July 24, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Insecure”


INSECURE:  Sunday 10:30PM on HBO

Issa Rae’s INSECURE became progressively more assured during the course of its first season, and although it wasn’t more than a moderate success, its ratings trended upward through its run, until it was outrating its higher-profile lead-in, Sarah Jessica Parker’s Divorce.  HBO has rewarded it by scheduling Season 2 on Game of Thrones Sundays, still in the 10:30 slot but with the hit (albeit more male-skewing) Ballers as its new lead-in.

Tonight’s season premiere, written by star/co-creator Rae, and directed by Melina Matsoukas (who’s been behind the camera on 5 of the 9 episodes that have aired), suggests that the network’s confidence is well-founded.  One of the keys to Insecure‘s steady improvement was its move from a star vehicle for Rae to a piece that gave equal prominence to the character Issa’s best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji) and then-boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis), particularly building up the latter’s role through the course of the season.  That continued in the premiere, which picked up several months after the Season 1 finale, in which Issa and Lawrence broke up after he discovered that she’d cheated on him.

Issa, when we met her again, was far from over Lawrence, half-heartedly dating (a sharp opening sequence transformed her internet dating patter into a rap), and scheming like a sitcom lead to get him to her apartment to pick up his mail.  Her work at an employment-training organization for teens, alongside not-quite-friend Frieda (Lisa Joyce)–a job the show treats, for all its comedy, more seriously than is customary in the genre–continued to be difficult.  Lawrence, for his part, was also in a state of transition, still seeing Tasha (Dominique Perry), but evidently far less serious about the relationship than she was.  After a season for Yvonne that was mostly about her love life, Season 2 seems as though it will also focus on her career, as she learned she was being paid less than a white male contemporary.

With its premiere coming on the same weekend as Girls Trip arrived in theatres to high acclaim and ticket sales, Insecure, which Rae showruns with Prentice Penny, is a more nuanced dramedy about African-American women, with characters whose lives are much messier than Hollywood story arcs allow.  Rae’s own performance has become capable of doing more with less, and Matsoukas’s visual style is rich and vibrant.  Insecure has its own voice, which is a prized commodity on TV these days, and with another brisk 8-episode season ahead, it’s refreshingly hard to be sure where the series will go.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."