Jay Pharoah stars in Showtime's "White Famous."

Jay Pharoah stars in Showtime's "White Famous." Credit: Showtime / Eddy Chen

SERIES “White Famous”

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Floyd Mooney (Jay Pharoah, “Saturday Night Live”) is a successful stand-up comic in Los Angeles who’s ready to go to the next level — “white famous,” where he’s so famous that he “transcends color,” as his manager explains. Floyd then takes a meeting with Jamie Foxx — playing himself — who makes him an offer he’s reasonably certain he can refuse. Then Foxx pushes: “You think you’re ready to roll with your heroes?” Floyd isn’t certain he is. Foxx is also an executive producer on this short run comedy series.  

MY SAY Is it even possible to like the star and hate the show he’s headlining? Theoretically, sure, but Jay Pharoah (likable) and his new show, “White Famous” (hateable) pushes this question far past theory and right in your face.

Decisions must be made fast, opinions rendered, feelings sorted. Here’s mine: Don’t like the show, which is vulgar, sexist and self-loathing, but still like Pharaoh, who’s got lots of talent and charisma — apparently just not the judgment to match for his first post-“SNL” starring role.

This could still do well for Showtime because vulgar, sexist and self-loathing can occasionally be winning combinations. Also, the creator (and  Levittown native) Tom Kapinos knows his way around the genre. (Kapinos created that other acquired-taste Showtime hit, “Californication.”)

 But “White Famous” is so corrosive that it ends up fighting itself. The self-loathing here is the type that’s common to so many Hollywood satires, filled with the requisite pythons and soul crushers who keep the sausage factory conveyor belt moving. But much of this goes beyond loathing to self-lacerating.  

  On the positive side (and while it may be hard to believe by this point, there are some positives), Pharoah’s supporting cast adds some life, notably Jacob Ming-Trent who plays his pal, Ron Balls. (Ming-Trent also had a Broadway run in “Shrek the Musical.”) Floyd’s  motormouth manager, Malcolm (Utkarsh Ambudkar) gets better lines than Floyd. His girlfriend, Sadie, is played by Cleopatra Coleman — Erica of “The Last Man on Earth.”  

Then there are the cameos, mostly forgettable, if possible. Foxx, for example, has a particularly memorable one in the opener that once seen can’t be unseen. Consider that a warning.


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