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HBO's New Late-Night Series Random Acts of Flyness Is Like Atlanta on Acid

Jon Hamm's appearance in the first episode will blow your mind

Malcolm Venable

[Warning! Big spoiler about the first episode of Random Acts of Flyness ahead!!]

HBO gets provocative and weird this summer with Random Acts of Flyness, a six-episode series airing at the bewitching hour of midnight. From the mind of multi-disciplinary artist Terence Nance, Random Acts of Flyness is easily the strangest, most intoxicatingly interesting show on cable this year, with sideways turns into dark humor and subversion that reap plentiful rewards.

Nance, an NYU art school grad who's debuted films at Sundance and won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014, packs Random Acts with vérité documentary, musical performances, surrealist melodrama and outré animation that deals mostly with the black American experience, taking on themes such as romance, dealing with police, violence and more. The season is also packed with high-profile guests, including Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Sparks, Gillian Jacobs and more.

Betraying convention and format, Random Acts plays with structure and form to create a delirious, sometimes enlightening and frequently shocking show. Standout moments in the first episode include a short film that includes footage of citizens -- black, white, male, female and on -- being beaten by police while a zippy, comically upbeat soundtrack plays, making for an unsettling juxtaposition. Later in the episode, none other than Jon Hamm appears in a fake commercial for a topical ointment called "White Be Gone" that cures people of having "white thoughts" -- leading Jon Hamm to get into a multi-layered meta confrontation with several other Jon Hamm clones that make the actor confront his own prejudices. It's wild, and mesmerizing. Calling Random Acts of Flyness "out there" wouldn't do it justice; it's kind of like what would happen if FX's surrealist Atlanta took massive amounts of psychedelic drugs and staged a variety show.

Terence Nance, Random Acts of Flyness

Terence Nance, Random Acts of Flyness


Random Acts of Flyness won't be for everyone, but for people who like their art confrontational and their TV shows to sprint confidently away from the herd, this late-night treat should be a welcome indulgence that is probably best enjoyed with ultra-hip friends and lots and lots of delicious snacks on hand, if you catch my drift. It's also a commendable show of support for diverse voices by HBO, showing the network hasn't just checked boxes with the more accessible Insecure and Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas, but is making a commitment to give voice to storytellers of color, even if the expression is defiantly not mainstream.

Random Acts of Flyness begins its six episode season Friday, August 3 at midnight on HBO.