New feature: In 15 Minutes Or Less, The A.V. Club looks at the best in web series and short-form TV, recommending entry points that will take up no more than a quarter hour of your time.
In early October, 27-year-old filmmaker and Internet star Issa Rae made headlines when she (with an assist from Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes) sold the pilot I Hate LA Dudes to ABC. Yet with all the work that accompanies preparing a network-television pilot, Rae has still had the time to increase her workload on the project that helped her secure that deal: the web series The Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl, which begins posting two episodes per month in December. Currently in its second season (and first for Pharrell Williams’ i am OTHER YouTube channel), Awkward Black Girl puts its creator, writer, and star in the role of J, a self-conscious twentysomething with a dead-end job, a rich fantasy life, and a habit of channeling her frustrations through gleefully profane rap verses. Rae’s ever-present narration places viewers squarely inside J’s head, and while those voiceovers can prove distracting, they nonetheless give the series a defined, unique (not to mention under-represented on mainstream TV) perspective, one that’s too direct and genuine to be too far from Rae’s own POV.
Keywords: Discomfort humor, Web TV game Donald Glover, “What if there was a significant black character on Girls?”
Where to start: Skip over the uneven batch of opening episodes—or just watch them all in one sitting, as they’re also the briefest installments in the series—to “The Stapler,” which offers a sharp riff on office annoyances (co-workers borrowing supplies without permission) while introducing the love triangle that powers the first season’s second half. The emotional tug-of-war that places J between coworker Fred (Madison T. Shockley III) and “White Jay” (Lyman Johnson) provides a welcome counterbalance to the series’ occasionally strained workplace comedy; the scenes between Rae and Johnson in the second half of the ambitious Halloween episode “The Unexpected” gives the series’ some of its most bracingly honest and cringe-inducingly hilarious moments. And if you’re looking for the type of talent Rae might end up working with when she’s at a broadcast network, Donald Glover puts in an excellent cameo in the super-sized first-season finale, “The Decision.”
Where to watch: The seventh episode of season two debuts on i am OTHER on December 13.