Jive turkey. I was waiting for that term to pop up in BET’s newest cop drama, Rebel. The show, which premieres on DStv’s BET tonight, is being described as neo-blaxploitation in some corners. And that explains the over-acting to the point of annoyance.
If you needed further explanation, here it is in two words: John Singleton. Depending on how old you are, you’ll know Singleton as the writer and director behind the genre-defining Boyz N The Hood classic film. Or you may know him as the man who made sure he brought Shaft back in the 2000 film.
Singleton is the executive producer of Rebel and his love for blaxploitation is so lathered through the first episode that it’s hard to place the time and area that the series is set in. Here’s a little background. Rebecca “Rebel” Knight – who is played by Danielle Mone Truitt – is a bad mama jamma of a police officer. She often leaves her partner out of sting operations and takes down criminals on her own.
Her loud mouth and independent attitude sees her make enemies at the station and things only get worse when she shoots her partner to stop him from killing her brother. The setup is predictably a foundation to tackle police brutality and rope in Black Lives Matter, but the entire scene – complete with slo-mo exaggeration of emotion – feels contrived.
Straight out of the gate, it is made clear that sexism and racism are constructs that Rebel tackles head on. She gives as good as she gets. And how good depends on the writers of Rebel. For instance, a cop that she frequently clashes with calls her a “black b****”. He also makes flat racist comments, for example that Rebel’s brother “would have ended up a casualty of the streets anyway”. That’s how one-dimensional the characters seem.
Yes, this opinion is from seeing just one episode, but I am not inspired to watch the second. This drama looks like it had enough of a budget to rival shows like Power. But it comes off as though the plan was to create Luke Cage meets Being Mary Jane but we ended up getting Coffy with cornrows instead.
I mean, at one point, Rebel pairs booty shorts with a Free The Jena 6 tank top. Towards the middle of the episode, she is wearing bell-bottom jeans. Like, for real. Fashion choices aside, the story itself runs in many different directions in the first episode.
Because Rebel shot her partner and an army of police officers showered her brother with bullets until he died, there’s an ongoing case happening. But in the meantime, Rebel seems to have taken a liking to private investigations of other crimes. And then there’s the non-separation between her and her husband, Terrance aka TJ. They are officially no longer together and he is already dating someone else, but they dip back into the sack every now and then.
Cool, whatever. But why do they have the most cringeworthy sex scenes? In every second cutaway, TJ is licking something like he was not directed on what to do. It’s weird. Oh, TJ is played by Method Man – who uses his real name, Cliff Smith, as though he’s not simply known as one of the greatest rappers ever. Meth is not ageing well. Sorry. But maybe the sexual chemistry between TJ and Rebel will get better.
And if you’re wondering, “jive turkey” did not come up in the first episode, but it’s still early. Maybe Singleton and co are saving it for the grand finale.
* Rebel starts on BET (DStv Channel 129) tonight at 9.30pm.