Despite not having even finished its initial first season, Queen Sugar is already making headlines for its strong writing and realistic characters symbolizing and portray issues of importance to the African-American community. It is not merely Oprah Winfrey’s presence as executive producer that propels this series to popularity. While she certainly has enough clout in Hollywood as to grant her with a certain Midas Touch, it is not difficult to see that this is an interesting series even from the first few episodes.
The premise alone is enough to whet one’s curiosity. The head of a black Louisiana family is near death and three children are gathered from disparate areas and stations in their lives to come and tend to the matter. Nova is an activist and journalist who stayed close to home, Charlotte eschewed southern life for a successful corporate-type career in Los Angeles, and Ralph did time in prison. The sugar cane farm left by their father becomes a bonding mechanism for the trio, even though their different outlooks on life and personalities can clash in dramatically scintillating ways. The story itself is interesting, but it is the acting talents of the cast which really makes for consistently compelling viewing.
Oprah has a hefty dose of faith in this new drama, having surely contributed to the decision of her network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) to renew the series for a second season even before the premiere of the first. As of yet, it is too early to know whether or not this will go down in history as the soundest of her business decisions or a flop, but the acting, production values, and story do not disappoint. Yet Sugar may perhaps be too this saccharine for Oprah’s audience. Critics rate it at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is very high, but the peanut gallery shows signs of apathy, with ratings in the 70-percent area by audiences on Rotten Tomatoes and around 7 on IMDB. It seems fans can agree that it is respectably well done, but perhaps not what they wanted.
What is more concerning, though, is a dark harbinger in the form of Nielsen numbers. Weighing in its premiere at over 2.5 million viewers, the program has been steadily shedding chunks of viewers in its prime-time timeslot over the weeks. The last episode, shown on September 21st, is now making the series look a little lean in the face at around 1.5 million viewers. While 1.5 million is still very strong, the precipitous drop may signal something similar to what general audience reviews online are saying – the show garners respect from the audience, but the interest in actually seeing it is waning.
Early adopters will rejoice to know that the second season is already guaranteed by decree of OWN’s executives. Oprah is certainly excited about it, appearing prominently in promotional material for this drama alongside lead actress Rutina Wesley. Keep abreast of further developments in the #QueenSugar production saga by subscribing below for e-mail
Have you seen the first few episodes of this series? If so, what is your opinion on the drama between the siblings? Will Ralph find the strength to continue to lead a clean life and be a good role model? Will Nova and Charlotte be able to reconcile their differences in lifestyle and political philosophy?