Insecure, Queen Sugar, Atlanta

John P. Fleenor/HBO, Guy D'Alema/FX, ?Patti?Perret/Warner?Bros.?Entertainment?Inc/Courtesy?of?OWN

There is a lot of TV in the world right now. In fact, one might argue there is entirely too much TV—and they wouldn't be wrong.

We are firmly in the Peak TV era, where, at last count, there were more than 400 (!!) scripted shows on TV; where even networks like TruTV are racing to have scripted programming despite how antithetical said programming is to their brand; and where anyone who had just one sorta-hit song in the '90s can get a reality series if they really try hard enough. Most of the shows out there are, frankly, mediocre and wading through the glut to find the gems is no easy feat for the overwhelmed average viewer. (Those Who Can't, anyone? How about Impastor? Or what about Dead People? Bonus points if you recognize which one of those I just completely made up.)

Issa Rae, Insecure


The upside to all this, though, is that there are gems to be found. Rare gems that might otherwise have gone unearthed if it weren't for the countless excavators all working in the same mine called television. The latest in a string of truly remarkable programming to get a shot this fall is HBO's Insecure, which airs its second episode this Sunday. Created by YouTube star and New York Times bestseller Issa Rae, the comedy centers on Issa (Rae) and her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji), two black women living in South L.A., attempting to navigate different worlds while enduring a seemingly endless string of uncomfortable everyday experiences. It's hilarious, it's unflinching, and it had such a specificity of vision that, even though this writer is neither black nor female, there's never a moment that feels inauthentic or manufactured.

Nicole Byer, Pamela Adlon

FX Productions/MTV

Airing in a block of programming that also includes big-budget headscratcher Westworld and Sarah Jessica Parker's pitch black "comedy" Divorce, Insecure might seem out of place. (The people of color in both Westworld and Divorce combined may add up four. Five tops.) But it also just might be HBO's must-see series of the night.

Rae's comedy is the latest in a rise of auteur-driven television being given a shot on cable this season. They may not be making as much noise as This Is Us or Designated Survivor (both fantastic shows in their own right) are over on the Big Five networks, but shows like Donald Glover's Atlanta, Pamela Adlon's Better Things (both at FX), Ava DuVernay's Queen Sugar on OWN, and even Nicole Byer's Loosely Exactly Nicole (on MTV, of all places) are quietly making the argument that, while there may be too much to choose from, when some of it is this freaking good, who cares?

That they're all created by and telling the story of people of color or women—or, for a glorious few, both—is no coincidence.

And its's only under these Peak TV conditions that these shows could have even gotten made. Free from the pressure to appeal to the (white, male) masses, in a world where ratings barely matter in any way that a TV exec visiting the future from 1986 would recognize, cable networks are taking chances on voices with distinct vision, rather than employing 18 seasoned vets (usually white) to concoct the perfect show that'll get them all watching.

We may be inundated with content, but as long as we can find respite from all the noise in one of Insecure's hilarious mirror raps, or Atlanta's lowkey weirdness, or Better Things' exasperated comedy, or Queen Sugar's lush cinematography, or Loosely Exactly Nicole's wickedly brash sexuality, who are we to complain? Besides, who has the time? We've got a DVR to program.

Insecure airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO, while you can catch Atlanta on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX, Queen Sugar on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on OWN, Better Things on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on FX, and Loosely, Exactly Nicole Fridays at 10:00 p.m. on MTV

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