Having a moment: The Lavender Tube on Niecy Nash-Betts, 'Shark Week,' 'Alaska Daily' and more

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday October 4, 2022
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Niecy Nash-Betts in 'The Rookie: Feds'
Niecy Nash-Betts in 'The Rookie: Feds'

Niecy Nash-Betts is having a moment, starring in two very high profile series. She made history this week as the first out Black lesbian to star in a network TV series when her ABC series "The Rookie: Feds" premiered. She also stars in "Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story," the limited series for Netflix.

"The Rookie: Feds" is a spin-off from "The Rookie," which follows John Nolan (Nathan Fillion), a man in his 40s, who becomes the oldest rookie at the Los Angeles Police Department. The new series has a similar premise, and stars Nash-Betts as Special Agent Simone Clark, who is switching careers in her late 40s.

Nathan Fillion and Niecy Nash-Betts in 'The Rookie: Feds'  

Simone initially was a student counselor, but is now training to become an FBI agent. After spending her first day with the Los Angeles Field Office's Background Check Unit, she was assigned to SSA Garza's (Felix Solis) Special Investigative Unit.

We didn't think "The Rookie" would last three episodes and it's now in its fourth season, so we aren't going to project about Nash-Betts's new show as we clearly are not the target audience for this police procedural. Nash-Betts has been growing her brand in both comedy and drama since her quirky breakout hit, "Reno 9-1-1." She was a saving grace in Ryan Murphy's atrocious "Scream Queens" and delightful and hilarious in the much more enjoyable "Claws."

Nash-Betts is a great comedian, but she was gutting in Ava DuVernay's incredibly powerful dramatic miniseries "When They See Us," for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. Nash had also co-starred in DuVernay's Oscar nominated film, "Selma." In 2020, she portrayed feminist leader Florynce Kennedy in "Mrs. America."

Nash-Betts also stars in "Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story," the limited series for Netflix about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan. Nash-Betts plays Glenda Cleveland, the Black woman, a neighbor of Dahmer's who tried to stop the killing spree. Cleveland's relentless efforts to stop him were reportedly ignored by police.

In "Rookie Feds," Nash-Betts is very good and believable as Simone. She balances the show's comedic aspects with the drama. There's a backstory of her living with her father, Cutty (Frankie Faison) who's a community organizer who helps people who are in the criminal justice system. They have a talk where he asks her to take off her gun and badge before she comes through the door.

It's a significant point in the storyline. Black people and Black communities have not been well served by the police and law enforcement even as they are disproportionately victimized by crime.

"The Rookie: Feds" has potential to address some significant issues related to racism and law enforcement, as well as the complexities of women changing careers in mid-life; Tuesdays on ABC and Hulu.

Braxton Fleming on 'Shark Tank'  

Shark Tank
So there we were, watching one of our fave guilty pleasures on Sept. 30—the premiere of Season 14 of "Shark Tank." This show is a perfect decompress-after-a-hellish-week show to watch for an hour on a Friday night before delving into something more heady, like a Brit crime or a docuseries. It's fun, it's fast moving, we get to love and hate the Sharks in equal measure and yell at the screen "Take the deal! What is wrong with you?! Take it!"

A handsome young Black man in a hip suit and artfully trimmed beard, no mustache, came out, the last inventor of the night. He introduced himself as Braxton Fleming from Mays Landing, New Jersey We read him as a trans man and thought, "Okay, how cool is this?"

Then he introduced himself as a trans man, which was cooler still, and began talking about how his transition journey created his product, Stealth Bros & Co., which produces very cool kits to carry one's testosterone and syringes and has a sharps container and, well—wow.

Fleming's LinkedIn profle describes his company: "Stealth Bros & Co is a luxury supply company providing medical storage supplies in a stealthy way. We've revolutionized medical storage to make our clientele feel safe, neat, and discreet while being able to express themselves as individuals."

Fleming told the Sharks how he had tried to figure out how to carry all his gear discreetly to work and play when he was first taking testosterone. He talked about his community, about his journey, about his loving family, about his coming to terms at 27 with his gender identity.

It was, as the kids say, a moment. We were verklempt. The Sharks were moved. Barbara Corcoran talked about her years-long journey to get pregnant (she finally did!) and how her shots were huge. She said she hollowed out the pages of a book (!) to carry her equipment surreptitiously. She said she would have loved this product.

The Sharks all said how much Braxton's story was something that needed to be on his website, that it was moving and powerful and that his charisma shown through. There was a bidding war and then Corcoran and Mark Cuban made a deal together, Braxton took it, and we all cried. Braxton left the Shark Tank, went out into the anteroom and cried and we cried again along with him.

October 11 is National Coming Out Day and we cannot emphasize enough how seeing ourselves and members of our diverse community is a game changer for every kid struggling with their identity and every closeted adult who is seeking support to come out.

Grace Dove and Hillary Swank in 'Alaska Daily'  

Alaska Daily
Possibly one of the sleeper series of the new fall season, "Alaska Daily" stars multiple-Oscar winner Hilary Swank. The series is the creation of Tom McCarthy, whose 2015 film "Spotlight" won the Academy Award for Best Picture, won McCarthy the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director.

"Alaska Daily" charts the exploded career of recently disgraced reporter Eileen Fitzgerald. Like many Alaskan transplants, Eileen has fled one life to recreate herself in the still-wild, still-open social landscape of Alaska. She leaves her high-profile New York journalism career to be a reporter for a daily metro newspaper in Anchorage.

Eileen's journey is all about redemption, personal and professional. She's trying to recreate herself with a big story. The death of an Indigenous woman —which could be a homicide— becomes that story.

McCarthy told TV Insider he made a 2019—20 investigative series about Native communities in the Anchorage Daily News the pivot for his series. "It feels like an exciting backdrop," he said, "especially as a place where a reporter from New York City ends up." He said he is not trying to mine the same territory he covered so expertly in "Spotlight," but rather, "look into what drives reporters. I hope to inspire an appreciation for the work they do."

The issue of missing Indigenous women and the lack of law enforcement response has long been contentious in Alaska.

Swank told Deadline her reason for taking the role in "Alaska Daily" and becoming an executive producer on the series was in line with all her film work. She said, "At the heart of these stories, all everyone wants is to be seen and everyone deserves justice. I think a lot of the roles that I choose have that theme in one way or another and I feel like Eileen Fitzgerald is a truth seeker."

Swank said of her character, "She's an investigative truth seeker, and she wants to make sure that justice is done and that people see the truth in situations. I feel that that aligns with what people in the world want right now, they don't want to be lied to anymore."

"Alaska Daily" also stars Jeff Perry, who was so spectacular as the gay chief of staff on "Scandal," Matt Malloy, Meredith Holzman, Grace Dove, Pablo Castelblanco, Ami Park and Craig Frank. "Alaska Daily" premieres October 6 at 10pm on ABC.

Sam Waterson, Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni in the three-hour 'Law & Order' crossover episodes. (photo: Maarten de Boer/NBC)  

Law & Order
"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is back for a 24th season, making it the longest-running non-animated prime-time series ("The Simpsons," at 34 seasons, is the longest-running prime-time series).

This series wouldn't have existed this long without the anchor of star Mariska Hargitay, who has aged into the role of squad captain from rookie detective (and managed not to screw up her beautiful face with plastic surgery) over a quarter century. Hargitay's Olivia Benson is a complex character who now has a bisexual kid, Noah (Ryan Buggle) and a lot of problems in a police environment that remains resistant to women's leadership and where the public is often at odds with police.

Benson has done significant crossover last season and now in the new season into "Law & Order: Organized Crime," which is the most under-rated of the series franchise and which stars a Black lesbian character, Sergeant Ayanna Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt).

It's good to see all three of the "Law & Order" series shows back. They feel familiar, yet fresh and Mariska Hargitay stands out as a an actress who continues to imbue her character with a vulnerability and believability that resonates; Thursdays on NBC, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm.

So for the law, the order and bringing representation to unseen communities, you really must stay tuned.

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