Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer
Last week Trinidad and Tobago sitcom Mixed Up aired on State television station TTT with all five first season episodes broadcast in a five-day marathon. The series was created by acclaimed and prolific actor, producer and writer and multiple Cacique Award winner Richard Ragoobarsingh and “surrounds the story of a mixed family of an Indo-Trinbagonian wife, an Afro-Trinbagonian husband and their ethnically mixed children who must make their way through challenges faced in everyday life” (creativett.co.tt).
With a mild spoiler alert, I will break down my Season 1 review in four courses:
Course #1 The Characters
The strength of any sitcom is its characters and Mixed Up does present an enjoyable mix of personalities. Kevon Brooks really grounds the series as patriarch and chef David Wilson. There is a natural likeability to the character that is quite endearing. Serran Clarke plays his sassy sister Alana, and though she does not get as much screentime as David’s immediate family she always enlivens proceedings whenever she sashays in. Clarke has some of the best comedic timing of the entire cast and delivers the best dramatic acting this season during a scene in the finale with Patti-Anne Ali, who plays David’s argumentative mother-in-law Fatima. Ali and Penelope Spencer, who plays David’s religious and assertive mother Sylvia, are both veteran actresses of stage and screen, and that quality is on display here. Their sniping relationship is easily one of the most entertaining aspects of the series.
I must also give praise to the series’ young actors. Jarlon George has a wonderful laid-back quality as computer whizz David, Bridget Rampersad is delightfully feisty as eldest sibling Riya and Kristen Wilson is adorable as the plucky Arielle, the youngest of the Wilson trio. The only character I am not completely sold on is matriarch Anaisha Deosingh Wilson played by Keshala Mahabir. Anaisha comes off a bit grating at times and Mahabir does not seem completely at home in the role. But there’s always time and seasons for improvement. Season 1 features two guest stars (who I will not spoil) that mix things up nicely and I look forward to more guest appearances in Season 2.
Course #2 The Sights and Sounds
As I mentioned in my review of the pilot episode, the series features very high production values and that continues throughout the season. It is brightly lit, the editing is smooth, and the sound is crisp. And the main theme by rapso group 3canal is quite the banger.
The entire season is set in the Wilson home which is mostly in keeping with the sitcom format. But the restricted setting does feel more theatre than tv at times, so I do hope that we get some other locations in future seasons. Let’s see Anaisha at work or Alana’s apartment. Or maybe have the Wilsons visit a restaurant, hotel or some other business. That would be a nice bit of cross-marketing and make the world of Mixed Up feel more expansive.
Course #3 The Comedy
If you’re looking for a laugh-a-minute sitcom, then Mixed Up will not be your cup of comedy tea. Now there are at least a few laugh-out-loud moments in each episode, but these are usually characters throwing talk for each other as we say in Trinidad. But some of the other jokes failed to stick the landing. And there are also some storylines that were ripe for the comedic picking that just remained on the tree. Take the storyline of Fatima moving in with David and Anaisha. At the end of the pilot David is understandably furious at the news but we don’t get any awkward and/or heated encounters between son and mother-in-law. Instead, we jump to them coming to a reconciliation near the end of the season. I could have really used some David/Fatima bacchanal.
Missed opportunities and some flat jokes aside, Mixed Up did make me laugh on multiple occasions. And that is not something I can say for many American sitcoms I have had the displeasure of suffering through.
Course #4 The Storylines
One aspect of Mixed Up that pleasantly surprised me was its exploration of topical themes. From bullying to religious tolerance to sex to sexual orientation, the series deals with some very serious issues in a thoughtful but still fun way. And that also elevates it above the myriad of low brow American sitcoms. Mixed Up actually has something to say and it not afraid to say it. And I appreciated that.
All in all, a commendable effort from the cast and crew. Over five episodes local viewers were treated to an energetic and refreshing addition to the national television landscape. And with its engaging group of characters and massive end-of-season cliffhanger, I am sure that I’m not alone in my desire for a Season 2.
Score: 7 out of 10
Did you check out Mixed Up? What did you think of it? And you can check out my thoughts on the pilot and other Caribbean comedy content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an award-winning author. I say things like “13 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.