HOLLYWOOD—Not all television shows are classics, but those rare ones that are you can watch a single episode over and over and never get bored. The Showtime hit “Soul Food” is a gem amongst a rare breed. While the series is no longer on the air, it took its final bow back in 2004; it gave fans five wonderful seasons with the Joseph clan.
For those who have been living under a rock, the series was a spin on the 1997 movie “Soul Food” starring Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long and Vanessa L. Williams. If you’re wondering why I placed the ‘L’ for the middle initial for Vanessa, that distinction you will understand real soon.
The series continues to follow the chaos of the Joseph clan as Terri, Bird and Maxine navigate their relationship as sisters, while juggling their families and career. The series which is currently running in syndication on the ASPIRE channel proves that perfect casting can have a vital impact on the connection the viewer has with the characters. Nicole Ari Parker (Terri), Malinda Williams (Bird) and Vanessa Williams (Maxine) deliver sensational performances, fully absorbing the good and the bad of their characters.
I mean you love and hate Terri for her headstrong personality, Ms. Know It All, the family bank and one who is not afraid to speak her mind even if it alienates the entire world. Bird, the wise-cracking tell it like it is sister, whose loyalty is so strong she overlooks constant mental abuse and stress that she endures from her husband, Lem (Darin DeWitt Henson), and his constant lies.
Of course we can’t forget Maxine, the heart of the Joseph sisters, whose stubborn personality places her at odds on countless occasions with her husband Kenny (Rockmond Dunbar) and their son Ahmad (Aaron Meeks). Speaking of Ahmad, the series allows fans of the movie to see a young child really development to a wise young man overtime.
He sees the good and the bad in his family members. While precocious, he’s damn smart as well, even if his parents suspect that he is just a child. He is sometimes more mature than half of the characters on the show at times.
What I find so riveting about “Soul Food” is that at the time it debuted on Cable, it was unlike anything of this capacity on television. A TV drama with all African-American cast, it was simply unheard of at the time. We’re not just talking about great writing; we’re talking about stellar storytelling.
I mean this series has tackled everything from racism, violence, drugs, homosexuality, physical abuse, mental health, marriage, divorce, illness, death, money, religion, the work arena and so many more issues, all from the perspective of the African-American community. It was a shining moment, yes; we have the FOX hit “Empire” which is certainly tackling similar issues, but sprinkles music as a way of connecting with a younger audience.
However, “Soul Food” thrives because it was unlike anything of its time and watching from week to week to see how the drama would unfold was so exhilarating. I mean I was in college at the time the series premiered. I would literally travel home and stay up till midnight to watch new episodes each week, even though I had to be at work at 6 a.m. the following morning.
It wasn’t just a guilty pleasure, it was a television program that found a way to force one to reconnect with his or her roots. Particularly, that element of family! Dysfunction is a staple in ANY American household, no matter how perfect things may seem, the family has its secrets to say and attempting to put a cloak over the chaos only further allows it to spill over. I will admit watching episodes NOW just remind how intense this drama was nearly a decade ago.
“Soul Food” is not just a series that will be a treat for those in the African-American community, but to anyone who loves a great drama, full of fascinating characters and writing that is top-notch. Episodes of “Soul Food” can be seen weeknights on ASPIRE at 8 p.m.