“I don’t know limits!” – A character on “South Side” who has recently become flush with cash, explaining why he has ordered White Castle — to be delivered to him at Giordano’s.
After breezing through all 10 episodes of Comedy Central’s new sitcom “South Side,” my face feeling numb from multiple hours of smiling and/or laughing out loud, my first thought was:
We need a season two, ASAP.
Filmed last year in Chicago and premiering Wednesday, “South Side” is sharply observed, slyly satirical, uproariously funny — and instantly addictive.
It is edgy and bold, outrageous and provocative, and very much of its time and place, yet also reminiscent of popular and traditionally structured workplace comedies such as “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Superstore.”
By the halfway mark of my binge-view, it was abundantly clear this is a comedy with the potential for a long run, thanks in large part to the consistently outstanding writing and the deep and talented ensemble cast, from the leads to the secondary players who have a scene here and a line there — but make the most of their moments.
Created by South Shore native Bashir Salahuddin with his fellow former “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” colleagues Diallo Riddle and Michael Blieden, “South Side” stars Sultan Salahuddin (brother of Bashir) and Kareme Young as best friends Simon and Kareem, respectively, who have both just graduated from Kennedy-King Community College and are constantly dreaming up crazy ways to make some fast cash. (In the grand tradition of get-rich-quick sitcom schemers from Kramden and Norton in “The Honeymooners” to Kramer and Newman on “Seinfeld,” Simon and Kareem inevitably run into insurmountable obstacles.)
Simon and Kareem have day jobs at Rent-T-Own, a furniture and appliance store in Englewood featuring everything from sofas to lamps to microwave ovens to TVs and music systems and video games.
Some employees work the floor, trying to sell potential customers on the merits of signing up to rent items at decidedly unfavorable rates. Others have the thankless, sometimes dangerous, assignment of venturing out to retrieve items from customers who are behind on payments or have retained possession of items long after the rental agreement has expired.
The store is the workplace hub of “South Side,” featuring (among others) Quincy Young (Kareme’s twin in real life and on the show) as the no-nonsense, beleaguered store manager; Lil Rel Howery as the classic company man suck-up, and Nefetari Spencer as an obsessive helicopter basketball mom who brags about how the Chicago Reader has listed her son as one of “15 to watch under 13 south of 22nd Street.”
That’s one of the many, many, MANY Chicago-centric name- and place-drops in “South Side,” which includes relatively gentle jabs and/or shoutouts to everything from “The Super Bowl Shuffle” to Harold’s Chicken to Sammy Sosa — not to mention a court case involving counterfeit Lollapalooza tickets that somehow manages to include references to the likes of Bill Cartwright and Cliff Levingston, prompting the judge to say, “The witness is instructed not to mention any more Bulls players from the 1990s.”
(Speaking of which: One of the standout episodes revolves around a certain Bulls player and the frenzy created by the release of the latest sneaker bearing his name. Imagine a particularly memorable sketch on “Saturday Night Live” extended to sitcom length — and never losing momentum.)
Series co-creator Bashir Salahuddin ably plays the classic comic foil as Officer Goodnight, who knows nothing of Englewood, doesn’t even try to hide his disdain for the locals and believes in playing strictly by the rules. Chandra Russell merits instant Emmy consideration for her brilliant and original work as the cheerfully corrupt Sgt. Turner, who is forever shocking her new partner Goodnight with her actions as they patrol the neighborhood.
But as we get to know Sgt. Turner a little better, we realize there’s more to her than our initial impression. The same can be said of a number of other characters, including an imposing figure named Shaw, who is played by Harvey native LaRoyce Hawkins, a star on “Chicago P.D.,” which of course is one of the linchpins of the phenomenally successful “Chicago” TV franchise…
Which is affectionately skewered in a “South Side” episode.
There’s also a send-up of local news, with Lauren Cohn as the anchor of the fictitious “WZVK-Chicago, Channel 22,” and Jenniffer Weigel as a reporter on the scene.
Not to mention a sequence in which a lifelong resident of the South Side finds himself WAY up north, in Cubs territory — leading to some situations and one-liners that aren’t particularly subtle but still ring accurate.
Then there’s the storyline featuring an almost too-perfect, transparently ambitious aldermanic hopeful who is asked if he attended an historically black college and replies: “Actually, I went to Yale. It was very well documented in my book, I Was Black at Yale.”
These are just a few examples of how “South Side” is a fearless, unapologetic, equal opportunity offender — sometimes going to near absurdist lengths in shining a spotlight on racial and cultural and societal issues, but never in mean-spirited fashion, and always in the interest of keeping us laughing.