WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Ava DuVernay’s (“Queen Sugar,” “Selma”) second series for OWN is an anthologized love story about Evan Fisher (Alano Miller, “Jane the Virgin”) and Gently James (Xosha Roquemore, “The Mindy Project”). He’s a successful tech engineer and would-be entrepreneur in Los Angeles, while she’s taking care of former Golden Age star, Miss Luma Lee Langston (Cicely Tyson). Gently’s parents are MIA (father dead, mother who-knows-where) and she currently lives with the man who brought her up, tough-but-good-hearted Ben (Michael Beach). Each episode over this eight-parter covers one day in Gently and Evan’s evolving relationship.
MY SAY: She’s a free spirit. He’s Type A. She’s averse to putting down roots. He’s all about roots. He’s Stanford. She’s the school of hard knocks. She comes from a broken home. He comes from a perfect home.
She says “potato.” He says “potawto.”
In fact, the subject of potatoes never comes up. But if it did ...
Anyway, you get the idea: “Cherish the Day” explores the mysterious middle terrain of Opposites Attract, or that space between two people that makes one see in the other their “soul partner” or “other half” or whatever other words have filled love songs and marriage vows since the beginning of time. It’s mysterious because they don’t fully understand it, or refuse to. They instead submit to the overpowering emotion rather than scrutinize it and besides, “scrutiny” is buzzkill anyway. Best to go with the flow and see where it goes.
Inevitably – or at least in the saddest of those love songs – it does not go well.
“Cherish” digs deeper still by exploring that space from an African American perspective – what it means to be black, in L.A., right now, living in stratified worlds divided by income, status and ZIP code. He lives in Venice and she lives in Carson and you don’t need to know this city to understand just how vast the gulf is between those two places.
HBO’s “Insecure” explores some of this too. But that’s a comedy while this feels more like an evolving tragedy through the first four episodes. Their relationship could end well, but it’s hard to imagine DuVernay isn’t setting them (or us) up for a hard landing. Tyson’s Miss Luma explains the dramatic tension in just one short and carefully enunciated line: “Struggle and joy, struggle and joy. It’s in our DNA.” She’s referring to black life and history, but could just as well be talking about this series’ DNA.
Besides Roquemore and Miller, what’s best about “Cherish” over the first couple of nights is the small talk that’s freighted with so much meaning. It’s the stuff that means absolutely nothing to anybody else except for the two people falling in love – observations about food, music, cars, friends, clothes, travel, jobs, and whether those might occupy some sort of common ground. Sex in this particular context is buzzkill too, because that eliminates – or eviscerates – the methodical back-and-forth Gently and Evan need to go through first. This series is about falling in love, not falling into bed.
But “methodical” is the key word, and pacing is the key problem. This relationship is star-crossed before it has even started, but “Cherish” still must take you minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, to prove what you already know or suspect.
Yeah (sad) but to paraphrase the famous told-ya-so line on the subject, when love is blind, it sure can’t hit the mark. At least in the early episodes, “Cherish” can’t quite either.
BOTTOM LINE: Good performances, thoughtful series, but saddled with a grim inevitability.