OK, those Rebel commercials on BET haven’t exactly moved you, even if this show is intended to fill the void left by the midseason finale of Being Mary Jane. Because it’s 2017 and black TV isn’t as sparse as it once was, you still have those Netflix Dave Chappelle comedy specials to get to, not to mention countless episodes of Black-ish, Underground, 24: Legacy and even reality shows like The Real Housewives of Atlanta to catch up on.
There’s so much melanin TV that you no longer feel obligated to support any and every black show that pops up. So John Singleton and his Rebel on BET might just have to take that L. Besides, this female-Shaft thing looks sort of dated.
Trust me, I feel you, but luckily, it’s my job to watch shows even when I’m giving my side eye a good workout. Here are nine reasons you should give Rebel a try when it premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m.
Singleton is a film guy. This we know. He proved this with his Oscar-nominated debut, Boyz n the Hood, almost 26 years ago, which made Nia Long, Cuba Gooding, Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut and Ice Cube stars and Laurence Fishburne a more viable one. Not resting on his laurels, Singleton also gave us Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur with Maya Angelou in Poetic Justice, and Tyrese and Taraji B. Henson in Baby Boy; he even directed 2 Fast 2 Furious. So, given his track record, it’s perhaps wise to at least peep what he has in store for the first-ever television series with his executive producer stamp, and on BET, to boot.
We’ve already established that Singleton has an eye for fresh talent. Before now, Danielle Moné Truitt’s biggest role was apparently voicing Georgia in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. And though she initially comes across as a bit cartoonish, which is totally understandable for self-appointed badasses, it’s hard to be mad at a sister who delivers a lot of whup-ass as she administers plenty of well-earned beat-downs. She’s also softer than she lets on. She has a family, friends—including a ride-or-die Asian bestie named Cheena Lin—and a complicated dating life.
I won’t reveal her exact reason for standing up to her “colleagues” other than to say that it hits real close to her heart. But the real point is this: Rebel is committed to serving justice regardless of who is guilty and is not blinded by the “Blue Lives Matter” shining lights that have sent other black law-enforcement officers like Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke Jr. to “the sunken place.”
No, I can’t profess precise knowledge of just how deep their relationship goes quite yet. But I did peep enough to know that Rebel’s connection with her ex, Terrence “T.J.” Jenkins, played by the M-E-T-H-O-D Man, is pretty steamy but filled with drama. While they may truly be soul mates, their actions can’t possibly leave them in a heavenly state.
So he’s kind of heavy on that sauce. So what? Maybe he has reason to be. But when has seeing Mykelti Williamson in any form ever been a bad thing? He gets comic at times, especially since he is very politically incorrect. He also schools us a bit on his family’s Creole, Lake Charles, La., heritage from time to time. Most important, however, is that he has the ability to make anyone watching him care about his character very quickly.
Rebel isn’t an all-black show, but it does have a black resonance, and frankly, our man Giancarlo Esposito probably hasn’t broken bread like this since maybe playing Julian—or, rather, Big Brother Almighty—in School Daze almost 30 years ago. No disrespect to all his phenomenal Afro-Latino roles like Pastor Ramon Guzman on Netflix’s The Get Down and his many race-don’t-matter roles, which are also great. All I’m saying is that Esposito appears to draw some inspiration from his mother’s Alabama roots in playing Charles Gold, and that’s a good thing.
While Rebel is largely filmed in Los Angeles, its setting is Oakland. Not San Francisco, but Oakland. Of course, folks true to “the Town” are sure to have some authenticity issues, but in these gentrifying times, the rest of us will take all the representations of heritage black cities we can get. With Singleton as the show’s executive producer, maybe it’s no coinky dink that Rebel, which showcases a fiercely independent black woman unafraid to confront an entire police department, is set in Oakland. And while Truitt is not an Oakland native, she is from nearby Sacramento, so she is more than familiar with its residents’ kickass “Black is me” vibe even as they mix and mingle with every dang body.
In the show’s two-hour premiere, Rebel puts on a hair show. One minute she’s pulled her hair up and trapped it atop her head in an adorable puff suitable for the cutest 3-year-old; and the next, she’s rocking a simple do where her own hair has been parted and cornrowed under to each side with no outside assistance. And then another minute, she’s rocking some long cornrows braided to the back. Her hair game may be reminiscent of Living Single’s Regine for its variety, but it’s even more empowering because it’s not wigs but mostly her own hair.
As the season progresses, our girl Rebel is getting some serious sisterly backup. Whether they are friends or foes remains to be seen, but Samuel L. Jackson’s better half, LaTanya Richardson, who has done some time on the CBS police drama Blue Bloods; Lauren London, whom we will forever love as New New from ATL; and Tamala Jones, who had been holding a lab down on ABC’s Castle, will all guest-star.
Rebel airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT on BET.