Coming on the heels of the exciting New Edition Story, BET is launching another ambitious, very different piece of programming: The Quad, a weekly drama set in the world of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Starring Anika Noni Rose (The Good Wife, Dreamgirls), The Quad features some strong performances and isn’t afraid to plunge enthusiastically into the genre of nighttime soap opera.
Rose stars as Dr. Eva Fletcher, the newly appointed president of fictional Georgia A&M. From the start, we’re supposed to be intrigued by the heavy-handed implications that the cool, confident Fletcher is actually struggling to overcome some cloudy secret in her recent past. It’s no secret at all, however, that Fletcher’s rebellious daughter, Sydney (Jazz Raycole), is not happy to be dragged into attending the same college where her mother is going to be working.
The Quad, created by Felicia D. Henderson (Fringe; Sister, Sister; Moesha) and Charles Holland (Playmakers; JAG), does a good job of toggling back and forth between the grown-up tensions within the school faculty, and the escapades of the student body. There’s a certain amount of predictability here — of course a hazing ritual ends with one student in the hospital — and Rose ably handles an overload of dialogue both inspirational (“We are made by the struggles we choose”) and tiresome (“I did not sign up for this!”).
But Rose is solid as Fletcher, and the always-good Ruben Santiago-Hudson gets a fine showcase as an arrogantly regal band director. His Cecil Diamond wins nationwide plaudits for the achievements of his musicians even as he plots to increase his power within academia. Jasmine Guy co-stars as a teacher who may or may not have Fletcher’s back.
Add subplots involving blackmail, underage drinking and drugging, a possible murder, and professors threatened with revocation of tenure, and The Quad proves to be quite a melodrama.
The Quad airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on BET.