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'Insecure' Secures a Second Season Worth Watching

The HBO show returned Sunday with star Issa Rae poised for a breakout year.

The two strongest moments of the first season of HBO's "Insecure" grew out of different kinds of humiliation.

In one early episode, the youngsters who main character Issa helps in a program for needy middle-schoolers discover a bawdy online video of her freestyle rapping about her broken, um, sex life.

In the season finale, Issa’s boyfriend, an aspiring tech mogul, dangles a possible reconciliation after she cheated on him. She returns to their apartment to find his closet empty, save for a symbol of his past humiliation: the Best Buy shirt he wore working the kind of non-descript job she pressured him to take.

The show, which seamlessly intertwines comedy and drama, returned Sunday with Issa struggling to patch together the remnants of her life in Los Angeles.

When we met Issa (show co-creator, writer and star Issa Rae), she appeared, at least on the surface, to be in a good place while hovering around 30: She was a smart, calm do-gooder with a loyal boyfriend and a fun coterie of pals from her college days, including her best friend, lawyer Molly.

But Issa’s missteps on the job and in her love life – including sleeping with an old flame who’s making it in the music business – belie her solid exterior.

The show is at its best when Issa gives herself spoken-word-poetry-like pep talks in front of a bathroom mirror, and when she fantasizes about what she’d like to say to some of her over-privileged coworkers as they deal with under-privileged kids.

She’s not the only one, though, dealing with insecurities. Her now ex-boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis) struggled with his confidence when his efforts to strike out on his own in the tech world stalled. Molly (Yvonne Orji), an achiever from modest roots, can't decide what she wants or where she fits in as she frequently sheds boyfriends from various rungs of the social ladder.

“Insecure,” co-created by Larry Wilmore, makes good on the promise shown in Rae’s old web series, “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.” The TV show’s focus on millennial women and its HBO perch invite inevitable comparisons to the recently ended “Girls.” But “Insecure” plays with a minimum of whiny narcissism.

No one could blame Rae if she griped even just a bit about being snubbed by the Emmys. But the new season offers another opportunity to notch some deserved recognition for a show about a young woman searching for a semblance of security and self, while trying to sidestep new humiliations.

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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