Trailer courtesy of Michael Ajakwe youtube
Written by CBR Contributor, Roger Q. Mason
In “Caught Up,” a two part episode of Michael Ajakwe, Jr.’s entertaining new comedy Beauty and the Baller ( based on the web series “Who…”), basketball power couple Deena Castle (Diandra Lyle) and John Castle (Akeem Smith) come to terms with their spendthrift ways. Living in the luster of a new multi-million dollar pro ball contract, John and Deena have taken up some very imprudent habits, including enjoying decadently priced power lunches at a celebrity-owned restaurant and buying expensive clothes at everyone’s favorite boutique Hoardstrom’s. Encouraged by their business manager Tina Richardson (Kimberly Dooley), the couple takes a vow of frugality, then quickly breaks it when a sale seduces them both to go to Hoardstrom’s behind each others’ backs.
Meanwhile, back at the Castles’ Tudor-Style manor, private chef Jalil Baldwin (Charles Reese) and groundskeeper Marteen Ramos (Calo Rodriguez) weigh Marteen’s decision to marry his church friend Mary (Katherine Norland) for a green card. When Marteen’s Mary joins the Castles for dinner, she ends up being the same Mary who helped ring up Deena’s hefty purchases at Hoardstrom’s – yes, she’s a sales associate by day. Mary brings with her all Deena’s purchases that she left at the store while evading John and her Black Card. The Castles reveal to each other that they suffer from shopping addiction and make the first step towards mending their ways: returning their purchases and discarding their cards.
Ajakwe, Jr.’s writing is smartly parodic in these two episodes. He creates Castles’ world of excess and materialism in a manner that’s simultaneously critical and playful. Ajakwe Jr achieves this effect in part through his beautifully absurdist eye for detail in these episodes: the basically $100 a plate salad that’s hand picked at Sly Stone’s restaurant; the name of the store – Hoardstrom’s; the changing room suite at said store replete with exotic red wine for high-rollers like the Castles; and Jalil and Marteen’s vaudevillian exchanges about the fine line between prostitution and love in the matter of modern day immigration – to name a few.
In addition to strong writing, Beauty and the Baller’s cast is a true delight. Akeem Smith strikes a fine balance between debonair leading man and lithe comedic star. Diandra Lyle is a graceful and engaging straight woman to Akeem’s performance as John. But the scene stealers are the Castles’ staff, particularly Charles Reese in his witty turn as Jalil Baldwin. His turn of phrase work in his scenes with Calo Rodriguez represent a master class in comedic timing and committed delivery. Stirring a pot of who knows what in the Castles’ pimped out kitchen, Reese as Jalil mixes bawdy, double entendre with world-wise cultural critique while schooling Rodriguez’s Marteen the moral dilemmas of immigration to America. Reese’s words ring true, particularly in light of current civic affairs; and in Reese’s artisanal actorly hands, they come through loud and clear.
Beauty and the Baller is a comedy which uses an intelligently satirical lens to look at every day life. Michael Ajakwe, Jr. has created a series and assembled a team with heart, talent, and commitment – three salient tenets of a series with legs.
Beauty and The Baller airs on Centric TV on Saturdays at 10/9c. 7pst. www.centrictv.com.