Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Greatest Story Ever Told

A lot of shows are thrown around as being ground-breaking, poignant, or "must-see." You've got your 30 Rocks, your Sopranos, your Seinfelds, etc. However, always left off of that list is the greatest, most inspiring show ever to hit the airwaves. Thats right, I'm talking about...

Seriously though, for those of you who aren't watching Frankie & Neffe, you NEED TO BE. It's got everything a good show needs: laughter, tears, drama, high camp, wigs, dentures, catch phrases, everything.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of the show, Frankie & Neffe is a spin-off of BET's Keyshia Cole vehicle, Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is. Ostensibly about the R&B singer and her ups and downs in the music industry, the real breakout stars of the series were her elder, emotionally unstable sister Neffe (short for Neffeteria, which I like to think is a portmanteau of Nefertiti+Cafeteria) and her former crack-addicted biological mother Frankie, who is basically a black Jerri Blank.


The issues in Keyshia's life may have dictated the overarching narrative of the series, but the real reason viewers tuned in was to see Neffe cry and rage and see Frankie pick fights with Keyshia's adoptive parents. Keyshia may have been the figurehead, but Frankie and Neffe were running the show.

Recognizing this, BET ended The Way It Is after three seasons and went ahead and gave Frankie and Neffe an eponymous reality show of their own. Now free of the restraints of the Keyshia narrative, though assumingly still living off her money, the ladies are free to focus on themselves and their own lives.

But wait! Feel good self-help program this is NOT. Sure, they talk about growing and self actualizing and they see life coaches, but in practice, this usually leads to fighting, crying, and shouting out non-sequitor catch phrases (mainly just Frankie on that last one. Man down!). The show has an ostensible self-improvement narrative, but the real purpose of the show is to see the women's antics. Sort of like how everyone on The Bad Girls Club talks about how they're on the show to change, as if they didn't know that the real reason they're there is to get black out drunk and gouge out eachothers eyes.

The show exists at the crossroads where VH1 trash reality TV and TLC/A&E learning shows intersect, creating a new genre of reality show which I'll dub Trashucation.

For instance, this week's episode was "about" Neffe taking the advice of her life coach, and making an effort to put more trust in Frankie. To do this, she decides to allow her children to spend the night at their granny's house, something she's never done. This quicky tailspins into into Frankie going on a junk food shopping spree at the dollar store, letting the kids run amok, and then passing out because taking care of the kids is hard work, leaving them to their own devices. Making matters worse, she leaves them unattended with her ex-boyfriend Zo, who Neffe despises, leading to a huge explitive-riddled blowup in front of the children.

So there you have it, the show starts as a narrative on trust building and mother-daughter bonding, but mainly consists of child abandonment, crying, and passionate screaming matches. Trashucation.

Another draw to the show, as mentioned above, are Frankie's many catch phrases. These gems are uttered at any time, in any circumstance. Frankie has the kids for the night? It's a "man down situation." Get in a fight with Neffe? "CODE TEN!" Make up with Neffe? "CODE TEN MAN DOWN SITUATION!" Don't know the answer to a question? "Details at eleven!" They could make a Frankie pullstring doll with all these bankable catchphrases. In fact, I'm trademarking that idea. You hear me BET?!

All in all, Frankie & Neffe offers the perfect mix of feel goodisms and schadenfreude that allow you to unabashedly say you watch the show to your friends, all the while knowing that the real reason you're watching is to see these two hot messes in action. It's a guilt-free win-win situation. Or should I say man down situation.

Seriously, watch it.

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