When a TV show tells you not to skip the commercials, you know some cunning wizardry is a-foot. Having already given us the world's first black Justin Bieber, a masterclass in trolling and the TV embodiment of a 'frenemy', just where Donald Glover's phenomenal show Atlanta was going to take us next was simply impossible to predict — but none of us saw the raw genius of Episode seven coming. In fact, many of us didn't realize it was happening at all, at least for a while.
If the previous Episodes of Atlanta have been 'woke,' the seventh Episode, 'B.A.N,' is what you'd classify as "neo-woke." Bringing the commercial breaks physically into the show, 'B.A.N' mimics Rick and Morty's 'Interdimensional Cable' Episodes, Community's 'Documentary Filmmaking: Redux' Episode and Mr Robot's sexily titled 'eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes.' Leaving viewers unable to tell when the real commercial break started and ended, Glover in an Episode that he directed, wrote and produced, gave us his most polarizing and intelligently satirical installment to date.
Including six fictionalized commercials, let's take a look at how Glover managed to make these adverts so skillfully on point.
How 'Atlanta' Became The Meta 'Montague' Show
Why Is Paper Boi On A Talkshow?
In what is occasionally referred to as a "bottle Episode," Atlanta's seventh installment features only one of the core-protagonists, Paper Boi, who guest stars on the 'Montague' talk show (which uses the 'We'll Be Right Back' theme tune from the Eric and Andre Show) to discuss his recent Tweet about Caitlyn Jenner, which some have interpreted as being transphobic. It is this talkshow which dominates the entire Episode. Atlanta essentially becomes Montague for its twenty five minute runtime, and the fictionalized commercials punctuate it throughout, just like a real talkshow.
Where Are The Other Atlanta Characters?
The only Episode to be able to stand on its own without any previous knowledge of Atlanta's storyline or characters, 'B.A.N.' offers us instead a chance to immerse ourselves more within Earn, Paper Boi and Darius's world, which is essentially a mirror of our own. However, it still offers a glimpse into the linear narrative. Two Episodes previously we see Earn, Paper Boi's cousin-turned-manager, schmoozing with some moderate success at a networking event. We can assume that Paper Boi's appearance on the 'Montague' show is a direct result of Earn's networking though crucially, there's still no money in it for either of them.
Queue the commercial break.
Commercial No.1 - 'The Dodge Charger'
- Who Owns A Dodge Charger?
The advert for the Dodge Charger is the only recurring advert that features in the Episode. Used heavily by Vin Diesel in The Fast and Furious franchise and owned by the likes of Snoop Dog, Hunk Holgan, 50 Cent and more ironically, Brody Jenner (son of Caitlyn), the Dodge Charger is the ultimate muscle car which, as the fictionalized commercials point out is:
- What Does Owning A Dodge Charger Say About The Owner?
Repeatedly exposing us to the commercial throughout the Episode, it became clear that Glover was setting the Dodge up for an colossal fall. With the first two adverts showing a care-free, handsome man cruising around scenic suburbs and mountain ranges, the final installment shows him frantically pumping gas into his beloved car, butt naked. Why you ask? Well, it turns out his wife cheated on him with his brother, and after a long court battle, he asked to keep nothing but his Dodge Charger which swiftly prompts the adverts' closing slogan:
- Why Atlanta's 'Dodge Charger' Commercial Is So On-Point:
Just like fated Charger owner 50 Cent who filed for bankruptcy in 2015, while owning this car may make you look like someone who's got their life together, that doesn't actually translate into real life and the struggle not to end up with your moon hanging out at the petrol station remains real.
Commercial No.2 - 'Arizona Beverages'
- What Is The Controversy Surrounding The Arizona Beverages?
Selling a combination of iced tea, juice cocktail and energy drinks, the Arizona Beverage Company was established in Brooklyn in 1992, but in later years it has been plagued by one of life's greatest mysteries. While the ninety nine cent price tag is clearly printed on the can, many beverage vendors charge upwards of a dollar for the privilege of purchasing the 32oz drink.
Atlanta manifests this conundrum to perfection, showing that both the customer and the off-license employee are equally baffled as to why the price comes up as being different to that on the can. Echoing the voice of millions they go on to say:
- How The Twitterverse Got Involved:
Upon discovering that cans in his local off license had been re-branded with stickers covering the original price, comedian Desus Nice Tweeted the following:
Not missing a beat, Arizona Tweeted back with a sticker campaign of their own, and the rather lengthy hashtag #99centsequals99cents:
- Why Atlanta's 'Arizona Beverages' Commercial Is So On-Point:
Picking up on those strange little quirks of life which most of us overlook and holding them up to the light is what makes a good comedian, great. An incredibly successful comedian in his own right, Donald Glover does exactly this by tapping into the Arizona zeitgeist, and showing us all that we're not alone in our quest to find a can of Arizona that costs exactly what it says on the can.
Commercial No.3 - 'Mickey's Fine Malt Liquor'
- Why Does Atlanta Include A Commercial For A Malt Beer?
At half the price, triple the size and double the alcohol content, malt beers have been a staple of sports event advertising since the 1970's, and have created a reputation of being trashy drinks which encourage people to do things like this. Notoriously targeting the African American demographic for discerningly dubious moral reasons, the inclusion of a malt beer advert was essential for the Episode to fully parody commercials that likewise pursue Atlanta's bulk audience.
- Which Existing Commercials Does Atlanta's Malt Liquor Advert Mimic?
With celebrity endorsements from the likes of Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars) who became the face of Colt 45, infamous funk musician Rufus Thomas who endorsed Schlitz, football player-turned-blaxploitation actor Fred Williamson who endorsed King Cobra and more recently, Ice Cube who endorsed St Ides, the tradition to associate malt liquor with African Americans is set in stone.
Atlanta's malt liquor advert can be seen in all of the above. A crowd of joyous black people gather socially, a smooth fast-paced soundtrack blares in the background and of course, the male protagonist is the embodiment of the strong, macho man as he gulps down some delicious malty liquor.
- Why Atlanta's Malt Liquor' Commercial Is So On-Point:
Mirroring the flawed morality of relentlessly marketing a cheap, bad quality beverage to an African American audience, Atlanta's commercial which shows an up-market cocktail bar serving the malt liquor in a champagne glass, reveals that the aspirational lifestyle these adverts portray are often at drastic odds with reality. As the slogan says:
By pouring the malt liquor into a champagne glass and following up with this slogan, Glover in essence says you can't put lipstick on a pig. No matter how you serve it, malt liquor is still going to be a "poor, black mans drink," regardless of how cunningly deceptive the marketing campaigns surrounding it may be.
Commercial No.4 - 'Swisher Sweets'
- What Are Swisher Sweets Known For?
As Atlanta's commercial shows us, Swisher Sweets are synonymous with rolling joints. Most consumers are believed to buy these little mild-bodied cigarillos, empty them of their tobacco, load them up with marijuana and roll them into a perfectly crafted blunt. Due to the sudden demand for legalized cannabis in certain states in the U.S. in the mid '00s, Swisher Sweets became the best-selling cigar in the whole of America.
- Swisher Sweets In Popular Culture:
Featuring in the songs of Scarface, UGK and Master P, Swisher Sweets have become well represented in the lyrics of rap and hip hop artists for over a decade. In his track 'Last Ones Left' 2Pac raps:
"I'm at the bar, you can catch me, hands full of liquor, or puffin' on a sweet Swisher."
Ludacris also mentions the brand in his track 'Southern Hospitality'
"Hand-me-down drug dealers hand me down rocks. Hand me down a 50-pack Swisher Sweets box."
As does Lil' Wyte in his 'Smoking Song:'
"Check it out I roll with Swisher Sweets, and all day long I'm down to smoke."
- Why Atlanta's 'Swisher Sweets' Commercial Is So On-Point:
Like the Arizona commercial before it, Atlanta's Swisher Sweet advert taps into the common knowledge of something which seems so every day but then brings it into the light, exposes the hilarity of it, and makes us realize that there are few things that people love more than a good life hack. Especially if it involves the possibility of getting stoned.
Commercial No.5 - 'Amar White's Spiritual Guidance'
- Why Atlanta's 'Spiritual Guidance' Commercial Feels So Familiar:
Do you recognize this man? That's right, he's the guy who aggressively offered Earn a Nutella sandwich on a bus before disappearing in the woods with a large dog in the pilot Episode. Now he's back and offering spiritual advice from his helpline, as well as trying to sell his book, 'The Answer.' With its horrific green screen, litany of new age buzzwords and offers to make callers "as smart as a baby dolphin," this advert looks like it jumped straight from some hapless spirituality channel and into our "third eye."
- What Makes This Commercial The Most Meta Of Them All:
One of the reasons this commercial is so special is the fact that the phone number on screen, (1-260-33Quest) is real, and people have called it. Just like Zan from Episode three who had a real life Instagram account (@Zanlivesmatter), Glover relishes in blending real life with the Atlanta Universe in a way that's so meta you can practically feel your mind bending as you watch.
While Amar doesn't actually pick up the phone, when the above number is called he does leave us with the following message:
- Why Atlanta's 'Spiritual Guidance' Commercial Is So On-Point:
Having referred to Atlanta as 'Twin Peaks with rappers' one of the most endearing qualities of Glover's show is its ability to dabble in the surreal. While this commercial parodies the oft merciless marketing machine hiding behind a facade of spiritual guidance schemes, it also reminds the viewer that they are watching a show unafraid to take jumps deep into void of the bizarre.
Commercial No.6 - 'Coconut Crunch-o's Cereal'
- Why Atlanta's Cereal Advert Is Unlike Any You've Seen Before:
How often do you find yourself watching a kids cereal commercial only for it to transform into a socio-racial debate? Surprisingly, the chances of this happening to you have so far been rare, so when Glover decided to punish King Coco for being too eager to eat some delicious Crunch-O's by having him grappled to the ground by a white policeman and arrested all while the kids berated him and filmed the incident on a smart phone, my guess is you hadn't seen that one coming.
- Where Have I Heard Those Voices Before?
After watching the commercial you may have been left scratching you head and wondering why the voices within it sounded so familiar. Firstly, this is because Cree Summer who plays Freddie in A Different World, Susie in The Rugrats, Numbuh 5 in Codename: Kids Next Door and Magma in X-Men Legends voices the children. Secondly this is because Kevin Michael Richardson who voices The Joker in The Batman, Mr. Lincoln (Summer Cree's character, Numbah 5's father) in Codename: Kids Next Door and Kilowog in Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters plays the unlawfully arrested King Coco.
- Why Atlanta's 'Coconut Crunch-O's' Commercial Is So On-Point:
One of the few ways to make the #blacklivesmatter movement's voice ring ever louder and clearer is to visually epitomize what it's like for a group of young black children to watch an unwarranted race related police assault on a black man. By bringing such a horrific and shocking human rights issue into the context of a kids cereal commercial, the sinister truth of our racist reality is laid bare for all to is. It is truly a work of genius and also guarantees we will never look at our breakfast cereal in quite the same way again.