ICYMI: Despite Being Bigger, a Great Show Can Still Get Lost in Peak TVPhoto Courtesy of BET+ TV Features Bigger
It’s something that’s been said many times before, even in this very column: The curse of the blessing that is Peak TV is that so many shows fall through the cracks. It’s impossible for any one person to watch every show worth watching, and it’s also impossible for any one person to be aware of pretty much every show that they’d actually be interested in. For the latter, that’s either because there’s simply not enough time or because they didn’t even know the show exists.
Right now, the hangout sitcom is seemingly on a break (get it? like on Friends, a hangout sitcom) presumably just waiting for the next concept to break the mold. Shows like Happy Endings and the long-running New Girl were triumphs of the post-Friends era of the hangout sitcom, but the most recent somewhat-success was Single Parents … which just got canceled after two seasons. (Leighton Meester, go on Stumptown, please.) Hulu actually introduced a couple of new offerings to the genre with its Four Weddings and a Funeral miniseries from last summer and its High Fidelity adaptation back in February, but the former really didn’t work outside its Love Island riff and, given its commitment to the source material, the latter’s hangout sitcom elements were more of a promise created by the series for the future. Both series, of course, were built on larger concepts, especially due to their existence as television adaptations of popular properties from the ‘90s. (And the spirit of the ‘90s was at least alive in High Fidelity.)
Somewhere in between those two shows premiering, there was another hangout sitcom that didn’t quite reach the highs of High Fidelity—though the two are surprisingly similar in a lot of ways—but also easily succeeded where Four Weddings and a Funeral simply fell flat. (It even does the reality show riff better than Four Weddings and a Funeral.) That sitcom was Bigger, which premiered last September. However, Bigger isn’t also a Hulu show: Instead, it’s a streaming series that was released on BET+.
BET has a streaming service, by the way: It’s called BET+.
Created by Felischa Marye and executive produced by Will Packer, Bigger follows five thirtysomething friends in Atlanta trying to build their professional and personal lives, always looking for bigger and better things. (The first couple of episodes suggest that the series—which is very much TV-MA, by the way—is simply about “bigger” things in terms of sex, but that’s more of an entry point for the series and what it plans to talk about overall.) The friends are marketing exec-turned-vintage store owner Layne (Tanisha Long), realtor/realty mogul Veronica (Angell Conwell), reality star-turned-struggling influencer Tracey (Rasheda Crockett), old school DJ Vince (Tristen J. Winger), and auditor (at a predominantly white financial firm) Deon (Chase Anthony). All of the characters but Vince—Layne’s cousin—attended the same HBCU, though Vince “freeloaded on classes” at the time.
When the series begins, Layne—the clear series protagonist, who even talks to the audience about what’s going on and what she wishes she could do—is struggling with how unbearably predictable her corny boyfriend of a year, Greg (Warren Burke), is … and then he does something truly unpredictable in proposing to her. Hesitating to answer, Greg gives her time while he’s out of town for a conference to think about their relationship. During that two week span, Layne ends up hooking up with a guy named Reggie (leading to the most obvious reason from the “bigger” title), and then continues to hook up with him even once Greg returns. Yes, the series starts off with its central character in a messy and generally unlikable situation, revealing that it’s not at all afraid to present her or anyone else as less than perfect. It’s Bigger’s way to say, from the jump, that this is a show about flawed characters.
At the same time, the series is a comedy that actually wants to be a comedy, bouncing around from broad to surreal (it takes a beat to settle into what the groove of the series is), while also making its leads realistically human. Again, it goes back to those other shows that had the benefit of a more mainstream streaming service behind them, as Bigger has comparable characterization, dynamics, and worldbuilding to High Fidelity and a comparable wackiness to (only arguably more successful than) to Four Weddings and a Funeral. And it’s original IP. At the same time, Bigger tackles things like homelessness (in a story that mostly works, save for a couple of broad comedic beats early on), gentrification, code-switching, and body positivity, while also working as a series about five friends making it work in the big city. (It really is worth noting that making these character mid-to-late-thirties is quite a bold choice, as it doesn’t give them the cushion to pretend they’re all still “kids” trying to make it work.)
Halfway through the 10-episode first season, the series does a pivot to give a fuller picture of what it (specifically in the Layne story) will be moving forward—and what it kind of always has been, subtly—with the combination of “The Greg’s” and the 2003-flashback episode “Baby Steps” (complete with a perfect soundtrack, on a series that already has a perfect soundtrack). “The Greg’s” is an episode where so much comes to a head for Layne, and is a showcase for Tanisha Long—who is the key to Layne being as sympathetic as she is, even in all her poor decision-making—as well as an episode I can best describe as “black Get Out.” (If you see the episode, you’ll know what I mean.)
Bigger was actually renewed by BET+ for a second season back in February, to just as little chatter as it aired in the first place. (BET+’s subscription numbers haven’t been released, so the viewership for Bigger is also a mystery.) A fun sitcom, with a likable (and talented, albeit relatively unknown) cast, that doesn’t take itself too seriously is something that can at least usually get word of mouth. But with every new streaming service—because they just keep coming—it becomes harder and harder for news to travel. Bigger was one of the first original series to drop on BET+, along with the adaptation of First Wives Club (which has also been renewed). First Wives Club, at least, got more chatter because of a combination of the source material, the established cast (Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott, and Ryan Michelle Bathe), and the creative force behind it (Tracy Oliver), but still, it’s seemingly hidden behind the mysterious wall that is BET+.
However, at this point, new streaming services seem to exist just to exist: For example, even though BET+ is presumably doing better than Quibi, it’s still arguably considered more niche than Quibi. But all of this ultimately speaks to the struggle of more streaming services and part of why this ICYMI feature exists in the first place. A show like Bigger (or First Wives Club) would still have the hump of being considered “niche” for being “black” shows if they were simply on terrestrial BET—but at least there would be more of a fighting chance for audiences to even hear about the show in the first place.
Despite her mother’s wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB’s image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya’s your girl. Her writing has been featured in The A.V. Club, Indiewire, Entertainment Weekly, Complex, Consequence of Sound, and Flavorwire, among other publications. You can find her tweets about TV shows, movies, and music you completely forgot about @lafergs.
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