One day we will talk about how Hulu has a serious promotion issue. The platform has the potential to be the superior service and cannot seem to get out of its own way. Today, however, is not that day. Instead, Hulu’s original series Woke will be at the forefront. After canceling one of its most critically acclaimed series’ High Fidelity (still don’t understand how they kept Dollface and canceled this, but…ok) Woke had a lot to live up to. It was now the only original series on the platform with Black main characters. It also had a cast of mainly newcomers. Would Woke be able to hold its own among the other star-studded Hulu originals?
Woke stars New Girl’s Lamorne Morris as Keef Knight, a cartoonist famous for the comic Toast and Butter, on the cusp of a career-defining promotional deal. Keef gets attacked by police officers early on in the series. Unsurprisingly, he fits the description of a robber in the area. As a result, Keef starts to become “woke.” For those who do not know, being “woke” is the idea that Black people begin to have an elevated sense of what it means to be a Black person in America. Keef must relearn his place in a predominantly White society and how his race impacts his own personal and professional relationships with White people. With his life in shambles, Keef’s friends, Clovis and Gunther, attempt to help him navigate his new outlook.
The storyline of Woke is a creative take on the effects of police brutality. Keef spent the majority of his life trying not to be “too Black.” Making sure he did not ruffle too many feathers as the bulk of his Toast and Butter audience was White. The use of the cartoons throughout the show as his conscious is a hilarious touch. It is refreshing to see a show that takes the trendy topic of police brutality and turns it on its head. Woke depicts that Black people are not a monolith, but how we all come together through shared experiences. This show could have only been brought to life by a Black creator and it is exciting that Hulu decided to give Keith Knight a place to shine.
The final shining light for the show is the use of Black names. The main female lead in the series is named Ayana. Played by Sasheer Zamata of SNL fame, Ayana is the heartbeat of the show. She is constantly forcing Keef to face the fact that he has been hiding his Blackness. It was the most surreal experience to hear my name on TV. Giddy that someone not only looked like me but also shared my name! We often see ourselves on TV with more palatable names. Unless of course, the butt of the joke is the “ghetto” name.
The Imani’s, Ayana’s, Deja’s of the world go through life having to navigate a Black American name. Never seeing your name among the keychains in gift shops. Grappling whether or not you should have a nickname that is easier to pronounce (don’t do it!). Even Keef’s name, while just a stylized spelling for the creator’s Keith, is unapologetically Black. Normalizing Black names for this series was a commendable feat.
Overall, Woke is a hidden gem of the Hulu platform. Clocking in at 8 episodes, it is a quick watch. Off to a strong start, the series can really only improve from where it began. Woke is perfect for anyone who enjoyed shows like Broad City or New Girl but wanted to see more Black people in them. Also, anyone looking for a break from the typical TV shows that are advertised to Black people would enjoy Woke. It is not overly dramatic or stereotypical, the humor is relatable, but it also teaches a lesson at the end. Here’s hoping that Hulu gives Woke a second season and more publicity.