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2 New Shows, 'David Makes Man' And 'Twenties,' Are Now Available For Streaming

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

"David Makes Man," the Peabody Award-winning drama on the cable channel OWN debuts today on HBO Max. And the BET comedy "Twenties" is now on Showtime's streaming service. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says these two Black-centered shows, once under the radar, may find a wider audience.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: One of the best things about today's reexamination of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood is the way some shows centered on Black life are getting a second look. Consider "David Makes Man," a creatively ambitious drama from Tarell Alvin McCraney whose play inspired the Oscar-winning 2016 film "Moonlight." McCraney's TV series centers on 14-year-old David, a young Black man in a Miami housing project, trying to achieve in school and help his single mom keep an eye on his boisterous younger brother who he's taking to visit his grandfather.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DAVID MAKES MAN")

CAYDEN K WILLIAMS: (As JG) How many buses we got to take?

AKILI MCDOWELL: (As David) You already know three buses and a train. Stop - stop acting like we - if you gone complain, tell your granddaddy to come pick you up.

WILLIAMS: (As JG) He take me to school when I stay.

MCDOWELL: (As David) Never on time.

WILLIAMS: (As JG) At least he trying.

DEGGANS: David faces a lot of pressure, ratcheted up by others who often fail to help, hobbled by their own pressures. When a tough kid from David's housing project tries to pressure him into joining his drug operation, they both bond for a minute over the death of David's mentor Sky, who was also the tough kid's dad.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DAVID MAKES MAN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) I know Sky took you on his wing, tried to play daddy. But I bet you ain't never seen that side of him. That kind of mad, he only reserved for me. Him being gone is - it's never your fault. But you still feel regret.

MCDOWELL: (As David) Regret.

DEGGANS: "David Makes Man" was a show critics like me loved. But it was a little different than the melodramas which often fill OWN's schedule. A win at the Peabody Awards helped raise its visibility. But a deal to get it on HBO Max will broaden its audience, just as people seek insightful TV shows depicting Black life.

David is forced to wear different masks depending on where he is. At the magnet school he attends, he's smart and jokey. In the housing project, he's quieter and more careful. And there are moments of magical realism where David speaks to his mentor Sky, relating how he started a fight in class. Sky speaks first.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DAVID MAKES MAN")

ISAIAH JOHNSON: (As Sky) You saw red. You thought somebody close to you was trying to stand in your way. Sometimes you got to hit him...

MCDOWELL: (As David) I didn't hit him.

JOHNSON: (As Sky) There you go.

MCDOWELL: (As David) I made him hit me.

JOHNSON: (As Sky) That's better?

MCDOWELL: (As David) No, they got me seeing the school psychologist.

JOHNSON: (As Sky) Well, get her to see that you one of the good ones. Get her to see that you're exceptional.

DEGGANS: The comedy "Twenties" is another show that's reaching new audiences after debuting on BET. It's included on Showtime's streaming service, created by Lena Waithe and centered on three Black women trying to make their way in Hollywood, including a studio executive who must compete against a Black man for a promotion.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TWENTIES")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) I just don't want the only two Black execs at the studio trying to kill each other over a promotion. It's not what the ancestors would've wanted.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) I don't know. I did the 23andMe thing. Turns out, half my ancestors were feuding tribes; the others were house Negros.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Well, we both know what side you took after.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character, laughter) May the best man win.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) That's sexist.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) You know what I mean.

DEGGANS: "Twenties" often feels like "Insecure" meets "Bamboozled" as the characters, including Hattie, a queer Black girl that seems like an avatar for Waithe, navigate everyday life in Los Angeles and the peculiar racism of Hollywood. The elevation of high-quality Black-centered series like "David Makes Man" and "Twenties" must be part of this new cultural reckoning because when Black lives truly do matter, great TV shows that examine Black lives will matter, too.

I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.