Greenleaf: First Impressions of Oprah’s New Drama Series

NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.

First of all, Oprah is NOT the star of this show (SOME will be disappointed by this fact); she is a recurring character- Mavis, a bar owner and older sister of the Greenleaf family matriarch, Lady Mae (Lynn Whitfield). The show, focusing on a black family running a megachurch in Memphis (where Oprah grew up), was created by Craig Wright (a former pastor). Yes, he’s a white man, but also a close friend of Oprah. Wright calls the show a “collaboration,” where he takes in feedback from regular church-going consultants and the lead actors. 

The viewer is put in the shoes of the main protagonist, Grace (AKA GiGi), played by theater veteran Merle Dandridge (check out this fun interview on Live! w/ Kelly). She is tall, elegant, and a single mom; she is also a journalist (by profession). As a very young woman, she used to preach at Calvary (as the town car driver recalls). GiGi returns home from Phoenix (after 20 yrs away) w/ her teen daughter, Sophia (Desiree Ross), for the funeral of one of her younger sisters (Faith). The house (or estate) has changed a LOT from that of her childhood, she tells Sophia.  At the gates, she is surprised to find her (very handsome) old flame, Noah (Benjamin Patterson), who is head of security for Calvary.      

The prodigal daughter returns… -Bishop James Greenleaf (Keith David) greets his daughter with these words, a big smile, and long hug

You’re not here to sow discord in the fields of my peace?  -Lady Mae asks GiGi

We see that Faith’s funeral is just family; also, she’s NOT buried in a graveyard. Hmmm…  At the family dinner (served by uniformed staff a la Downton Abbey), Gigi endures a trial by fire, which is lead by her sister-in-law/principal of a private charter school, Kerissa (Kim Hawthorne).  Her mother backs up Kerissa (as seen in the clip below from the pilot ep). 

One viewer called this show “a gospel version of Empire.” As the FOX drama takes music seriously, THIS show takes religion (Christianity) seriously.  From the eps so far, religion is NOT the problem, it’s the covering up of (ugly) truths. Saving face is also a big theme in this show; people will go to GREAT lengths to preserve their positions and respect w/in the church/family. OK, so maybe that reminds you of soap operas?  BUT those would never cover Black Live Matter (as we see in Episode 4). I’m not calling this MUST-SEE, but there are issues in this show that I feel are worth considering.       

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2 thoughts on “Greenleaf: First Impressions of Oprah’s New Drama Series

    • Yes, it’s on OWN; so far there have been 6 eps. I got interested b/c of Oprah & also b/c I’ve been acquainted w/ black women (“PKs”) whose fathers were preachers. Basically, it’s like going into a sub-culture, BUT w/ universal themes & flawed individuals (who are NOT always behaving Christian). There is also a strong father-daughter relationship (rare for TV)!

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