Puppets. Horror. Sci-fi. Action sequences. And oh, a running framework that has the four main stars holed up in a luxurious house at the end of the world because, as creator/writer/star Robin Thede put it, "Black women are very resilient. Who better to survive the apocalypse than four black women?"
Don't look for A Black Lady Sketch Show, HBO's forthcoming sketch series executive produced by Issa Rae, to trod familiar ground, like entire sketches about black women's hair. (Although hair won't go unaddressed; it's understood to be important to the characters, which is part of the reason viewers won't see the same hairstyle twice.)
Instead of familiar tropes, A Black Lady Sketch Show, written by a staff comprised entirely of African American women, dares to venture to new ground, with the core cast of four — Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, and Quinta Bronson — playing over 100 characters in six episodes. Bits find them traveling to outer space, finding refuge in a "bad bitch support group," and yes, navigating life at the end of the world. At the Television Critics Association press tour, Thede told reporters, "We have so many rich ideas; we work in so many different genres. We wanted to show black women can be limitless." Thede said they took care to include a variety of skin tones and body types and to assemble a cast featuring Afro Latino women, Afro Caribbean women, and more.
Viewers will get to know the core characters outside of the outrageously silly sketches that form the bulk of the show; running through the episodes is the story of what happened the day the world ended. Director Dime Davis, who directed the pilot for Lena Waithe's Boomerang, gave the episodes consistency with a style that's both cinematic and grounded, but when crafting the show, the creators let loose without restriction.
That in turn attracted a whole galaxy of black stars who've never hosted SNL or, for that matter, had a platform to get unapologetically goofy, resulting in cameos from unexpected heroes like Patti LaBelle and Angela Bassett as well as legendary comic actors like Loretta Devine, David Alan Grier and Garrett Morris. Unsurprisingly, Thede, Rae and the rest of the team know Black Twitter is waiting with breathless anticipation, and they're hyped to see how the online peanut gallery will receive the show.
"We're very intentional with our bodies," Thede said, "meaning we know what's going to make a good GIF. We were given so much creative freedom. It's ridiculously fun."
A Black Lady Sketch Show premieres Friday, Aug. 2 at 11/10c on HBO.