Thirty minute comedies often fall into two generic tropes—cheesy family-funny or slap-stick funny. And with Mike Epps as a part of the initial cast of Survivor’s Remorse, I was expecting either a “just another day in the life of Day Day” from Next Friday or a clumsy “I’m safe but not safe for the kids” Uncle Buck. Instead Mike Epps’ character, Uncle Julius, has been the catalyst for this season’s heaviest topics—like death.
How the family copes with Uncle Julius’ death and memory has been the center of this season. Cassie (Tichina Arnold), the single mother from the hood who’s navigating this new world of access, is using her brother’s death as “inspiration” (if death is inspiring at all) to “open new doors.” One of those doors this week was to discover her ancestry. After discovering she’s mostly Nigerian, she decides to emerge herself into Nigerian culture, including hosting a rites of passage of some sorts. Little did she know that this rite of passage included female circumcision—are to be more blunt, the removing of the clit. The easy thing for the writers to do here was to make an obnoxious scene, get a few laughs…closing credits. However, this is where the smart writing begins. The Nigerian mother of the girl up for mutilation protests. Calling out the westernized high and mighty approach Cassie and her family took, she proclaims that it’s no different than male circumcision. (Even if the furniture is covered with plastic, everybody knows a black woman ain’t gonna allow no bloody clit cutting happen near her good furniture. NAH CUZ!) After Cassie rightfully informed her about the difference between what’s culturally and legally acceptable, she did what was right at the moment, stopping the crime from happening in the middle of her living room. Yet, her daughter makes note that they’ll probably conduct the ceremony at another place as they did do in the final scene juxtaposed against a Jewish circumcision ceremony that Cam (the star basketball player played by Jessie Usher) and Reggie (his cousin/manager played by RonReaco Lee) attended.
This concept of what’s morally right and wrong has played out well in the previous episode too, especially through the character Missy Vaughn as played by the prolific Teyonah Parris. Missy seems to be the moral compass of the family. However, being the moral compass can sometimes lead to self-righteousness. And the previous episode is a testament to that as she let her own insecurities get the best of her judgement. In a new found position as Cam’s media consultant, Missy hired a dark-skin model for her client’s photoshoot. When she finds out that her intentionally selected, dark-skinned model was replaced with a model only two shades darker than Amber Rose, she heaves in protest. Was she right in her grievances? Does a darker-skinned model have the right to be slightly objectified for a magazine the same way a light-skinned model would have been? Was she right in taking food off another black woman’s plate because she didn’t fit her criteria?
This is what makes Survivor’s Remorse so enticing. It grabs you by the ears and forces you to think. In most comedies, the writers try to answer these complex questions for you while mixing in a few jokes. Survivor’s Remorse on the other hand doesn’t. It gives you the option to think for yourself. And it doesn’t attempt to explain the complexities of the black experience. It just is.