Random Acts of Flyness is the conversation starter we need now

Episode 1, debut 8/3/18.photo: HBO. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site.
Episode 1, debut 8/3/18.photo: HBO. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site. /

Random Acts of Flyness is the TV version of that obscure experimental band you loved before everyone caught on and realized it was amazing. You’re gonna want to hop on this train, ASAP.

As I watched the first episode of HBO’s new series Random Acts of Flyness, all I could think about was this show being viewed in college dorms around the world. And that thought made me incredibly happy.

You see, Random Acts of Flyness is anything but random. While the format is somewhat frenetic – showcasing all sorts of mediums including claymation, animation, cell phone video, and music (to name a few) – the ideas within have been selected with great care. Focusing on the black experience, creator Terence Nance presents his take on subjects ranging from police brutality to the “sexual proclivities of the black community”. He creates whimsical art by drawing from his own experiences, formatting most of the segments in bite-sized clips that often mimic familiar formats in popular television. In a way, the show feels like it has roots in the 90’s sketch show In Living Color, only with sharper, more pointed commentary, and zanier methods of communication.

Whether Nance is presenting a deranged children’s show to illustrate the constant threat of violence that African Americans experience in day-to-day life, or a surreal infomercial on “white thoughts” featuring a prominent A-list actor, each skit is pregnant with meaning and symbolism. The abstract nature of the segments seems to increase when the show addresses topics that have traditionally been landmines in our public discourse. Black male bisexuality and the increased complications for black pregnant women are presented in a relatively forthright manner, whereas the idea of combatting “white thoughts” is given an ever-shifting infomercial format that would seem right at home in a David Lynch project. What’s going on? What’s the message here? That’s up for the viewer to figure out.

Random Acts of Flyness
Episode 1, debut 8/3/18: Orlagh Cassidy.photo: HBO /

In Trump’s America – a world in which casual racism has blossomed with a rancid stench – discourse on and connection to the black experience is more important than ever. Given that the show is on at midnight on Fridays, I’m pretty certain that stoned college kids are going to be the very first audience for Random Acts of Flyness when it premieres on August 3rd. That’s great. College is (ostensibly) a place where people of different backgrounds come together to think critically about all things, and this show lends itself to interpretation and discussion that might just illuminate the way for many people who have been disheartened by this current political state.

While college kids might provide a solid audience for the show, it will undoubtedly get wheels turning for anyone who happens to view it. The artistic, open-ended nature of the skits almost feel like interactive pieces in a museum, ready to be dissected and discussed. In a perfect world, Random Acts of Flyness would provide water cooler talk for offices around the country every Monday morning. We all know a certain slice of the population won’t be tuning in, but the rest of us can introduce friends and family to Terence Nance’s creations, getting much-needed discourse rolling.

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Random Acts of Flyness is a show that can be enjoyed by everyone, but as a white woman it certainly means something different to me than it will to an African American person watching the series. For me, the first episode provided a download of rich images and burning questions. At times, it felt like enlightenment. One of the great wonders of life lies in embracing differences, and this series brings light to a culturally rich population that so desperately deserves to be understood, respected, and celebrated.

‘Random Acts of Flyness’ airs Fridays at midnight EST on HBO.