Lena Waithe has come a long way from playing Denise, Dev's (Aziz Ansari) loyal best friend, on Netflix's Master of None. Since writing the series' "Thanksgiving" episode—and winning an Emmy for it—Waithe has come into her own as a writer with Showtime's The Chi, Queen & Slim , and BET's Boomerang adding to her already robust resume. Now she's creating Twenties, another series for BET which is inspired by her 2013 YouTube series of the same name, which is set to premiere early next year.
Twenties follows Hattie, Nia, and Marie's journey as friends and what it means to try to conquer adulthood while pursuing your dreams. Hattie, like many other twenty-somethings, is a broke aspiring TV writer using her gig as a production assistant to move from taking coffee orders to writing her own scripts. The eight-episode series stars fresh faces Jonica "Jojo" T. Gibbs, Christina Elmore, and Gabrielle Graham as Hattie, Marie, and Nia, but features some pretty noteworthy guest stars like Big Sean, Kym Whitley (who also starred in Masters of None's "Thanksgiving") and Jenifer Lewis. The close of the trailer finds the series' protagonists highlighting the tension Black creatives face. "We need to support Black stuff," one voice says. "No, we should support good stuff that just so happens to be Black," another voice answers.
With Lena having connections to networks like Netflix and Showtime, the placement of Twenties on BET feels especially relevant. Boomerang, which is a reboot of the 90s film starring Eddie Murphy, was recently renewed for a second season, fitting in with the network's new initiative to expand beyond its music programming. In September, the network launched BET+ which provides premium content from the channel's archives like College Hill and Hell Date, while premiering new shows helmed by Tyler Perry like The Oval and Sistas.
"BET Networks is thrilled to partner once again with the creative visionary Lena Waithe on both Boomerang and Twenties as she is without a doubt a leading relevant voice in our generation and a disruptor in her own right," Connie Orlando, BET's head of programming, told Deadline in April. "BET is committed to the elevation of inclusive and authentic storytelling that views continue to expect from the brand."
The comments under the show's original pilot considered it a "black Girls," and while Twenties might seem like yet another show complaining about the struggles of adulthood, (which is pretty damn hard, so we get it), we have to wonder why Black content is scrutinized before it can be enjoyed. Shows like Girls and Broad City exist plentifully on cable networks without being the "white version" of any other show. Black creatives like Waithe and Issa Rae, who saw similar success with Insecure, deserve to create from shows that mirror their individual experiences, regardless of how many shows share a similar DNA. 2019 has brought many firsts for Black creators, and it's like TV is finally getting to tell more nuanced stories. To wit, Twenties is BET's first show with a queer female lead, which sheds light on the lack of representation from the LGBTQ community both on and off camera. It's not enough to say there are Black stories on television if those stories, even on networks geared to the Black community, perpetuate the same narratives.
Kristin Corry is a staff writer for VICE.