Queens Review: Eve and Brandy Spit Fire in ABC Drama - VRGyani News and Media

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Queens Review: Eve and Brandy Spit Fire in ABC Drama

It is never not going to be weird that in the space of six months, two different TV shows about '90s girl groups reuniting premiered on two different platforms. But while the Tina Fey-produced comedy Girls5Eva might have come out first, the new ABC series Queens, starring Eve, Brandy Norwood, Nadine Velazquez, and Naturi Naughton has a real shot at making a name for itself not just in this tiny new subgenre, but in the crowded mishmash of television today.

Marking the first time I think I've ever heard the word "poonani" rapped repeatedly in a broadcast drama, the Queens pilot is entitled "1999" but is really about life 22 years after hip-hop girl group the Nasty Bitches were the toast of MTV. After splitting up early into said fame, the four members went their separate ways: Brianna (Eve) becoming a harried mother of five, Naomi (Norwood) attempting to go acoustic and also reconnect with her estranged daughter, Valeria (Velazquez) scrambling to get a foothold as a morning show host, and Jill (Naughton) trying to be happy as a good Christian woman with a good Christian husband.

The pilot proves pretty efficient at establishing all that backstory, — though there's plenty left to be explored, once the girls are reunited for a potential opportunity to close out the BET Awards by Lil Muffin (Pepi Sonuga), a much younger emcee who reminds all of them of what it was like, to be caught up in the thick of the industry in their prime. That reunion isn't without at least one full-bodied tackle, as the Nasty Bitches broke up in pretty dramatic fashion. But while all of these women are living very different lives today, they all need something more — and this reunion might be just what they need.

It's not the first time Eve's led a show and she's the steady rock that Queens needs, balancing comedy and drama nimbly. But each one of the other women make equal contributions to the action, with storylines that promise to deliver plenty of future narratives. The challenge, of course, will be keeping everything in balance along with the former Nasty Bitches planning their comeback. (While it's not fully covered in the pilot, step one is apparently changing the group's name, which probably is for the best.)

Just having Eve and Brandy in this cast is enough to sit up and pay attention, but every performer shows up to play: After seeing Velazquez as a supporting player in My Name Is Earl and The League, where she was always sharp with a quip but character-wise largely reduced to "the hot girl," it's deeply satisfying to see her play a character here whose storyline has nothing to do with her relationship to men.

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Also, believe it or not, but these women are fantastic rappers and performers — okay, that's hardly a surprise, as the only one who wasn't an established musical artist is Velazquez, and she holds her own against the other living legends. There's not a lot of original music featured in the first episode, but the key track, "Nasty Girl," is (as the kids say today) fire, and I'm genuinely excited for the additional original music to come from series music producer Swizz Beatz.

Overall, there is a lot packed into this pilot, but creator Zahir McGhee and director Tim Story do an admirable job of keeping it all balanced, along with just enough of a hook to make us want to see more. (Also, Story draws elegantly upon his own experience as a music video director from that era to add some wonderfully authentic flare to the sequences which deserve it.) Most importantly, whenever possible they remember what might be the most important thing: to put the music front and center. There's nothing like watching talented people do what they do best, and on that basis alone, Queens may become addictive viewing for longtime fans of the stars, as well as newcomers to the scene.

Queens premieres October 19 on ABC.

KEEP READING: 'Queens' Trailer Shows Brandy and Eve as a Former Girl Group Proving They've Still Got It



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