‘Run the World’: Four Thirtysomething Black Women With Big City Dreams
The life and loves of four thirtysomething best friends living in New York is the focus of the Starz dramedy series “Run the World.” While this new show, which was created by Leigh Davenport and produced by “Living Single” creator Yvette Lee Bowser, has naturally drawn comparisons to “Sex and the City,” there are key differences, the main one being that the leads are all Black women. And while “Run the World” digs deeper into these characters, giving almost equal attention to these women’s professional lives as it does to their love and sex lives, at the end of the day, it feels like the television equivalent to a satisfying Sunday brunch with the girls, complete with a breezy jazz soundtrack.
The four gal pals here are lifelong friends who attended college together in Atlanta and now all live in Harlem. Ella McFair (Andrea Bordeaux) is definitely the Carrie of the group. In her twenties, she wrote a feminist sex positive column that earned her a following, but by the time she penned her first book, a memoir at the ripe age of 29, she had mellowed out, in part due to her relationship with lawyer Anderson (Nick Sagar). The book was a flop, Anderson abandoned her for an overseas job opp, and two years later, she finds herself writing for an online gossip magazine. Meanwhile, her besties Whitney Green (Amber Stevens West) and Renee Ross (Bresha Webb) both work high-pressure professional jobs, while Sondi Hill (Corbin Reid) is a PhD student.
When the eight-episode first season begins, each woman has a different relationship status. Ella is the sole single one, while Whitney is engaged to longtime boyfriend Ola (Tosin Morohunfola), a doctor. Whitney and Ola are the perfect couple, at least on the surface, so, predictably, she secretly has her doubts about their upcoming nuptials, which leads to her having a fling with “community peen” Chris Cabrera (David J. Cork). He catches feelings after their one night together, and the viewer can feel Whitney’s heart pounding when he later blows up her phone. Unfortunately, he disappears early on, but she’s still left with her guilt.
Sondi, meanwhile, navigates her relationship with Matthew (Stephen Bishop), a single father and a professor at her university. Because he is her advisor, they are forced to keep their relationship a secret. It’s an interesting relationship to watch unfold, because while Matthew may not be taking advantage of the power dynamic at school, he does take for granted having a woman living with him, as he’s happy to let her play mommy while he does his own work.
Finally, there’s Renee, the scene-stealer of the group, with her brash personality and flamboyant fashion sense. She’s married to Jason (Jay Walker), who has given up his successful career to manage a musical group he discovered on the subway. Not only that, he has sunk his and Renee’s own savings into the band. They say most marriages end due to financial issues, and this is definitely the case here, as Renee initiates a divorce, despite their still being chemistry between the pair. Their “conscious uncoupling” seems like a game of chicken, as we keep waiting for one or both of them to come to their senses.
Just like with “Sex and the City,” there’s plenty of fun to be had as the ladies run around the city in high heels, sip fancy cocktails and attend glamorous soirees. There’s also plenty of bedroom action and mishaps, such as when Ella goes home with a bartender only to stop mid-sex when he says something icky. But while “Sex and the City” was a straight comedy with heartbreak and other emotions sprinkled in, “Run the World” explores the struggles that are unique to the characters as Black women. In one memorable scene, two of the ladies are enjoying the kind of casual NYC stroll that we always saw in “Sex and the City,” when a white man on a bike comes out of nowhere and yells the N-word at them. It’s a jarring moment, but they laugh it off. Ella even compares herself to Carrie at one point after Anderson reappears in her life, calling him her Mr. Big to Sondi, who tells her that she doesn’t want to hear her complain about her Carrie-esque “champagne problems.” “You are a Black girl in America. We do not get to do that.”
“Run the World” season one premieres May 16 and airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on Starz.