Entertainment

'P-Valley' Is the Sexy, Brilliant Strip Club Show You Should Be Watching

This Starz show is one of the best series on TV right now that you should get into ASAP.

p valley
Starz

"Down in the valley where the girls get naked," a voice sings in a nursery rhyme cadence over the opening credits for Starz's excellent new drama, P-Valley. Those words are a succinct summary of the show itself: P-Valley takes place in and around a strip club called The Pynk, located in a fictional town of Chucalissa on the Mississippi Delta. The series, created by playwright Katori Hall, is an intoxicating look at the lives of the people who orbit the venue, which appears decrepit during the day, but comes alive, flush in neon, at night. It's raucous and funny and filled with intrigue and should be your new must-watch. Hell, it's already received a second season order. And if that's not enough to convince you, here are some other reasons why you should jump in.

p-valley
Starz

Katori Hall is one of the most exciting playwrights working today

There aren't any big-name stars in the principal cast of P-Valley -- at least, they aren't big stars yet -- but you should know the name of the woman behind it. Katori Hall is probably best known for her play The Mountaintop, a piece of magical realism about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s last night alive, which premiered on Broadway in 2011 starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. More recently, she wrote the book for the Tina Turner musical, which was forced to close amid the coronavirus shut downs. P-Valley is adapted from another one of her plays, though it had a less euphemistic name: Pussy Valley. P-Valley is thoroughly cinematic, but you see where Hall's stage roots poke through in the long scenes of dialogue, especially backstage at The Pynk. 

It's populated by a fascinating cast of characters 

So what is P-Valley's plot? It begins with a young woman washed ashore after a hurricane. She finds a suitcase and removes clothes and an ID that are clearly not her own. She's on a bus ride to somewhere when she sees the pink lights of The Pynk off in the distance. She changes her plans and reinvents herself as Autumn Night (Elarica Johnson). There are echoes of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in that opening, and The Pynk is Autumn's Illyria.

The overarching mystery of P-Valley is just who Autumn is and what trauma she escaped, but she is just one of an ensemble. The Pynk is run by Uncle Clifford (Nico Annan), who is nonbinary and constantly wearing flowing wigs and long nails as they struggle to keep the business afloat. Mercedes (Brandee Evans) is the current queen of the place, and is on her way out, but resistant to relinquish her status. She also coaches the local teen dance team on the side, and provides for her religious mother, who shames her in return. An interloper Andre (Parker Sawyers) arrives in town with a plan to open a casino on The Pynk's land, but he too is captivated by its aura. Along the way you slowly get to know the other dancers like Keyshawn, a.k.a. Miss Misssissippi (Shannon Thornton), and Gidget (Skyler Joy). 

The dancing is amazing 

P-Valley treats pole dancing like the artistic and athletic endeavor that it is, regularly featuring mind-boggling feats of strength, like the "double surfboard" that appeared in the third episode. The show is choreographed by Jamaica Craft, who told Vanity Fair that the cast went through an "extreme" pole dancing workshop, though there are also doubles performing. The astounding routines add to the notion that The Pynk, with all its drama and trouble, is also a wondrous place, where women are the strongest people in the room. 

The soundtrack is also amazing

"Down in the Valley," quoted at the start of this story, was written expressly for P-Valley by rapper Jucee Froot, and it's not the only original song from the series. According to a Variety interview with music supervisors Stephanie Diaz-Matos and Sarah Bromberg, Hall wanted to feature as many female artists as possible on the trap-inflected soundtrack, which evokes the sounds of the South.

"The first thing Katori said from our first meeting to the final mix was that she wanted the music to be authentic," Diaz-Matos explained. "She wanted it to feel real to the strip club world, to Memphis and the South. And she wanted a mix of classics and new material." There's an "official playlist" available on Spotify featuring songs like "Trinity Dance" from Tokyo Vanity and "Chucalissa City" by Lil' Bad Cuzzin. 

It's entirely directed by women 

Hall also brought only female directors, including Karena Evans, best known for her music videos like Drake's "Nice for What," and Kimberly Peirce, who made Boys Don't Cry. These women are able to capture the carnal sexiness of The Pynk without objectification. Yet another reason P-Valley absolutely rules.  

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.