Starz has always been an ally to representative TV. Starz gave us Power, Vida and Hightown. A new show was added to the roster Sunday called P-Valley (Pussy Valley). It centers around Pynk, a strip club smack dab in the Mississippi Delta. We meet Autumn who seems to be on the run from Texas and she finds herself at Pynk but not able to meet the cover charge.
She enters for the Amateur Night competition dressed in YSL threads and has to purchase “floss” (a thong). She wins and boldly asks club owner, Uncle Clifford for a job. He gives her one on the spot and tags Mercedes, the club’s top earner who has just informed him she will be performing her last dance, to show her the ropes.
As the episode moves along we learn more about Mercedes’s drive, insecurity and battle with her over-religious mother, who constantly guilts her about being a stripper while still collecting money from her. We also see flashbacks of violence for Autumn but her past is still a mystery to the viewers and her new coworkers.
Halfway through the show, I honestly felt bored and then in the second half, I don’t know what switched or clicked but I got it and I was in. P-Valley is unlike ANYTHING you have probably seen on TV. It’s gritty, it’s unpolished but that is exactly its charm. While the cast have been in things you may recognize, for the most part they are unknown. This gives you a chance to focus on the characters alone.
Elarica Johnson who plays Autumn is light skinned. Brandee Evans who plays Mercedes is dark skinned (the girl got BAWDY). Along with other characters we meet along the way, I point this out to say that the show explores a wide range of topics. From colorism to sexuality to domestic violence and a whole lot more.
Based on a play, the goal of the show is mainly to humanize strippers. Women in this profession are mostly looked down on and not respected but it goes without saying that every one of them have a story that led them there and the show explores those journeys.
You can tell that this show is overseen by a woman – a black woman, and her name is Katori Hall. Based on her play of the same name, the female gaze is obvious. Whenever there is nudity, it doesn’t linger and it serves purpose to the scene. There is a sensitivity to telling these stories and the slow build is part of it as all of these characters are hiding something.
There is a particular scene that stood out to me in the premiere. One with Mercedes where she performs her last dance. At some point, everything is tuned out when she is at the top of the pole and all we hear is from her POV, crowd tuned out and her huffing and puffing as she performs her moves that require extraordinary strength and skill (seriously y’all, strippers are athletes in some way)
Every single episode is directed by a woman and it is female-heavy. I am all the way here for it. Kudos to Starz for green lighting this show because as mentioned earlier, it is quite unpolished, right down to the accents (you probably need your close caption for this). I didn’t think the acting was at its best but again, it works for the show. I look forward to the remaining 7 episodes and seeing how everything unfolds. I am excited to see representation on the screen.
P-Valley airs Sunday nights on Starz.