The Flenory brothers — Demetrius “Big Meech” and Terry “Southwest T” — had a lot of potential growing up.
As fate would have it, the smart, charismatic and dedicated siblings used those attributes to build a drug empire that reportedly raked in $270 million at its peak and eventually led to lengthy prison sentences. For anyone wondering how the two Detroiters rose to the heights they did before they tumbled, the new Starz series BMF premiered Sunday night and offered a dramatized version of the Flenorys’ evolution from corner boys to fur-coated hip-hop icons and kingpins.
Like the Flenorys, the drama has potential. BMF intelligently positions Detroit as a complicated character in and of itself with distinct details that showrunner and Detroit native Randy Huggins and executive producer 50 Cent play up to the fullest. This includes breathtaking shots of the Ambassador Bridge, characters clasping cans of Faygo and bags of Better Made chips in their hands, and Meech, Terry and their crew constantly saying, “What up doe” (a greeting and nomenclature lovingly used in the “D”).
There are shots of Cobo Hall, Coney Island restaurants and the now non-existent Club Taboo and Amoco gas stations. The opening credits even include a black and white photo of the SwimMobile, a semi-trailer that served as a portable neighborhood pool for kids. Combined with Meech’s (played by real-life son Demetrius “Lil Meech” Flenory) frighteningly accurate accent and Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Hello Detroit,” and the show beautifully captures the rebounding city despite the fact that only 20 percent of the series was actually shot there. (Atlanta doubles as Detroit for the other 80 percent.)
Take away the Detroit nostalgia of it all, however, and BMF has a hard time separating itself from other dope-boy dramas, aside from the Flenorys’ two-parent household. Their working-class father doesn’t want anything to do with the foreign cars and wads of money Meech flaunts, and his mother prays and cries for him all the time.
Sadly for them, the matriarch and patriarch also have no idea that Terry is Meech’s partner in crime and are duped by his school boy charms and good grades. When Terry brings a gun he bought into their home, Mom and Dad think it’s Meech’s gun and kick him out. An unidentified assailant shoots Terry in the eye by the end of the premiere installment — titled “See It, Touch It, Obtain It” — creating the perfect storm to undoubtedly shove the Flenory parents into the cold and hard reality that both of their sons are up-and-coming drug lords.
Aside from that family dynamic, BMF has a lot of things we’ve all seen before, from fresh-out-of-prison antagonist Lamar to crooked cop Detective Bryant. Female characters — with the exception of corner-girl Kato — are either mothers, sisters or girlfriends, and there is an obligatory scene where Meech, Terry and an underling cook crack to Run-D.M.C.’s “King of Rock.” In a crowded TV landscape where there are more shows than time to watch them all, here’s hoping that BMF finds more ways to stand out.
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