Eddie Murphy or Halle Berry. But we want to capture the nuances and the essence so people know they’re watching ‘Boomerang.’”
“Boomerang,” 10 p.m. Tuesdays, starting February 12, 2019 on BET
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