Live at Five by David Haynes: B-

From the inside flap:
Brandon Wilson anchors a television newscast that is regularly trounced by reruns of “The Facts of Life.” When a new producer, hell-bent on raising channel 13’s ratings, decides that his middle-class African-American anchor with a penthouse isn’t “black” enough, he has a brainstorm: Brandon is to redefine himself by doing a series from a new home in the inner city. There Brandon meets Nita, who manages an apartment building in addition to juggling three kids, night school, and a job.

Brandon sees his move as a Faustian bargain that allows him to tell the stories of “real folks.” But when the station demands something more sensational, Brandon and Nita find their loyalties caught up in a media circus that only Nita can find a way to tame.

Part of why I read Live at Five was that I am curious about the black experience, and it did make me think about things I hadn’t considered before. But it also made some points that I thought were oversimplified. Like Brandon, who’d expected to encounter thieves and criminals all over, being surprised to find instead so many decent, hard-working folks living in the inner city. Is that really shocking?

Brandon himself was a bland character. I found all of the TV station stuff to be pretty dull, honestly. Nita was much more interesting, with all of her responsibilities and insecurities. I also really liked building resident Mrs. Carter, a nosy, feisty old lady who reminded me a lot of someone at work.

A physical relationship developed between the two leads, but not a romance. Apparently, being really noticed and understood by a high-class guy made Nita realize that she was worth more than she’d been giving herself credit for (earlier she’d considered running off with a slightly shady character for want of better offers), though the whole time she’s thinking how Brandon’s different from other guys, he was cheating on his girlfriend and so was as much a dog as any of them. Still, I was glad it didn’t take the predictable route where they’d end up together.

All in all, it wasn’t bad. Except the editing. That was pretty bad. For the record, Milkweed Editions, since you seemed to have trouble deciding, the apostrophe in y’all goes after the Y. Might want to make a note of it.

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