The new HBO show “Insecure” is anything but. It is smart, funny, alive and complex and seems to know precisely what it wants to be.
It is also the first comedy in years to be built around a black female character. That character would be Issa, played by Issa Rae, expanding on the premise of her “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” YouTube shorts.
Issa is college-educated — as are most of her friends — and is the one black person working at a nonprofit that wants to help underserved kids of color. Unfortunately, those kids make fun of her for not being street enough — Issa talks black, but she talks educated black. She’s caught between two worlds.
Issa’s best friend is Molly (Yvonne Orji), a beautiful black attorney gaining traction in the legal world. And Issa has a boyfriend she lives with, Lawrence (Jay Ellis), who is struggling to find a job in the tech world. The show’s central focus is Issa, but Molly and Lawrence have their own strong storylines.
This being HBO, there are few limits on where “Insecure” can go, and Rae, who created and writes the show with Larry Wilmore, pushes more than a few boundaries, starting with a rap that Issa lays down at an open mike night in the opening episode that’s destined for infamy.
But this show is about more than just pushing boundaries, and as episodes progress, it becomes clear that “Insecure” has ambitions beyond simple comedy, as well. It wrestles, with romance, class, homophobia, work, infidelity and more, delivering laughs and insights.
Yes, Issa, Molly and Lawrence are all a bit insecure; heck, the world itself is insecure. But this show is strong in the face of it all.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
10:30 p.m. Sunday