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‘Queenie’ Is a Fun Coming-of-Age Show

‘Queenie’ Is a Fun Coming-of-Age Show

“Queenie,” based on the novel by Candice Carty-Williams (who also created and executive produced the show), follows a rough season for a bright, self-destructive 25-year-old Londoner. When we meet Queenie (Dionne Brown), she is at a crummy appointment with a rude gynecologist, the first of many characters we see treat Queenie with casual — and physically painful — disrespect.

After a disastrous family dinner, Queenie’s boyfriend dumps her, which sends her into a spiral of booze, sex and lousy decisions. “Abandonment issues,” she cites, and the show slowly explains the exact nature of her estrangement from her mother and her tight but stressful relationship with her Jamaican immigrant grandparents and aunt. Yes, of course there is an episode told in gentle flashback that traces the torch relay of generational trauma. (All eight episodes arrive Friday, on Hulu.)

Queenie has grim sex, too-rough sex, anonymous sex, sex with men who are not as single as they claim, and all her encounters leave her feeling worthless. Her girlfriends, in a group chat called “the Corgis,” offer support and sometimes tough love as the screen fills with sleazy messages from white dudes on dating apps. Despite the emphasis on Queenie’s sexual exploits and exploitation, the show is often prim: A car horn bleeps out a naughty word, and even the sex scenes are clothed and rather chaste.

A friend — or maybe more than a friend? — tells Queenie that he admires how well she knew herself when they were kids. “I didn’t know who I was then, and I still don’t know now,” she says in voice-over. It’s one of many times the show uses voice-over to state what’s clear from Brown’s luminous performance and from the story in general. Beyond the vestigial interior monologue, other characters on “Queenie” also make the subtext the text. “You are going to have to face up to those demons at some point,” Queenie’s boss warns. Yeah, lady, that’s … that’s the show.

The last decade of TV has brought us many messy 20-somethings bottoming out before finding self-actualization through embracing and metabolizing their greatest shame or insecurity. Often those shows are semi-autobiographical sadcoms, and “Queenie” captures the good parts of those shows in its humor and specifics. The show also pulls from rom-com traditions and from sweeter, tidy story styles; while its friction feels raw and authentic, its resolutions feel awfully pat in their sunniness.

“Queenie” can feel “young adult” instead of young and adult, but the flip is that the show is never a miserable slog through trauma and degradation. It’s smart, poppy and fun — critical, but not cynical.

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