'Rebel': TV Review
'Rebel,' the new dramatic series from BET and director John Singleton, is generic and nonsensical.
Rebel (Danielle Mone Truitt) is a rebel. Her theme song isn't "Rebel, Rebel," though you wouldn't put such hamfisted obviousness past director John Singleton and creator Amani Walker's new BET series about a brazen, Oakland-based African-American policewoman whose life is, shall we say, dramatic.
Initially, there's reason to hope that the series will eschew sensationalistic turns of plot. The first 15 minutes of the two-hour pilot (the only episode made available for review) are measured and easygoing, introducing us to Rebel's work and home life with an engrossingly observational eye. The heart and soul of these scenes are Rebel's relationship with her brother, Malik (Mikelen Walker), an aspiring musician convinced that his art would be better served by roaming the mean streets than attending conservatory. A whole show could be made out of the tensions that arise between the siblings, none of which feel forced, but instead arise from some sensitive writing and Truitt and Walker's superb chemistry.
Sadly, the nagging suspicion that the characters are being set up for tragedy proves true after Rebel and her partner Mack (Brandon Quinn) answer an APB and come upon Malik brandishing a gun. What follows is a police shooting (so ineptly staged and filmed that it could almost be reclaimed as avant-garde) that effectively nullifies the series's unique qualities. The tone suddenly becomes hysterical and over-the-top, with story points introduced and played out in hurried 10-minute increments buffered by commercial breaks. So, like every other cop show, basically.
Except that the pilot of Rebel must set a record for most WTF! plot developments. One minute, Rebel is frantically mourning the loss of her brother, the next she's sassing it up with her best friend Cheena (Angela Ko), the Lacey to her Cagney. I haven't even mentioned the out-of-nowhere domestic abuse case that Rebel stumbles into, which somehow leads from a rich white guy with a Chinatown mistress to a gaggle of Chechnyan terrorists who want to plant pressure cooker bombs all over the city. Or the fact that the first episode ends at a poetry slam because our heroine is a versifier in her spare time. She also changes costumes and hairstyles with hilarious frequency, one moment a resplendent business professional, the next Foxy Brown, complete with afro, high heels and shotgun.
She's a nonsensical character. So the serious issues that Singleton and the show's producers attempt to address (racial, familial and community tensions very keyed in to our current moment) come off like cheap window dressing — contemporary relevance used to tart up a most generic work of art.
Executive Producers: John Singleton, Robyn Snyder, Michael McGahey, Kate Lanier, Fernando Szew, Dallas Jackson, Randy Huggins
Cast: Danielle Mone Truitt, Angela Ko, Brandon Quinn, Derek Ray, Bree Williamson, Mikelen Walker, Cliff "Method Man" Smith, Mykelti Williamson, Giancarlo Esposito
Creators: Amani Walker
Director: John Singleton
Producers: Kyle Clark, Lina Wong
Teleplay: Kate Lanier
Based on a story by: Amani Walker
Director of Photography: Sidney Sidell
Production Designer: John Zachary
Editor: Bruce Cannon, A.C.E.
Music: Jill Scott
Premieres: Tuesday, March 28 (BET)