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Did Donald Glover set expectations for 'Atlanta' too high?


Did Donald Glover set expectations for ‘Atlanta’ too high?

White people watching this be like…Pain.

Atlanta has been one of the best shows on television since making its debut in 2016. After a four year hiatus, this year’s third season has been one of the most hotly anticipated. Creator and star Donald Glover fanned the flames by comparing the show to The Sopranos. But did he go too far? 

There is no doubting how amazing the FX series is. It is witty, topical, silly, scary, and thought-provoking. Atlanta is unafraid to talk about the harsh realities involving race and can still make its audience laugh out loud. There truly is nothing like it on TV today.

The Sopranos holds a special place in television history. The HBO drama is routinely found on “Best Ever” lists – usually in the top spot. It is almost unfair to compare anything to it since it was so good. From its compelling storylines to its strong performances, the show kept audiences engaged its entire run.


Atlanta is a different type of show, but it is just as engaging. Whether it is dealing with Black culture or paying homage to classic horror, it takes familiar themes and puts a fresh spin on them. It also boasts a tremendous cast and a number of episodes that invite discussion. This was something The Sopranos also constantly did.  

Glover set a high bar for the most recent season and the premiere may have worried viewers. Instead of picking up where things had left off, season three begins with a stand-alone episode based on real life events. It does not take long to get acclimated, however. The bold decision works with one of the most powerful episodes of Atlanta’s run. 

The new season has been a creative mix that has alternated between following Earn (Glover), Alfred (Bryan Tyree Henry), Darius (LaKeith Stanfield), and Van (Zazie Beetz) and episodes that could have come from an anthology. It is a risky move to basically sideline the main cast for almost half of the episodes, but it is one that has also shown the range of Atlanta.

Did Donald Glover set expectations for 'Atlanta' too high?

“ATLANTA” — Season 3 — Pictured (L-R): LaKeith Stanfield as Darius, Zazie Beetz as Van, Donald Glover as Earn Marks, Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX

The mark of a really good show is one that leaves you wanting to talk about it. In the case of Atlanta, a person will be looking for excuses to discuss what happened. This may be most evident in the third episode. Similar to “Juneteenth,” “The Old Man and the Tree” is another episode about the group at an affluent party. It takes aim at the need some people have to over correct and the Black experience on the other side of the world. Another episode has a shocking cameo from Liam Neeson who addresses his controversial 2019 comments. Audiences have not known what to expect with each installment. 

Which brings everything back to Glover’s tweet about The Sopranos. It takes time to truly appreciate a show as one of the greatest of all time. Reviewings, impact, and how well they hold up all factor in. Comparing a show to one of the best of all time, is basically putting it in the same category. Atlanta had already proved it was a special show and its humorous and intelligent third season has only added to its legacy. Only time will tell where it stands among the greats, but Donald Glover was not far off in his comments.

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