The ‘90s and early ‘00s proved to be a golden era for compelling Black narratives on television—especially those of young Black women. There was Living Single’s Maxine Shaw, who took charge inside (and outside) the courtroom, Girlfriends’ Joan Clayton, who bent over backwards to support her BFFs and A Different World’s Jaleesa Vinson, who returned to college at 25 and thrived after a failed marriage. Their stories not only reflected the lives of real women, but they were also a welcome change from the lovable and quirky white protagonists of mainstream TV. However, in the years that followed, many networks opted to take on a different approach, settling for narrow depictions of this marginalized group.

Fortunately, Issa Rae switched up the game and reclaimed the narratives of Black women with HBO’s Insecure, which highlights their everyday experiences. And now, as the groundbreaking series approaches its end, fans can rest assured that another fabulous posse of Black ladies will be taking the spotlight, thanks to Amazon Prime's new comedy, Harlem.

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Amazon Studios

Helmed by Girls Trip director Tracy Oliver, the series follows the misadventures of four Harlem-based friends in their 30s, including Camille (Meagan Good), a Columbia professor who's struggling to get over her ex; Quinn (Grace Byers), a fashion designer who attracts the wrong men; Tye (Jerrie Johnson), a queer dating app creator with a penchant for short-termed flings and Angie (Shoniqua Shandai), an outspoken singer and actress.

Right off the bat, it's clear that Harlem and Insecure share the same DNA. Like Issa and her squad, Camille has a solid support system of fierce Black women. And similar to Issa and Lawrence, Camille struggles to regain her footing and move on after going through a tough breakup. The series also does a phenomenal job of shedding light on the unique experiences of Black women in white spaces, whether that be their place of work or a random, bougie restaurant. But most importantly, at the core of Harlem is the simple message that Black womanhood is as messy as it is beautiful. That while they are resilient and capable, they are also complex, flawed and multilayered.

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Amazon Studios

Perhaps the most refreshing takeaway is that even the most successful women in their 30s don't have it all figured out. In the series, all four women have already made significant headway in their professional lives. But instead of simply relishing in this fact, Oliver flips the script and reveals what happens when they actually don't have everything under control. For instance, Camille, with her encyclopedic knowledge of cultural dating customs, is at a loss when it comes to her own love life. And Angie, who's been living on Quinn's couch for months, struggles to get the ball rolling on her music career. They sound like the kind of storylines you'd see in a show about women in their 20s—because after all, they're still in the beginning stages of adulthood and independence. But this show reminds us that, once you hit 30, everything doesn't always magically fall into place.

Another big strength in Harlem is its representation. In Camille's small group of friends alone, we have a range of heights, shapes, sizes, hair textures, skin tones and personalities, from the tall, dark and gorgeous queer tech expert to the fair-skinned college professor with waist-length dreads. And then of course, there's Angie, whose big hair, curvy figure and dark skin already feels like a big win for Black women who don't feel seen.

But aside from its phenomenal diverse cast, Harlem also succeeds at balancing its more serious themes with humor. For example, as Tye relays the story of her tense meeting with a racist white businessman seeking to buy out her company, she recalls dismissing his offer and adding, "The name isn't Tye, it's 'your highness.'" And when Camille decides to step out and take what she wants (for once), she winds up having the most cringe-worthy sexual encounter.

As expected, the performances are solid all around—although it's worth noting that Shandai steals every single scene with her blunt one-liners. The series is also unfiltered and quite raunchy with a lot of colorful language, so if you really enjoyed Girls Trip and Insecure, then this show is right up your alley.

Kudos to Oliver for creating another winner that champions ambitious, multi-dimensional Black women.

PUREWOW RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Harlem is a love letter to all Black women, accurately representing real-life experiences in the most entertaining and compelling way.

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