Airdate: 10:30-11 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9 (BET).
Can a comedy series focusing on college life that doesn't depict it as one nonstop frat party or journey inside the disturbed student psyche actually succeed?
We might soon find out with "Somebodies," a new series by a fellow named Hadjii that's based on his 2006 indie feature of the same name and launches as BET's first-ever scripted series.
The film edition was a hit at Sundance in the dramatic independent film competition but wasn't able to venture far beyond Utah. It actually is kind of easy to see why it wouldn't have been an easy big-screen sell to a paying audience.
The single-camera "Somebodies" concept is gentle and easygoing and character-driven, which potentially makes it a pleasant, earnest little outpost, if not necessarily anything that's going to push primetime in bold new directions. The lack of a gimmick is itself almost a gimmick these days, and a welcome one.
Written and executive produced by and starring the talented, unassuming Hadjii, "Somebodies" picks up where the 2006 film left off in depicting a world that's less about plot and more about interaction and atmosphere.
Hadjii is Scottie, a black undergrad student who still hasn't figured out what he wants to do when he grows up. He seems blissfully unaware that he's supposed to have grown up already. He resides in a university town (shot in Athens, Ga., home of the University of Georgia) with four roommates (Nard Holston, Anthony Hyatt, Quante Strickland, Corey Redding) who are prepping to transition out of the student world into the real one. Scottie, by contrast, is the prototypical professional college guy and doesn't seem to have much of a clue where to head from here. He hangs with his ex-girlfriend (Kaira Akita) while chasing skirts and dreams, but he's even fairly unmotivated at those.
Adding personality and zest are his eccentric Southern family and a fire-and-brimstone preacher whose rumblings he pays only moderate attention to. His roommate buddies are sarcastic and wholesome, while Scottie is divertingly low-key.
The world of "Somebodies" is one where life goes by slowly -- like a train ambling through the countryside -- and the heavy issues of life are kept mostly at arm's length. And that's what seems to really work about this amiable interlude: it doesn't try to teach us anything apart from the fact that sometimes it's best just to try to sit back and not have to learn anything. How refreshing is that?
There are no big laughs in "Somebodies" and, in truth, not that many small ones, either. This is one of those shows that either hits you the right way or doesn't. If you can successfully tune in to Scottie's world without getting impatient for something consequential to happen already, you'll be in here for a comfortable series of visits, rather like repeatedly donning the same comfy pair of jeans day after day.
If you have trouble with story lines that meander around and take their good sweet time getting wherever it is they're going, then by all means steer clear of this. But all the same, Hadjii has crafted a sweet little world that he inhabits with unassuming style and grace.
Production: Somebodies Prods. and BET.
Cast: Hadjii, Kaira Akita, Nard Holston, Anthony Hyatt, Quante Strickland, Corey Redding.
Executive producers: Hadji, Nathaniel Kohn, Peter B. Aronson, Jordan Levin.
Producers: Tevin Adelman, Pamela Kohn.
Associate producer: Jeffrey Goldstein.
Director: Rusty Cundieff.
Director of photography: Patti Lee.
Production designer: Joseph Litsch.
Costume designer: Zenita Carswell.
Editor: Randy Wiles.
Music: Stanley A. Smith.
Sound mixer: Aron Siegel.
Casting: Annette Stilwell.