HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Greenleaf: Season 1
HTS Overall Score:76
Churches are usually seen as symbols of decency and being above the petty squabbles of life. They’re beacon’s hope and seen as role models in the community and they really ARE supposed to be all of those good things. For the most part any good church worth its salt strives to reach that goal as well. Not because they’re perfect. Not because the deacons and preachers are better than anyone else, but that’s what Christ called them to be like and his effect on their lives is worth imitating. Now, that’s not ALWAYS the case. Christians and religious leaders can be far from perfect. Having been in the church leadership arena for most of my life (father was a deacon and elder at our churches over the years) I can tell you that there is more than enough human pettiness and sinful behavior that goes on behind the scenes. People get their feathers ruffled at the stupidest things, and egos come into play just as much as the rest of the world. Usually just in a different form. However there are those fringe elements that would really disturb everyone if they found out the truth. You usually have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes until AFTER things hit the news, and almost ALWAYS come from a mega church with thousands and thousands of members to boot. They’re up on trial for molesting a little girl, an audit of their resources found out they were making millions upon millions of dollars that go towards fancy cars and huge mansions, and other nasty hidden demons come to life. “Greenleaf” takes us inside the doors of one such African American run megachurch and takes a dramatic look at the twisted machinations going on behind the seemingly perfect veneer.
The hugely rich and hugely popular Greenleaf preaching family is drawn back together after one of Pastor James Greenleaf’s (Keith David) daughters commits suicide. Black sheep Grace Greenleaf (who used to be Pastor James’s successor) has come back to visit, but ends up being sucked back into the life that she left some 10 years before. To say that her arrival has stirred up a hornets nest is an understatement. The entire family is hierarchal order of jackals, with Pastor James as leader of his flock. However his flock is not all obedience and kind Christian hearts here. There is enough dysfunction and unharmonious back stabbing to fill a court room drama for YEARS in the first episode, let alone the rest of the season. Sons are cheating on their wives with secretaries, daughters are trying to prove themselves to the patriarch of the family, and Uncles are accused of molestation and everyone has SOME sin, or secret to hide from the rest of the family. A fact that is glossed over by everyone else who knows EXACTLY the dirty laundry that is being hidden around the house.
Grace (Merle Dandridge) is at the center of it all, having been disillusioned with the whole Greenleaf “dynasty” that she is now a part of once more. She tries to keep her edge and keep objectivity, but that is hard as she is subjected to the manipulation and conniving mentality that each of the family members is SOOOOO good at using to their advantage. Then there’s Grace’s daughter who is trying to fit in back in the Greenleaf clan, having never been a part of this nightmare till now. However, things are not as dire as they seem, as Grace’s tenacity keeps her afloat (despite her ridiculously spotty theology) and maybe, just maybe, she can make a difference in this hive of scum and villainy that she calls family.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=86394[/img]The funny thing is, this synopsis barely touches the surface of the dysfunction that exists within the Greenleaf dynasty. After a few episodes you’re left wondering if this is a giant soap opera off of NBC/CBS, or if this is a conspiracy theory drama. Both labels equally apply to the series in question as you watch things happen that would shock the dirtiest of politicians, let alone someone who is supposed to be leading a worship service every week. This is the highlight and downfall of the series in a nutshell. The constant drama and backstabbing and infighting amongst the men and women of “god” makes for highly entertaining craziness, but also makes you just slap your head against the wall in frustration. It’s like watching the new “Dallas” but in a pastorals setting instead of a Texas oil millionaire’s family.
The action is well done, but I have to admit that everything feels a bit too glossy for my tastes. Every member of the family and extended family feel like they’ve stepped out of an African American Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. Teeth sparkle, designer clothes and bodies are picture perfect and the physical beauty is just too much. Like I said, it’s like watching a soap opera play out in front of you with a darker, more serious twist. Keith David is probably the best of the crew due to his veteran status of oldest and most successful mainstream acting careers, but there are a couple of shout outs to Merle Dandridge and Lynn Whitfield for keeping the characters fresh and interesting.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=86402[/img]The first season of “Greenleaf” is shot on Red Epic Dragon cameras and looks VERY sharp and crisp for a TV show. Fine detail is exceptional and you can see very craggy feature on Keith David’s face as well as intricately woven pastoral robes dipped in lovely purple. The colors tend to sit on the warmer side of the equation and are neutral in nature. I detected the slightest tinge of honey coloring to the grading, but other than that the picture tends to stay in the middle of the spectrum and looks as natural as you possibly can look. In fact, there are several times where Pastor James Greenleaf is on stage where you feel like you’re looking at a real life setting instead of a typically stylized look that most TV shows and movie are known for. Black levels are deep and inky and detected no major artifacting except for some very mild banding in dim lighting. An overall exemplary encode, especially for a TV show.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=86410[/img]“Greenleaf” enjoys a standard dramatic audio mix for the 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless experience. Dialog is the main focus of the track, but there are quite a few auditory queues that allow for a more expansive sound stage. Especially when the service is in full swing with the audience “amening” in the background and the choir blasting at full volume with ethnic interpretations of old hymns. The LFE is mainly constrained to those more powerful and over the top moments, and leaves the rest of the track to deal with the dialog and minimal ambient noise coming from the background. A solid, if not typical, track for a drama.
• The Oprah Winfrey Conversations
• "Creating Greenleaf" Featurette
• "Greenleaf Musicians" Featurette
“Greenleaf” is both entertaining and uncomfortable to watch. It’s entertaining in a way that comes from being gleefully overjoyed at watching a train wreck unfold on screen. And by train wreck I mean the ridiculous drama that’s happening on screen (not the show itself). On the other hand you’re left feeling vaguely uncomfortable watching people who are supposed to be pillars of the community and protectors of people’s spiritual lives engage in activity that can only be described as painful and lurid. Each of the characters is just about as bad as the ones that come before it, no matter how “good” they appear on the surface. I can only hope that season 2 settles into a more stable role after the tumultuous season 1 that just feels a little bit overstuffed with too much drama and chaos. The audio is great and the video is superb, and I have to say that “Greenleaf: Season 1” actually has a decent set of extras on board as well. While the season has some potential, I can just recommend it as a solid enough rental for this first year.
Starring: Keith David, Lynn Whitfield, Merle Dandridge
Creator: Craig Wright
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 589 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 6th, 2016
Buy Greenleaf: Season 1 On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Watch
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