This was one of my early pandemic television series binges. There’s no doubt that writers/actors Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle are on a hot run. These two came up as writers on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and currently have two television series running, the wonderful Sherman’s Showcase on IFC and this gem of a show, South Side on Comedy Central.
South Side is set in the Englewood area of Chicago, a place most of us only know as a gang filled, violent, hopeless world. Of course, in the world of South Side as seen by Bashir and Diallo, there is laughter, love, goofiness, and people striving, hustling, trying to move up.
The main characters are Simon and Kareme, new graduates of community college. Simon loses his corporate gofer job when they see his rap sheet: lots of missed child support payments from numerous baby mothers. Kareme is a science and astronomy nerd, but fails to get a bite at the planetarium, interviewed by someone who has never even heard of his community college.
So, the two go back to their dead-end jobs at the Rent-To-Own store, managed by Kareme’s brother (and roommate) Quincy. This is the center of the storytelling throughout the series. The other main characters are two police, Sergeant Turner (a wonderful Chandra Russell) and her inept partner Officer Goodnight (played by Bashir Salahuddin). Turner is all about Turner, happy to accept ‘honorariums’ for her service and a real horn dog for the men (any men) on her beat. There is a Public Defender, Allen Gayle, played by Diallo Riddle, who is desperate to move up to Alderman.
So here’s an obvious fact, this is a very African American centric show. How could it not be? Characters call each other words I would never think of saying, ever. There’s a whole episode about stepping. Another about spades (the card game). A terrible episode where lawyer Allen Gayle books the fancy country club for a function, and they ‘make a scheduling error,’ that denies him service. Somehow, the craziness and hopelessness of the South Side world is given such a gentle touch, it’s all funny and not tragic. This is the genius of Bashir and Diallo.
Main characters Simon and Kareme get into all kinds of hustles. One episode involves them moving Viagra to old folks' homes like it’s meth. Another involves selling street-side popcorn in front of the movie theater. There’s an episode in which they get involved with crypto-currency, local, called ‘Litcoin.’ The best one involves them selling meatballs with the ‘mild sauce’ out of the Rent-To-Own.
Much like Sherman’s Showcase, South Side is a wildly entertaining, one of a kind show. I really loved the first season (10 episodes) and I can’t wait for the second. I couldn’t recommend this show more.
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