Long before one gets to the ballsy medieval spoof of The Dating Game, it is clear that one is witnessing something special in Bria Mack Gets A Life. Filmmaker and showrunner Sasha Leigh Henry has created a comedy series that unapologetically know itself and its generational spanning audience.
Achieving her goal of finally graduating university, Bria McFarlane (Malaika Hennie-Hamadi) plans to beginning her assent into adulthood by taking a much-needed rest. Managing to talk her way out of her student debt, Bria believes she has earned the right to take it easy while she figures out her next steps. Unfortunately, life seems to have other plans for her. Returning home to Brampton, Bria is shocked to discover that her mom, Marie (scene-stealer Leslie Adlam), is planning to sell their home and move to Florida with her partner Rodrigo (Manuel Rodriguez-Saenz).
Needing to figure out her housing situation quickly, and desperately lacking funds, Bria is forced to enter the workforce far sooner than she anticipated. Landing an entry level job at a company who has recently come under fire for racially insensitive advertisement campaigns, she quickly finds out that being one of the few people of colour in an office environment comes with daily challenges. Fortunately for Bria she has Black Attack (Hannan Younis), her inner hype girl who will help her navigate this foreign terrain.
While Black Attack may serve as Bria’s inner sounding board, at times she can be both the angel and devil on the young woman’s shoulder. Many of the shows best moments come from observing the various directions she steers Bria in, especially since they often lead to rather awkward situations. Through the unlikely pair, Bria Mack Gets A Life is able to showcase both the challenges and the mundane aspects that come with adulthood.
Coming to terms with what it means to be an adult, at least from the show’s perspective, is far more entertaining when one’s inner thoughts takes center stage. The addition of Black Attack allows the show to jump into Bria’s pop culture obsessed mind in amusing and inventive ways. As the protagonist navigates the awkward aspects of everything from work to family to friends with benefits hookups, Henry (who shares directing duties with longtime collaborator Kelly Fyffe-Marshall) sprinkles the show with tons of references that range from The Sunken Place in Get Out to the Homer Simpson backing into the bushes meme.
While the endless social media references will delight the millennial audiences, Bria Mack Gets A Life will also speak to all those who have been at a crossroads at some point in their life. People of colour, especially Black women, will nod knowingly observing the numerous micro-aggressions Bria experiences working in a predominantly white office space. Using the office environment as an example of the harm that often lurks underneath Canadian politeness, Henry manages to weave plenty of social commentary into each of the shows many laughs.
Whether touching on the conditional nature of allyship or the way Black women’s hair and personal space are routinely violated, the humour makes the show’s hard truths easier to swallow. Thanks in part to the brilliant performance by Hennie-Hamadi and Younis, Bria is a character whose problems remain grounded in a reality even in the show’s most heightened moments. One understands the obstacles she faces in the office and the delicate way she must navigate things with her confident and opinionated mother. The fact that Marie is portrayed as a real woman and not a caricature of a Jamaican mom like in other shows is also refreshing to see.
Though there will no doubt be comparisons to the works of Issa Rae, make no mistake that Henry’s distinct voice in undeniably heard in every facet of this show. A sharp and bold comedy for the ages, Bria Mack Gets A Life firmly asserts itself as Canada’s next great series that should not be missed.