I don’t want to say this new series Bria Mack Gets a Life is sassy. I might have at one time but I know better now.
There’s a scene in episode two of this
sassy stellar new Crave original where a co-worker touches new hire Bria Mack’s hair. This triggers a smack down fantasy scene where 25-year-old Black Canadian Bria (Malaika Hennie-Hamadi), and her invisible hype girl, “Black Attack” (Hannan Younis), go postal on her scared and whiter-by-the minute office colleagues.
There are two rules, these weapon-toting women declare: “Don’t touch my F-in’ hair,” and don’t call me sassy. And by the way, Bria’s not mad, “it’s just my face.”
There are plenty of other “team building” moments — especially for viewers — in the first two episodes I watched of Bria Mack Gets a Life. This series rips the band aid right off inter-racial conventions in cozy Canadian society. Peppered with F-bombs, it is a woke wake up call that’s more of a slap upside the head.
Is it also outrageous and a little too bracing? Not at all. Just like the searing humour found in Reservation Dogs, it comes right in the nick of time.
Credit creator-director-writer Sasha Leigh Henry with busting down a stereotypical wall or two with Bria Mac. Like her main character, Henry is a Black Canadian who survived a University of Waterloo education. Her credits include a stint as story editor on Workin’ Moms as well as accolades at the Toronto International Film Festival for an earlier incarnation of Bria Mack.
Henry clearly also went to school on the career of Mindy Kalling as well as sketch comedy series such as Key & Peele. Teaching moments for her heroine are punctuated with fanciful, pop-up shtick, such as the fake, “White Saviour Adventure Fund” infomercial where we are introduced to Black Attack and her gold, continent of Africa earrings. By calling 1-800-More-Harm-Than-Good, donors can send four dollars a day to “help send a White woman to Africa to experience what it’s like to be in a minority.”
This during a scene where Mack has to endure the reachy-ness of her over-woke, White sorority sister. At first it feels as if writer Henry comes down on this blue-eyed blond with a heavy hand, but in the same scene she exposes Bria Mack for playing the race card to get what she wants: forgiveness of what amounted to an $800 campus Tim Horton’s bill.
By the next scene, Henry teases the notion that Gen Zers are all about brain vacations or quarter life sabbaticals. Bria plans to coast for a year after seven years at university. This does not sit well with her self-made, Jamaican mother Marie (played to the hilt by Leslie Adlam).
Mom and her Brazilian-waxing boyfriend Rodrigo (Manuel Rodriquez-Saenz) have a secret plan or two of their own and soon Bria — who burns through money so fast it inspires a short music video — is forced to find a job. And not one of those crummy, work-from-home deals as her mother mocks.
Despite Black Attack’s advice to look for a sugar daddy, we soon see our heroine in a work environment. There might even be a love interest there in IT wizard Trevor (Robert Bazzocchi). Among the office stiffs she encounters is one played by always funny Letterkenny coach Mark Forward. It was also cool to see comedian Dave Merheje (Ramy) steal a scene. The strong comedy bench, including Younis, should help keep the pop-up moments sharp.
The most important casting, however, is that of Bria McFarlane, or Mack for short. In Hennie-Hamadi, showrunner Henry has found a perfect alter-ego/leading lady. Hennie-Hamadi finds ways to help Bria stay sympathetic despite all the character’s flaws — as well as the added armor of Black Attack over her shoulder. You want to see how this getting a life business, for a young Black woman in White southern Ontario, turns out.
Plus the show is very funny. Just don’t call it sassy!
Bria Mack Gets a Life hails from hot Canadian production house New Metric Media (Shoresy). All six episodes can be streamed now on Crave.