After near-unanimous critical acclaim from critics and fans, not to mention several prestigious accolades, it’s safe to say Donald Glover’s show, Atlanta, is a big success. From its careful juggling of black comedy and gritty realism to the depiction of weird events taking place in an even weirder depiction of Atlanta, there isn’t anything on TV quite like it. Indeed, Glover’s latest foray into TV has been touted as one of the best and most innovative shows currently being made.
Atlanta was, however, originally pitched as something far different than the final, surrealistic product. In a new and enlightening profile piece from The New Yorker, Glover revealed that in order to get Atlanta on the air, he had to tone down some of the show’s weirder bits in order to get the nod from the studio, FX. In his own words, Glover had to do a bit of old fashioned “Trojan-[horsing]” to get his show made.
Once he got the yes, though, Glover was encouraged to let his creative weirdness go wild and to “lean into” Atlanta’s crazier parts. We think he listened, because the show quickly pivoted to became the quirky dramedy we know and love today.
Here are some of the wildly different ideas in Glover’s original pitch for Atlanta.
It was originally meant to be Community 2.0
Community is a cult TV classic that drew in a legion of fans for its quirky, meta humour and charming ensemble cast, which included Glover in his breakout TV role as jock-turned-nerd Troy Barnes. With experience working on a beloved “weird” show already under his belt, it was perhaps unsurprising when Glover revealed Atlanta was originally going to be “kind of like Community” in tone when he first pitched the show to FX.
Atlanta ultimately branched out into its own unique brand of weirdness, which turned out for the better since Community was its own beast and churning out a Community 2.0 could’ve turned fans off.
And besides, there’s only room for one Troy and Abed in our lives.
Craig Robinson could’ve been Glover’s sidekick
Glover revealed FX had envisioned Atlanta would involve him and “Craig Robinson horse-tailing around” each week. While he didn’t specify who Robinson would’ve played, Glover is likely referring to the character of Albert “Paper Boi” Miles, the cousin of Glover’s character, Earn Marks.
While Robinson would’ve delivered an entertaining, comedic take on Paper Boi, it’s hard to imagine anyone else besides Brian Tyree Henry embodying the character.
Hot-tempered and yet smart enough to know he’s on the up and up, Albert “Paper Boi” Miles is portrayed brilliantly by Henry. Robinson is a great actor and a fantastic comedic presence, but Henry infuses just the right amount of grit and self-awareness to make Paper Boi a multi-dimensional character who could believably sprout wisdom one minute and shoot someone in the chest the next.
But given how weird Atlanta is, Robinson could probably show up at some point as Paper Boi and no one would bat an eyelid.
Each episode would have a completely new song
Atlanta is a beautifully written and filmed show, but the cherry on top of all that is the fantastic use of music in each episode.
From modern hip-hop hits by Migos and classics by Funkadelic to original tunes by Childish Gambino himself, part of Atlanta’s charm can be credited to Glover’s eclectic choice of music. But there was a moment where there could’ve been far more original music from Paper Boi and Childish Gambino.
In his original pitch for Atlanta, Glover had initially promised he’d “have a new song for [Paper Boi] every week”. While there has been some original Paper Boi music, it isn’t quite up to Glover’s initial “new song every week” promise.
Having said that, though, we can’t blame him. Given he’s Atlanta’s executive producer, writer, director and lead actor, not to mention the million other things he’s doing right now (like being Lando Calrissian), it’s hard to see how Glover would have the time to conjure up a new song every week for the show.
Darius would’ve been just “the funny one”
Out of all the eclectic characters in Atlanta, arguably the standout star of the show is Darius, Paper Boi’s perpetually high “visionary” BFF, portrayed to perfection by Lakeith Stanfield. Darius is a brilliant deconstruction of the classic “comic relief” and “stoner” characters, but there was a moment when Darius could’ve veered into cliché territory.
Stephen Glover, Donald’s brother and also a writer on Atlanta, revealed Donald’s original pitch for Darius was “[he] will be the funny one, and the gang’s going to be all together” and… that’s it.
While the character can technically be classified as the show’s “comic relief”, Darius has quickly developed into something akin to the personification of Atlanta’s quirky ethos. There’s a little wriggle room in Atlanta for a simple comedic character to exist, but the insightful (and funny) way Darius was ultimately written and portrayed by Stanfield is a far better alternative than any Kramer or Joey character as originally pitched.
You can stream Atlanta at SBS On Demand from 1 January: