CHICAGO — In a strong show of confidence, Comedy Central has renewed the Chicago-based “South Side” for a second season, before the series has even finished its inaugural run of episodes.
“‘South Side’ is a truly unique and special show — one that is first and foremost incredibly funny, but also redefines perceptions of Chicago through storytelling and humor,” Comedy Central execs Jonas Larsen and Sarah Babineau said in a statement announcing the renewal for an additional 10 episodes.
Created by Bashir Salahuddin, Diallo Riddle and Michael Blieden — all “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” alums — “South Side” filmed entirely in Chicago during summer 2018, either on location or at Cinespace Studios. The cast is packed with homegrown talent, and so is the writers room.
For Salahuddin, a South Shore native and graduate of Whitney Young, the series is deeply personal.
“What people know about the South Side is really just a snapshot they see in a headline,” said Salahuddin, who also stars in the show as a hapless by-the-book cop, Officer Goodnight.
So Salahuddin and his collaborators took it upon themselves to present viewers with a fuller picture. Though “South Side” doesn’t shy away from the area’s challenges, it doesn’t wallow in them either.
Characters may be stuck in dead-end jobs with limited opportunity — most work at a place called Rent-T-Own, which is even sadder sack than Dunder-Mifflin — but the overall vibe is one of goofy optimism, Salahuddin said.
Just read the episode descriptions: “Uncle Spike recruits Simon and Kareme to sell erectile dysfunction pills.” “Officers Turner and Goodnight guard a store that’s selling the new Jordans, and Simon and Kareme try to recover a laptop that has Kareme’s sci-fi novel on it.”
Critics have taken note of “South Side”‘s unique balance of the everyday and the absurd. Reviewers for publications ranging from the New Yorker to the Washington Post to Salon.com have all praised the show’s ability to “confront tough social constructs with smart writing, a spectacular cast, and just the right amount of silliness.”
Viewers have responded as well.
According to ratings information provided by Comedy Central, “South Side” is the network’s highest rated new series among African-Americans age 18-49 since “Key & Peele.”
The second season is likely to build on the chemistry of an ensemble that palpably gelled over the course of Season One.
“In some ways, Season One is about meeting the people who will populate our universe. I personally want to bring back as many people as we can,” said Salahuddin.
That includes his wife, Chandra Russell, in the star-making role of Officer Turner; his brother Sultan, as the enterprising Simon; and twins Kareme and Quincy Young, childhood friends of the Salahuddins.
Both Kareme and Quincy — whose real-life job at Rent-A-Center inspired “South Side” — made their acting debut in the series. It was a risky move, casting a pair of novices in lead roles, but Salahuddin had faith in his friends.
“They’re just two of the funniest guys we know,” he said. “We really wanted them to be themselves.”
Riddle’s character, the social climbing attorney Allen Gayle, is likely to enjoy increased screen time in Season Two, possibly in a run for office, Salahuddin teased.
“The local political scene is so rich, I’d like to dig more deeply into that,” he said.
Certainly, the amount of material to draw from is endless.
“It’s this wonderful toy box,” Salahuddin said. “No idea is sacred.”
“South Side” airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.