Human characters behind grim statistics on 'The Chi'

Posted 1/5/18

By Kevin McDonough

How hard is it to be just a kid in a city known for random, senseless murder?

Set in Chicago's South Side, the new drama "The Chi" (10 p.m. Sunday, Showtime, TV-MA) offers a slice-of-life view of residents of …

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Human characters behind grim statistics on 'The Chi'

Posted

By Kevin McDonough

How hard is it to be just a kid in a city known for random, senseless murder?

Set in Chicago's South Side, the new drama "The Chi" (10 p.m. Sunday, Showtime, TV-MA) offers a slice-of-life view of residents of violence-plagued neighborhoods and attempts to tell human stories behind the statistics and stereotypes.

We first meet Coogie (Jahking Guillory), a brash adolescent, on an old-fashioned bicycle with a banana seat. He "challenges" another rider on a motorcycle before careening into a corner grocery, where he smart-mouths the proprietor and negotiates a bargain price for a slice of beef jerky that he later feeds to a caged-up dog, apparently neglected and abused. On his way home from that benevolent act, he happens upon the bloodied victim of a gang shooting. Rather than recoil and flee, he steals the dead man's sneakers and jewelry. Is Coogie the kind kid who fed the dog or the dehumanized thief? Or a combination of both?

"The Chi" confronts its viewers with such questions on a regular basis.

On a surface level, a drama that seeks to transcend the obvious seems to be going out of its way to create too many familiar "ghetto" types. There's the alcoholic mom (Sonja Sohn) who resents her son's (Jason Mitchell) ambitions and despises his successful girlfriend (Tiffany Boone). There's a sneaker-obsessed "player" (Jacob Latimore) reluctant to own up to teenage fatherhood until his tough-as-nails mother (Yolanda Ross) makes him. There's an angry alcoholic (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine) spouting political manifestos, and the benevolent white cop (Armando Riesco) trying to connect to the "streets."

But as familiar as some of these characters first appear, the story asks us to follow them as they reveal their humanity, or at least their complexity.

Similar to "Stranger Things," this drama also sports a likable gang of adolescent adventurers (Alex R. Hibbert, Michael Epps and Shamon Brown) trying to navigate puberty while avoiding drug dealers and gang battles.

• Based on real-life characters who staged their own reality show comeback, the 2018 biopic "A Tale of Two Coreys" (8 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime, TV-14) will leave fans of such guilty pleasures wondering, "What took them so long?"

Young actors Corey Feldman (played by Elijah Marcano and Scott Bosely) and Corey Haim (played by Justin Ellings and Casey Leach) achieve sudden fame with the 1987 horror comedy "The Lost Boys."

As quickly as you can say, "Yahoo Serious," they catapult through teen stardom, starring in "License to Drive" and "Dream a Little Dream" before appearing in a series of less-successful movies on their way to becoming tabloid punchlines.

The movie not only chronicles their drug abuse as well as Feldman's choice to sober up and raise a family, but also their decision to appear in the reality series "The Two Coreys" in 2007, which depicted the two former child actors living together as adults. As I wrote at the time, "The whole thing is sad, but should appeal to those who can't watch enough train wrecks and who have had their fix of 'Hey Paula' and 'Scott Baio Is 45 ... and Single.'"

That show (and much of this film) centered around Feldman's attempts to get Haim to kick his bad habits. As we know, he was unsuccessful (spoiler alert!). Haim died of pneumonia in 2010 when he was 38.

"A Tale of Two Coreys" does more than dwell upon past reality shows and accents the sexual abuse both young men suffered at the hands of Hollywood big shots, a topic that Feldman has spoken about publicly for some time. He'll continue to do so in the hour-long interview "Corey Feldman: Moment of Truth" (10 p.m., Lifetime) that follows.

• In the new reality series "To Rome for Love" (9 p.m. Sunday, Bravo, TV-14), professional matchmaker Diann Valentine escorts five clients to Italy in the hopes that the scenery, history and culture of passionate and expressive men will help them transcend some of the problems facing single black women in America. The glories that are Rome only go so far in distracting discerning viewers from the usual tears and tantrums.

SATURDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

• Shaun's intense focus may impede his success on "The Good Doctor" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-14).

• The Los Angeles Rams host the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC wild-card playoff game (8 p.m., NBC).

• Catch three live episodes of "Pit Bulls & Parolees" (8 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., Animal Planet, TV-PG).

"Say Yes to the Dress" (8 p.m., TLC) enters its 16th season.

"Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn" (8:30 p.m., Nickelodeon, Nick Toons and Teen Nick, TV-G) enters its fourth season.

• Jane takes flight as the truth emerges on the two-hour finale of "Ten Days in the Valley" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

SUNDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

• Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (7 p.m., CBS): preventing shootings in Chicago; the RT Network; brain injuries among combat veterans and NFL players.

• Seth Meyers hosts the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony (8 p.m., NBC).

"Worst Cooks in America" (9 p.m., Food, TV-G) begins its 12th season with a new crew of hopeless chefs.

• Elizabeth feels sabotaged on "Madam Secretary" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

"Lone Star Law" (10 p.m., Animal Planet, TV-14) enters its third season, following a Texas game warden. Not to be confused with "Monster Croc Wrangler" (10 p.m., Nat Geo Wild, TV-PG).

CULT CHOICE

The success of an advertising whiz (Doris Day) rattles her doctor husband (James Garner) in the 1963 comedy "The Thrill of It All" (6 p.m. Saturday, TCM).

SATURDAY SERIES

A cold case thaws on "NCIS" (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) * Singers compete on the repeat pilot episode of "The Four" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14) * Tammy reconciles with her ex on "NCIS: New Orleans" (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) * "48 Hours" (10 p.m., CBS).

SUNDAY SERIES

A suspect awakens from a coma on "Wisdom of the Crowd" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) * Lisa finds a soul mate on "The Simpsons" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) * Animals unleashed on "America's Funniest Home Videos" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * Lost in the woods on "Ghosted" (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14) * Napalm raises concerns on "NCIS: Los Angeles" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) * Brian dates a dog on "Family Guy" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) * Two new episodes of "Shark Tank" (9 p.m. and 10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * Fred Armisen guest-stars as a new survivor on "The Last Man on Earth" (9:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

© 2018, United Feature Syndicate