What’s On TV – City of Men

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
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Title: Cidade dos Homens (City of Men)
Episodes Aired: 19
Episodes Watched: 19
Year(s): 2002-2005
Country: Brazil

Sometimes we just don’t know we’re born. I’ve thought this a lot when watching film and TV portrayals of Brazil and City of Men really crystallises a lot of the issues. Crippling poverty, paternal abandonment, gang violence, teen pregnancy… and yet they still find ways to have fun.

As the title probably gives away, City of Men is a pseudo-spin off of the 2002 film City of God. It even features some of the same cast, albeit in different roles. Both tell the stories of live in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, but the storytelling in City of Men is, at times, on the lighter side.

That is not to say that the same big issues aren’t covered in City of Men – in fact I would argue they do it even better in the TV show than in the movie. However, they are able to take an episode off every now and then to do something a bit more flippant. It’s a nice antidote to an episode dealing with a possible fostering away of a baby.

My favourite episode? Possibly the penultimate episode of the final season (called ‘As Aparências Enganam’) which is one of the lighter episodes centred around the two boys trying to retrieve the dog of a wealthy woman after it had been commandeered by the male dog belonging to the local mob boss. Weird ‘white person’ stereotype humour occurs alongside acts of drag and gay dogs.

The episode before this? Well that dealt with divorce, parental rights, struggling with money, drugs and a whole mess of other things. That’s what City of Men does –  extreme shifts in tone. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

That’s the main issue with this show, inconsistency. As the two leads (who are excellent by the way, especially Douglas Silva as Acerola) grew up and the storylines matured with them, the quality of the show increased markedly.

The fourth season was, by far, the best and most consistent. It helps to have watched it from the beginning as you really watch these boys grow up over the four years. Possibly the best part of the show to be completely honest.

That, and getting an insight into just how some people live. 50 million + Brazilians live in this form of poverty. If that isn’t something to make you feel thankful then… I don’t really know what will.

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