Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is: Season 2
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Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is: Season 2

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In recent years there has been a growing trend on television; the reality series. In the vast majority of cases these shows do not reflect reality in any way shape or form. They are the electronic equivalent to the ancient Roman concept of bread and circuses appeasing the masses toe keep their mind off more serious matters. These mindless, so-called reality series rely on the lowest common denominator in entertainment forcing people to eat horrible things, perform humiliating tasks and generally degrade themselves for a wad of cash. It is refreshing to see a reality show with meaning and depth. The case in point is ‘Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is’. This is what a reality show should be about; real life. The show contains pathos, drama, comedy and fantastic music with not a plate of bug tartar in sight. The focal point of the series is Keyshia Cole, an up coming young singer. Each episode chronicles her attempt to simultaneously cope with and embrace her past and heritage while trying to make her way in the cut throat music business. ‘The Way It Is’ elevates the reality show to the status of a documentary demonstrating that real life can make for compelling television. Unfortunately many people may not have been aware of this quality series and that is a shame. It was broadcast on BET which is considered to be a niche cable station. This network has shown time and time again that their programming is for everyone not just the African American community. This series is about a young woman who overcomes adversity; rising above it to pursue her dream if singing professionally. This is a story that embodies the American dream and relates to everybody in the audience. If you haven’t heard of this talented young woman yet it is certain that you soon will know her and her work.

Recently there is a lot in the news about the fall and self destruction of the current herd of pop princesses. Many of them came to the height of their success from middle class families and to be sure there was some degree of sacrifice by the family to help these young women achieve stardom. It is axiomatic that the public would much rather read about the far of a star than their rise. This series gives an unvarnished look at Keyshia Cole as she strives to overcome incredible odds to reach out for her dream. She grew up in something that would have to be considered less than an upscale neighbor. Because of her mother’s chronic drug problem Keyshia grew up for a significant part of her youth in foster care. At sixteen she went out on her own and was forced to learn how to support herself. She was frequently treated as an outsider to her own community. Her mother, Frankie, was black and her father Italian keeping Keyshia from fitting in to either group. Here mother was arrested some 33 time and had to give Keyshia up went she was only four years old. Perhaps it was because of this early childhood that this young woman appreciates the success she is gaining. There have been many movies about rising above such adversity and gaining success but the thing about this series is it is a real story. Now she is close to her manager Manny Halley. He is helping her get her singing career off the ground and even create her own record label. This is quite a dream for any young person.

With this second season the concentration is on Kayshia’s work on putting together her second album. Since the first album did very well the pressure is on to prove that she has lasting, consistent talent and is not just another one hit wonder. She takes on a lot more in the way of pressure with a move back to Atlanta. Once there she decides to bring her mother Frankie, sister Neffe and a few nieces to live with her. Her family had seen the tearful last episode of season one and emotions are running high. In that episode mother and daughter were reunited with Frankie in the orange jump suit of the correctional facility. Now Frankie has been clean and sober for some 16 months and both women are ready to give being a family another chance. Say what you will about Ms Coles but she does exhibit strength of character to take on this emotionally charged task of recreating a family while she has to expend so much time and energy on her blossoming career. Frankie opens up to the camera stating that she hid her pain behind crack cocaine, Neffe hid behind her alcoholism while Keyshia used her pain in her music. Neffe feels that her sister has rescued her and her children when she was at the bottom. Keyshia is taking a large risk to reenter such family drama while working on her second album but she is a young woman of convictions and wants to uses her new financial stability to help her family. In a smart move Keyshia realizes that her family requires profession help. She has Manny take them to a therapist so that issues can be worked out in a safe environment instead of boiling over at home. Coming along with them is Ronique, Keyshia’s best friend who is now working as her personal assistant. There therapist, Dr. Wilson, takes them all into a conference room and they go around the table expressing what they feel has gone wrong with the family. In the third episode Keyshia decides she needs a little break from things and takes her girlfriends for a little relaxation in Miami. This section of the program does feel a little forced as the ladies sit on the beach talking about the meaning of relationships. They come across as trying too hard to be philosophical about the issue. There is some more drama when Frankie has Keyshia’s driver take her to Miami instead of going to her therapy. The new money comes into the series as Keyshia starts to look for a new home for her family. She also wisely meets with a financial advisor who consuls her to start think now about her retirement and to put in place a financial plan to make that happen. The music does take somewhat of a back seat in most of the episodes in this season; most of the focus is on the family life.

BET is releasing this second season DVD set through Paramount Home Entertainment. Despite some of the flaws it is a very good series and should be watched by as wide an audience as possible. This show demonstrates that a true reality series can work. The family story is gripping. Most people may not be able too relate to the specific or degree of dysfunction shown here but everyone will be able to identify with a family in trouble trying their best to make amends. All eight episodes of season two are presented here in full screen video and Dolby 2.0 audio. There are three extras contained in the set. The first is a look at Keyshia’s ‘Glam Squad’; the people responsible for her new look as a successful singer. Then there is ‘Frankie Reveals’ where her mother gets to speak out on their past, present and hopes for the future. Finally there are some deleted scenes. This is an dramatic and entertaining series that may not be suitable for younger viewers but is just right for the rest of the family.

Posted 04/10/08

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