Capturing the Hollywood hustle can be tough going for TV shows, requiring that they be packed with bare boobs and famous cameos a la Entourage or purportedly following "real" people who live for tabloid covers, like The Hills. BET's new show 8 Days A Week, based on Lyah Beth LeFlore's popular teen book series The Come Up, wants desperately to capture that swirling excitement of young life for those pursuing gigantic dreams in L.A. Unfortunately, most of the swirling ends up being the dizzying, "youth-paced" camera shots and edits that refuse to settle for a moment on the show's protagonists, of which there are a whopping six.
Hopeful music mogul Blue Reynolds (Justin "Irocc" Williams) has a card up his sleeve with friend and rapper Jayson "J-Shine" Martin (Nicolas Green) and fully intends to make both their names in the biz, even if that means having his parents wire him money after losing cash during a night of too many tequila shots in the studio. Throughout the first episode, the two are seen plotting their rise to success from their lower rung position and eventually encountering another group of big dreamers, three ladies named Mamie "DJ Ill MaMa" Lopez (Alex Lynn Ward), fashion student Zoe Olivia Daniels (Skye P. Marshall), and studious college kid Jade Taylor (Skye Townsend). There's no shortage of sexual tension between the lot of the young twentysomethings, with a few love connections even hanging in the balance by the episode's end.
But what's difficult about the show is, well, a lot. The Hollywood caricatures are pretty problematic, even if they're meant to show the underbelly of the hip-hop business instead of the backlot. When Blue and J-Shine bump into an established hip-hop producer and accept his invitation to record tracks at this studio, the eventual reveal of his double-crossing villainy is given away long before, thanks to his chain smoking of cigars and shifty, angry eyes. Then there's the nightclub that Blue works at as a busboy, named Club Heat, where all the A-listers come and where the semi-shady bossman also happens to smoke cigars menacingly. It's like a strange retro callback to Hollywood of yore, but instead of young '20s starlets meeting the cigar-puffing producer on the casting couch, it's upcoming, hip-hop hopefuls.
And much like its forefather Entourage, the cast also has strikingly difficult time acting. To be fair, a lot of the dialogue is groan-inducing, as when Jade gets frustrated about not having enough time to volunteer with children (see, she's the heroine) with her heavy class-load and tells Mamie, "I'm not gonna' give up on those kids. They need me." Or when Mamie explains her dreams of DJ-dom to J-Shine: "We're all chasing dreams. I mean, isn't that what you're supposed to do when you're young?" The good news is there's a big enough cast for the stories to bop between should you prefer one type of off-kilter acting to another.
It's a modern tale with Blue and his still-forming gang, necessitating lots of close-ups of iPhone text messages and the sound of buzzing pockets. The hope is just that all the effort put into giving the characters varied socioeconomic backgrounds and personal histories beyond just needing to get out of some shitty, dangerous neighborhoods—Blue's parents are a lawyer and teacher and he dropped out of Howard University to move to LA—will pay off a bit more down the line. But, then again, the episode ends with J-Shine getting ambushed in an alley by that insidious producer from earlier with a gun, demanding he give them their cut of the profits on any record deals they make. While the character's stakes may suddenly be higher, it also means the Tinseltown clichés just keep on coming.