The Hype List: What to check out this week, including Kelela, ‘The Mayor,’ Ta-Nehisi Coates
Welcome to the Hype List, a weekly recommendations series in which columnist Tirhakah Love highlights all of the pop culture happenings — movies, music, television, books and more — that you need to know about.
TV: The Gifted
Listen, if you’re tired of superheroes, know that you’re not alone. Comic book characters are still flooding movie theaters, and now they’re crowding the small screen too, sometimes with success (see Netflix’s Jessica Jones) but more often not (look no further than Marvel’s Inhumans on ABC — yikes). The Gifted, Fox’s newest TV take on the X-Men mythos, has some promise, though.
It’s been pretty well received so far, and, in a refreshing twist, takes place in a universe seemingly devoid of both Charles Xavier’s X-clad heroes and the Magneto-led Brotherhood of Mutants. Director and producer Bryan Singer is involved, which is encouraging, and it looks like the fundamental tenets of X-Men comics — social isolation, government-backed persecution, timeline trickery and genuinely diverse characters — are woven into the show’s DNA. There may not be a cure for mutations, but it looks like we’ve found an antidote for superhero fatigue.
The Gifted premieres Monday, Oct. 2, 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.
Book: We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In his follow-up to 2015’s renowned Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates analyzes the cross-racial dynamism and unprecedented power of the Obama era, as well as the racial animus that rose in its aftermath. In a collection that blends previously published essays with eight new pieces, Coates deftly balances historical analysis — on topics like the emboldened white-supremacist attitudes within America’s political system — with thoughts on his own personal ascendance from a strapped-for-cash writer to preeminent literary figure. Frustration with continued oppression doesn’t mean Coates lacks empathy, but We Were Eight Years in Power is a pained collection that lays out an argument for thoughtful and humane resistance against a government that appears morally bankrupt.
We Were Eight Years in Power will be available Tuesday, Oct. 3 (One World).
TV: The Mayor
Established political shows like House of Cards and Veep have made their names by exposing the cynicism that goes into governing, but ABC’s new sitcom The Mayor is blessed with a much more hopeful sort of wit. Don’t think it shies away from commenting on the issues facing our nation, though. The premise: In a rather innovative attempt to promote his latest album, rapper Courtney Rose (Brandon Micheal Hall) decides to start a mayoral campaign in his fictional hometown of Fort Grey, California, after learning how easy it is — just 200 signatures and no felony charges!
Of course, he ends up eking out a victory and has to learn on the job. Consider it a different spin on the outsider-candidate-wins-big narrative, one that features a cheerful supporting cast (Lea Michele and Yvette Nicole Brown are spot-on costars) and that lets us imagine a future where politics are led by thoughtful, engaged and young people of color.
The Mayor premieres Tuesday, Oct. 3, 9:30 p.m. EDT on ABC.
Music: Take Me Apart by Kelela
Kelela has a penchant for releasing new music in October. Her first mixtape, Cut 4 Me, released in October 2013, remains a lovingly crafted effort, one marked with surprising drum beats and resounding melody. The Los Angeles-based talent then followed Cut 4 Me with the sensuous Hallucinogen EP in October 2015. And now, after enjoying years of critical acclaim and with collaborations alongside Solange, Danny Brown and Gorillaz under her belt, Kelela’s finally releasing her first proper studio album. If the first single, “Frontline,” is to be believed, then Take Me Apart will contain exactly the sort of forward-thinking and superbly layered R&B that followers have come to expect. In a year that’s seen a slew of stunning R&B debut LPs from young, black female artists, Kelela will keep the trend thriving.
Take Me Apart will be released on Friday, Oct. 6, via Warp Records.
Olivia Pope and her signature lip quiver are back for one last go-round in the seventh and final season of Shonda Rhimes’ thrilling political epic. The upcoming farewell season promises to be full of challenges for the show’s cadre of female powerhouses: Olivia performs double-duty as chief of staff for the recently sworn-in President Grant and the head of covert agency B613, while Quinn starts her own Pop-eian crisis management firm. According to Rhimes, she’s “leaving nothing on the table” for the swan song, so make sure you’ve got your white hats on tight — Scandal is coming for wigs.
Scandal premieres Thursday, Oct. 5, 9 p.m. EDT on ABC.
Dina is an especially unique film, a hybrid of documentary and romantic-comedy. It tells the love story of two adults living with mental disabilities. The main protagonist, Dina Buno, is an autistic 49-year-old living in Philadelphia who, after going through real trauma in her previous relationships, decides to give love and marriage a chance with her fiancé, Scott Levin, who lives with Asperger syndrome.
The intimacy granted to directors Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles is not only a testament to the long and loving friendship between Dina and Sickles (Dina is a member of a support group for the neurologically diverse founded by Sickles’ father), but also allows for a real, challenging romance to be explored on the screen. The winner of Sundance’s 2017 U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize, Dina follows a couple as they prepare to get married, learn how to negotiate each other’s quirks and face real difficulties with communication, namely Scott’s struggle to show affection and Dina learning how to articulate her needs. Their challenges are no doubt informed by the fact that they’re neurologically diverse, but they should feel familiar to anyone who’s ever been in love.
Dina opens in theaters on Friday, Oct. 6.