‘Atlanta’: Donald Glover follows Aziz Ansari path of fan-favorite NBC comedy, then own acclaimed show

FX’s new comedy series “Atlanta” has emerged as the critical darling of the fall television season and could be a strong contender on the upcoming winter awards circuit. The series, created by actor, writer and musician Donald Glover (“30 Rock,” “Community”), currently has a jaw-dropping 90 rating on MetaCritic and has already been renewed for a second season after airing only four of its 10 episodes.

As the lead actor and producer of “Atlanta,” Glover could follow in the footsteps of  one-time “Parks and Recreation” featured player Aziz Ansari, whose Netflix series “Master of None” debuted to similar acclaim in fall 2015. It won Best Comedy Series at the Critics’ Choice TV Awards and earned its multi-hyphenate star a Best TV Comedy Actor bid at the Golden Globes. Ansari went on to win Best Comedy Writing at the recent Emmy Awards.

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Glover has already made a name for himself as a kind of jack-of-all-trades in the entertainment industry. He began his television career as a writer, and later story editor, for “30 Rock.” Then he received critical acclaim for playing Troy Barnes on NBC’s “Community.” Glover is also an accomplished comedian and a Grammy-nominated rapper (under the pseudonym Childish Gambino).

“Atlanta” follows Earnest “Earn” Marks (Glover), an under-employed Princeton dropout who works a dead-end job at a credit card company in the title city. Seen as a failure by his girlfriend (Zazie Beetz), who is also the mother of his young daughter, Earn attempts to become the manager of his cousin Paper Boi (Bryan Tyree Henry), a fledgling rapper who appears to be on the verge of stardom.

Television critics are effusive in their praise for “Atlanta,” which has the highest score of any show currently on TV. Below is a sampling of their thoughts:

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Brian Tallerico (RogerEbert.com): “[‘Atlanta’] is an absolute creative smash, the kind of show that warrants that all-too-often-used label of must-watch and that I think could one people are talking about this fall. It is as keenly observed an examination of hip-hop culture as we’ve seen on television, but it’s not a ‘statement show’ about the entirety of rap. It is a character study that comments on universal feelings while also feeling remarkably specific.”

Robert Bianco (USA Today): “‘Atlanta’ is an artistic breakthrough for its star, writer and creator Donald Glover. Driven by Glover’s charm and throwaway wit, ‘Atlanta’ both compels and mystifies. We’re purposely kept off balance, in the way the show is shot and the way the story is told. Surprises come around every corner — none greater than how appealing these three characters turn out to be, or how quickly you find yourself rooting for them to succeed.”

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Jeff Jensen (Entertainment Weekly): “FX has built itself into the most exciting network on television with a mix of strategies suffused with strong authorial vision, and Donald Glover’s ‘Atlanta’ fits right in. It’s an offbeat story about being young, poor, black, and desperate, and a satirical allegory about authenticity, art, and chasing fulfillment by living through others. It’s risky, it’s weird, and it’s one of the best new shows of the year.”

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