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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
An event that causes a character to rethink his or her whole life is a great hook for a TV show, but this series grapples only lightly with moral dilemmas, preferring instead to take a light, goofy tone that prevents messages from landing. However, the show's sympathies are clearly with Knight and other characters who suffer from trauma and oppression, and viewers will be sympathetic also.
Positive Role Models
Knight is the anchor character on a sitcom, which are rarely built around Black leads. He's a sympathetic character who cares about his loved ones and doing the right thing. Other characters are a bit more stereotypical like Gunther, his air-headed roommate who relies on white privilege and hatches kooky schemes, and Clovis, Knight's best friend who attracts women by pretending to be various famous sports stars (the show seems to view the deception as charming). The friendship between the trio seems genuine and positive, however.
Violence & Scariness
Violence is infrequent but sometimes is disturbing for effect: A man is held at gunpoint by police officers, shoved down on the ground, and fears being shot and killed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters are single and interested. We see kissing, dating, flirting, and there's a running joke where a character pretends to be famous sports stars in order to impress women (and hopefully trick them into sex).
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Language includes "f--k," "f--king," "motherfucker," "s--t," "ass," and the n-word, usually used as a term of affection between black men.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink at gatherings and parties and sometimes act sloppy and irresponsible. A running joke revolves around a man hawking "dry energy drinks" which turns out to be a baggie of cocaine. We never see anyone using it, but the man seems manic and like he doesn't sleep.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Woke is a comedy series about a man who has a traumatic experience and afterwards sees the world in new ways. The show's main theme is heady and positive; this character begins considering his life and relationship more carefully and ultimately finds more satisfying and authentic ways of doing things. The show's sympathies are clearly with underdogs, but it also has a light, silly tone that keeps its more serious messages about race, class, and socioeconomic status from landing. Humor can be iffy: there are jokes about a man who sells "dry energy drinks" (it appears to be cocaine), and a running gag about a character who pretends to be a series of famous sports stars in order to attract women to have sex with. There are also scenes in which characters drink at gatherings then act irresponsibly. Violence is infrequent but there's a scene in which a character is held at gunpoint by police officers and fears being shot; this scene is given sufficient dramatic weight and not played for laughs; it also inspires change in a character's life. Language includes "f--k," "motherf--ker," "s--t," "ass," and the n-word, usually used as a term of affection between black men. Sexual content has few visuals, but we see characters flirting, dating, and kissing, and there are references to (off-screen) sex. Main character Keef Knight is a successful black visual artist, a character type rarely seen in the media, and the rest of the cast is diverse in terms of race and ethnicity.
Is It Any Good?
It has charm, delightful actors, and an earnest appeal, but this series has a heavy hand with its messages, and the jokes aren't always sharp enough to lift the show to greatness. It's always dangerous when a show built around the supposed artistic talents of one individual actually shows us the art, and it usually falls flat: actors cast as extraordinary dancers can't dance, the poetry of so-called brilliant poets is drivel, and so on. So the viewer can and should be nervous when we catch peeks at Keef Knight's cartoon over his shoulders, and they're not so great. One panel shows a slice of bread and butter, with the caption underneath reading "Butter late than never." Really? This is the cartoon that has people approaching Knight on city sidewalks with starry eyes, that's popular enough to draw hundreds of fans to a comic-con panel event in the show's first episode? A weak pun on a cliche? Viewers may rightly suspect that they're in unreliable comedy hands.
Things don't really improve when objects begin coming to life around him to exhort him to live a more authentic life. It seems wasteful to cast comedy powerhouses like Nicole Byer and J.B. Smoove if you're going to give them material like Smoove's big line: "Make your mark." And get this: He's a marker! That is weak wordplay. There is definitely comedic hay to be made in the notion of a Black man who's radicalized by a personal trauma, but Woke doesn't find much of it. The scenes in which Knight pals around with his roommates Gunther (Blake Anderson, doing a riff on his Workaholics' character) and Clovis (T. Murph, scene stealer) have more natural charm and rhythm; one wishes that the show had stuck to the ordinary adventures of these three instead of trying to work Knight's awakening into the proceedings. As TV shows go, Woke is a pleasant-enough sitcom with a reach that exceeded its grasp.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.