[This post originally appeared as part of Recommendation Machine, IndieWire’s daily TV picks feature.]
“We Are Lady Parts” is constantly in motion. It’s not the kind of out-of-control frenzy that usually points to a show having no idea what to do to make its central characters compelling. Instead, this Channel 4/Peacock production, written and directed by creator Nida Manzoor, moves at the pace of someone trying to make sense of a world gradually shifting around her.
The show was an immediate highlight of Thursday morning’s Gotham Award nominees, getting recognized in both Breakthrough Series and Outstanding Performance in a New Series. The latter nomination went to Anjana Vasan, who stars as Amina, a PhD microbiology student whose guitar playing skills catch the eye of a local punk band. After a rocky intro and some deep questioning whether she’s cut out for musical rebellion (and vice versa), Amina gradually ingratiates herself with Lady Parts’ more skeptical members.
Life becomes a whirlwind for Amina, who now finds herself balancing lab work, band practice, and the search for a husband. “We Are Lady Parts” gives the tiniest windows into her psychological balancing act, with daydream flourishes that run the gamut from cartoon Cupid arrows to courtyard dream ballet sequences to Kubrick-inspired replays of dates gone wrong. Whether Amina is trying to reassure her preexisting friend group that she’s on track to marry a devout Muslim man or lending her guitar solo effort to some patriarchy-unpacking songs, Manzoor takes full advantage of the TV tools at her disposal to keep things moving along.
Vasan really does an impressive job in helping keep “We Are Lady Parts” operating in full force. She seems just as comfortable showing Amina’s bottled-up romantic frustrations as she is playing alongside puppets or starring in a mini-‘40s Hollywood melodrama. Over the course of the show’s six-episode season, Amina gets more comfortable veering away from her established comfort zone, but Vasan makes each of those incremental steps feel natural.
The overall series nomination is also a nod to the fact that this isn’t just Amina’s show. The other women in Lady Parts get their turns in the narrative spotlight, particularly Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey), the band’s lead singer and self-appointed leader. Through her and the conversations between all the other members, “We Are Lady Parts” uses the band’s music as a knowing way to address gender, religion, and how music can shift people’s perceptions. Lady Parts isn’t just a quintet of variations on the same person, something the show will hopefully get a chance to keep exploring if there’s a Season 2.
Until then, there’s always the Season 1 soundtrack, complete with a few originals (the song that the band puts together organically at the end of the second episode is one of the show’s highlights so far) and some spirited covers. Especially while knowing that Vasan, Impey, along with Juliette Motamed and Faith Omole, all played their own instruments to help make Lady Parts a reality, it’s easy to listen away while you keep your fingers crossed for more.