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Copyright 1999-2001 3BlackChicks Enterprises™. All Rights Reserved.

Cassandra Henry's review of
Dancing In September


Dancing In September (2000)
Written and Directed by:
Reggie Rock Bythewood
Nicole Ari Parker: Tomasina "Tommy" Crawford
Isaiah Washington: George Washington
Vicellous Reon Shannon: James
Jenifer Lewis: Judge Warner
James Avery: Mr. Warner
Michael Cavanaugh: Perry Harbor
Jay Underwood: Michael Daniels
Marcia Cross: Lydia Gleason
Malinda Williams: Rhonda
Mel Jackson: Malik
Anna Maria Horsford: Mom on sitcom
Tichina Arnold: Robber on sitcom

Review Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2001

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)


I couldn't wait to see Dancing In September because it was a Black movie. I thought I was in for a treat because I started singing the chorus along with Earth, Wind and Fire's "Do you remember/the 21st day of September...dancing in September". I guess I was Bamboozled.

DA 411:
Dancing In September attempts to shed light on WHY African American TV shows/movies, struggle with ratings due to demographics. [Translation - Whites aren't watching Black sitcoms like The Steve Harvey Show or quality programming such as Under One Roof (which was cancelled), but they'll watch Friends and they love NYPD Blue].

Stage Right: Tomasina "Tommy" Crawford (Nicole Ari Parker of Soul Food), is a defiant, opinionated writer, with good intentions of changing da man's coonish-type scripts with more meaningful dialogue for Black actors. Tommy's 'n yo face' approach to getting her point across in re-write sessions on the set of Winston and Shelly lands her in the unemployment line.

Stage Left: George Washington (Isaiah Washington) dreams of becoming the first Black network executive to change the landscape for Black actors and writers since the days of Amos 'n' Andy.

Several wannabe writers pitch their script ideas to the suits at WPX (a new startup television station, headed by Perry Harbor (Michael Cavanaugh) and writers/producers Michael Daniels (Jay Underwood) and Lydia Gleason (Marcia Cross). WPX is focused on airing "diverse" TV programs for the fall season lineup. This is where Tommy and George's paths intersect at the corner of Sitcom Way and Sellout Avenue. Tommy's pitch - "Just Us" - is a sitcom about Judge Warner (Jenifer Lewis), a Black female judge, and her husband, Mr. Warner, (James Avery) adopting a troubled Black youth who she has doled out JUSTICE on previous occasions. Perry likes the "Just Us" concept because it kills two birds with one stone - appease the CPAA boycotters by airing one Black television show, while maintaining their white audience and advertisers who pay the bills.

Center Stage: James (Vicellous Reon Shannon - remember him from The Hurricane?), a manic depressive hustler trying to make a buck to take care of his child. Tommy gives James an opportunity to read for the main character's role, Maurice. James becomes an overnight success!

Gimme A Break Factors:

  • After James became an overnight sitcom star, he stopped taking his lithium and changed his name to Semaj (James spelled backwards).
  • WPX a/k/a WB or UPN.
  • CPAA - I guess they forgot to add the "N" (NAACP).
  • George Washington (subliminal messaging, you figure it out).
  • "Just Us" = Justice = Just Us in jail.
  • Did Tommy's wardrobe change as she moved up the sitcom ladder of acceptance?
  • Portrayal Award - NAACP Image Award copycat.
  • James/Semaj's catchy tagline: "You gotta keep it real." [Similar to other taglines such as Ralph Kramden/Honeymooners: " To the moon, Alice. To the moon!", J.J./Good Times: "Dy-no-mite!", Gary Coleman/Different Strokes: "What you talkin bout Willis?", Urkel/Family Matters: "Did I do that?"
  • The "love scene" between Tommy and George seemed at best awkward but made even more boring with their - "this is the real me behind the suit/script" - after-sex bonding moment.
  • The script(s) - "Just Us" and Dancing In September - is predictable.

Cass' Dilemma:
Okay, okay, my final analysis may not add up to what I stated above. But here's why. I'm sure Mr. Bythewood [a/k/a Tommy] tweaked his original script countless times and the HBO (Helping Blacks Out) executives who thought his script had promise said what they had to say "just to get the writer attached to the project." But Dancing In September reminded me of my childhood. Why? Because I was born during an era when Blacks rarely appeared on television shows or in the movies. And when WE did, my neighborhood became a ghost town because 'everyone' was in front of the television JUST to see one of US. Actors and entertainers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Leslie Uggams, Diahann Carroll, Bill Cosby, Mom's Mabley, Nipsey Russell, Godfrey Cambridge, Della Reese, or Flip Wilson somehow crossed the color barrier and made 'everyone' laugh. Simply put, because everyone was emailing everyone about the movie lineup for Black History Month, it was as though my neighborhood became a ghost town all over again because we were all excited to see JUST US on television. (Okay, that may be confusing and a bit of a stretch, but that's how I felt). When it comes to my own writing style and flow, I often ask myself - Does Compromise translate into Selling Out? Lucky for me, I haven't had to cross that bridge yet. Hey, I'm just trying to "Keep It Real."

"Dancing In September":


Mr. Bythewood can now add to his resume that HBO asked him to Dance in February!

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Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2001
EMAIL (c/o 3BC): cass@3blackchicks.com

Use the feedback form below to send your comments to Cass

More 3BlackChicks...™ review(s) for this week:
(movies released week of 2/9/01):
Cass' guest reviews:
Dancing in September | The Thomas Crown Affair

Bams' reviews:
Dancing in September

The Diva's reviews:
Hannibal | Saving Silverman

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