There are three things you need to know right off the bat about Greenleaf: the OWN megachurch family drama is not an attack on faith, it tries to cram in way too much, and it needs more Oprah Winfrey. Debuting on June 21 before moving to its regular Wednesday slot the next night, the series created by Craig Wright, produced by Lionsgate that Winfrey both executive produces and stars in, is, like a folk mass, a bit of a mixed result.
The series revolves around the the return to the faith and family fold of prodigal daughter Grace Greenleaf (Merle Dandridge) — a onetime preaching sensation and now a journalist — after the suicide of her sister. Greenleaf sets itself up with a lot of stories to tell — too many actually, and therefore it gets lost or tripped up repeatedly in its pacing.
Amid the family secrets, gospel quoting, sex- and sin-filled hearts, sibling rivalries, disgraced cops, relocation issues, philosophical points of view, preaching and sideways glances up and down the pews, the one-hour series’ cup overflows. Certainly, with a roaring Keith David as the powerful and patriarchal Bishop James Greenleaf of Memphis’ fictional Calvary Fellowship World Ministries and an under-used Lynn Whitfield as the stern matriarch among its cast, Greenleaf, as I say in my video review above, has a lot to work with – if only it would give itself time to get there and, pun totally intended, it owned itself.
With OWN sometimes very much the Tyler Perry network in all but name, Oprah’s appearance as the estranged, investigating, instigating and bar-owning Aunt Mavis shines as the proprietor seemingly channels a lot of the great poet Maya Angelou. As she is on so many levels in America today, Oprah is the compass, moral and otherwise, of Greenleaf, and one who is distinctly missed when not around to guide or manipulate Grace (depending on your POV).
Now, perhaps the show will find its rhythm down the line, but right now Greenleaf feels like it can’t figure out if it wants to be a soap or serious – and you can’t be half-baptized.
Click on my video review of Greenleaf and see if you are down with taking the plunge.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.