Living Single and Girlfriends exist today in nostalgia, firmly in the annals of television history but only occasionally as a rerun on a niche network.
Who are their children? Certainly cable networks have tried to pick up the torch by giving Jada Pinkett Smith, Jill Scott and Sherri Shepherd their own shows, each of which (HawthoRNe, No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and Sherri) have had varying levels of success, most of it good.
But television currently lacks a show by and for “sistas.” Enter SistaPAC productions. The five-year old independent production company, having explored theatre and short film, has released what may be their most ambitious effort yet, a web series: Kindred.
“After being involved in the industry, each of us over decade really, we were concerned about what we’ve seen on television,” Kindred producer Ella Turenne told me when I interviewed the trio a while back. Describing the current TV climate as being in a “lull,” Turenne said the multicultural shows on right now are “not focused on the lives of people of color.”
Kindred premiered this month (I teased the show a number of weeks ago for The Root; see my list of black web shows for more) and another sign that independent web video production is becoming more sophisticated and ambitious.
Kindred follows the professional and personal lives of three black women living in New York played by the series producers: Collette Robbins (Jessica Hartley) works for a politician in New York; Angelina Chambers (Maureen Aladin) is a strong-willed pharmaceutical marketing director; and Karma Scott (Ella Turenne) is a free-spirit, an artist and photographer.
For what must have been a Spartan production effort, Kindred looks quite lovely and delivers a lot of story. It’s clear a real filmmaker shot the show and paid attention to such basics as lighting and framing — you’d be surprised how many series forget these things. Kindred looks warm and professional.
The first episode introduces us to the characters; we get to know their personalities — who’s laid back, stressed out, assertive, etc. It also introduces a bit of the drama the series promises in its tag line: jobs will be lost, medical issues explored, drug abuse, violence and racism will all arise over the next few episodes.
“Will there be drama? Absolutely,” Hartley said. “These are real lives.”
Kindred adds something rarely seen on television: the characters’ mothers are series regulars. TV shows like Girlfriends, careful not to isolate 18-49s, are always wary of including to many “old people,” but for SistaPAC, creating a sense of a community of women of color — without resorting to cliché Sunday dinners — was important.
“There’s a space for support, there’s a space for people to work out their issues,” Turenne said. Hartley said they wanted to show “the strength and resilience of the African American woman without emasculating the African American male.”
The production team scraped together the series on a tight budget, relying on relationships they’ve built over the years. “You have to find to people who are willing to give you blood, sweat and tears for no money,” Hartley told me. Aladin said some people couldn’t make it through the eight weeks of production (many were still working 9-5’s), and this remains a challenge for independent web production: “People lack the funding, people lack the resources, people lack the bodies.”
I think Kindred is well worth your investment and time. I have faith the series will deliver on its many promises.