Genius: Aretha is the third season of another National Geographic scripted series. Exploring the life of the Queen Of Soul, this season hits some remarkably high notes and proved to be one of the best seasons of the show in general.
Season One explorer Einstein’s life, season two was about Picasso. However, Season 3 is special. It’s the first season to highlight a music genius, Aretha Franklin. In fact, Cynthia Erivo embodies the spirit of the singular singer with poise and passion. She stepped into a role she was born to play and inhabits every emotion and feeling of love that made Aretha a titan. Sadly, Aretha‘s writing wasn’t as strong as the performance.
At eight episodes long, the show takes you on an emotional roller coaster. From the obviously broken relationship with her preacher father C.L. Franklin as a young girl through to adulthood, and her marriage to her abusive agent/husband Ted White. The show focused on the personal in its first half and jumps straight to music in the second half as well as Aretha’s introduction to music producer Jerry Wexler.
Although we are told repeatedly that she is special, nothing in the show really “explains” Franklin’s genius. But you know it when you hear it. The show concludes the last episode with a mix of dramatized and live footage. Aretha is back at the Grammy’s, and she’s asked to fill in for Pavarotti. “Nessun Dorma” gave Aretha a full minute standing ovation and it quickly became one of her favorites.
My only regret after watching this show is not getting to hear Cynthia Erivo‘s version of Respect. Based on a quick online search, it’s clear that the producers never managed to get the rights for it. The music Franklin made is out there waiting. You just have to listen for it.
Should you watch it?
Even if you didn’t know anything about Aretha Franklin, Genius: Aretha will leave you appreciating the woman, the mother, and most definitely the artist. As an added benefit, you’ll also enjoy the music.
Want more Aretha, check our review of Respect starring Jennifer Hudson.