A lot of cool things happened this week in black entertainment: Time Inc. released images of Barack and Michelle Obama looking gorgeous on the November cover of Essence magazine while FLOTUS looks absolutely stunning on InStyle’s November cover; Leslie Jones returns to Twitter after her website hack; and Beyoncé turned 35 in style — she threw a “Soul Train”-themed soiree, chilled with former POTUS Bill Clinton at her hubby Jay Z’s “Made in America” festival and Mrs. O reportedly threw her a party at Camp David.
Those are great, but a few other awesome things happened this week, including two black-centric TV series making strong debuts. Check out this Week’s Hot List below.
1. “Queen Sugar”
I hate to say I told you so, but I’m gonna do it anyway! What am boasting about? The fact that I knew that “Queen Sugar,” OWN’s latest hit, would strike gold when I watched the first episode earlier this summer. The ratings from its two-night series debut — 2.6 million viwers on Tuesday — proves that I was right. “Queen Sugar,” based on Natalie Baszile’s 2014 novel of the same name, continues to receive love from just about everyone. I swear “Today” co-host Tamron Hall was near tears when she interviewed Ava DuVernay, its executive producer and director, about the new series (see proof of this below). There are 11 more episodes left in this season and OWN, knowing like I did, renewed it for second one last month! “Queen Sugar” will regularly air Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.
WATCH: “Queen Sugar” Episode 1
WATCH: “Queen Sugar” Episode 2
Now, this series left me pleasantly surprised. It’s not that I had low expectations for this new FX dramedy, it’s just that … OK, maybe I was a bit skittish given its description: “Two cousins work through the Atlanta music scene in order to better their lives and the lives of their families.” C’mon, you know that’s proven to be a recipe for disaster. Fortuantely, where “Atlanta” is concerned (based on the first two episodes), it’s not! This series, starring and executive produced by Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino), has an interesting storyline, great dialogue and *gasp!* complex black characters. Those are all reasons why it, like “Queen Sugar,” continues to be lauded and received good ratings (1.1 million viewers). “Atlanta” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.
WATCH: “Atlanta” Episode 1
WATCH: “Atlanta” Episode 2
It’s a good thing I didn’t bet against this TV One pilot film because if I had, I would be S-O-L! As its title suggests, “Ringside” explores the personal battles an undefeated boxer faces outside of the ring while preparing for the biggest fight of his career. Similar to my early “Atlanta” thoughts, I kind of assumed (and you know what happens when people assume) that this film would be corny, predictable and generally uninteresting. Thankfully, when I left a screening of the film last week, I was able to do so with a smile on my face and could honestly tell Russ Parr, the nationally-syndicated radio host who wrote, produced and directed, that it was had good, relatable dialogue, complex characters and wasn’t corny! “Ringside” aired as a TV movie but Parr and the cast are hoping it gets picked up as a series. Missed “Ringside’s” Sept. 4 debut? No worries, it airs again Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on TV One. Can’t wait ’til then? Watch it below.
4. Michael Strahan’s first week as fulltimer on “Good Morning America”
Michael Strahan’s exit from “Live! with Kelly and Michael” may have been controversial but his debut as full-time co-anchor on ABC’s “Good Morning America” was not. Strahan, who juggled duties as “Live!” co-host and “GMA” special contributor for two years, joins anchors Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos, co-anchors Amy Robach and Lara Spencer, and meteorologist Ginger Zee. His best bud Usher helped welcome him on his first day, with the beloved former NFL player sharing that he begins his mornings listening to music that includes Usher’s latest “No Limit.” When asked how he’s loving his time as a fulltimer? Strahan replied, “I’m loving it!” Watch Strahan weedays on “GMA” at 7 a.m. ET/CT on ABC.
WATCH: “Good Morning America”
5. Ava DuVernay
It girl. I know it’s an overused description and some may even argue that a grown woman shouldn’t be called “girl” but that’s one of the quickest ways to describe Ava DuVernay’s current Hollywood experience. She’s been everywhere over the past week, including “Today” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” promoting her new OWN series “Queen Sugar.” She and Oprah Winfrey, who also executive produces “Queen Sugar,” celebrated the drama with a star-studded premiere last week. “It’s nice when your friend owns a network,” DuVernay told Stephen Colbert. Another reason why DuVernay is celebrated? Aside from being very talented, DuVernay is making sure that black Americans and women are a part of “Queen Sugar’s” creative process. “Our whole directorial team is women, which is a big deal in Hollywood because they kind of try to keep us out,” she continued. “They’re badass.” This fall, DuVernay will direct the Disney film “A Wrinkle in Time” based on the 1963 book.
WATCH: Ava DuVernay on “Today”
WATCH: Ava Duvernay on “Stephen Colbert”