Atlanta: Teddy Perkins
April 7, 2018 7:32 AM - Season 2, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Darius is trippin in this one. Y'all know I woulda been left. [Official synopsis] Darius went to pick up a multicolored key piano that someone posted on a biohacking message board, saying their boss was trying to get rid of it, free of charge. Featuring Theodore Perkins as himself*.

* Yes, That Was Donald Glover in Whiteface Creeping Everyone Out on Atlanta (Jackson McHenry and Dee Lockett for Vulture) | What It Was Like Filming Atlanta’s ‘Teddy Perkins’ While Donald Glover Stayed in Terrifying Character on Set (Dee Lockett for Vulture)

‘Atlanta’ Review: ‘Teddy Perkins’ Is More Nightmarish Than ‘Get Out,’ and We Still Haven’t Recovered -- The episode references Jordan Peele's Oscar-winning film, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and more to build moments of disquieting horror. (Hanh Nguyen for IndieWire)
We are shook and yet in awe. “Atlanta” made good on the promise of violence and danger that was laid out in the opening moments of the season with Thursday night’s installment “Teddy Perkins.” The fact that FX announced the episode would air without commercial interruption (and – to the horror of TV critics – without an advance screener) should have been the first indication that something extra special was in the offing. This would turn out to be one of the most disquieting episodes of horror to ever grace a comedy series.

In the Darius-centric episode, “Atlanta’s” mumbling dilettante (Lakeith Stanfield) arrives at a stately but careworn mansion to pick up a special piano with colored keys from Teddy Perkins and Benny Hope, two brothers who shared a musical past and, as viewers soon learn, an abusive father. As the episode wears on, Teddy’s odd hosting style begins to creep out the usually unflappable Darius.
The Many Layers of Atlanta’s ‘Teddy Perkins’ (Matt Zoller Seitz for Vulture)
Presented without commercials, clocking in at 35 minutes, and packing in as much raw emotion and as many twists and turns as a feature-length thriller, “Teddy Perkins” is a gothic funhouse of an Atlanta episode, filled with warped mirrors reflecting different aspects of American and African-American experience, as well the preoccupations of the show’s creator, Donald Glover.
Every Major Pop-Culture Reference in Atlanta’s ‘Teddy Perkins’ (Dee Lockett, Angelica Jade Bastién, and Chris Heller for Vulture)
In what’s surely one of the best TV episodes of the year, “Teddy Perkins” is Atlanta at its most unnerving, dreamlike, and challenging. The extended episode, written by Donald Glover and directed by Hiro Murai, follows Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) as he tries to pick up a piano owned by an eccentric agoraphobe — the titular Teddy Perkins (played by Glover in prosthetic whiteface) — and it’s packed with shout outs to pop-culture touchstones across music, film, TV, and meme culture. Atlanta being Atlanta, all of them play an important role in the story that’s told. Below, we pick out each major reference in “Teddy Perkins” and explain its significance.
Music from this episode, listed on Tunefind
posted by filthy light thief (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I missed that the message board was a biohacking message board, which isn't listed on that final Vulture link. It's a small reference, but fits in ... somehow (more thoughts to come, after more coffee and musing).

Also, with this episode following "Barbershop" and "Helen," which are detours from the main storylines, I see how this season is like ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ by the Tiny Toons --
“In the writers room, we spent a lot of time talking about [it],” Glover said. “That was kind of the inspiration.”

Executive producer Paul Simms said, “This is one of those things that sounds like a TCA joke that someone makes, but for nine months now, I’ve been hearing Donald say, ‘Well, did you ever see ‘Tiny Toons’?”

Glover added, “That was our favorite as kids.”

Fellow executive producer Stephen Glover explained the connection.

“If you watched them all together, they were a movie,” he said. “We kind of took that idea of a whole story, but being told in a bunch of little parts that could be a show.”

Donald Glover added, “You enjoy them if they’re together, but you can also enjoy them in little bits.”
Except instead of 1990s slapstick cartoons with your usual span of pop references old and new, it's a weird look inside the head of Donald Glover, and his thoughts on the world, filtered through Atlanta as a real and semi-real place.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:42 AM on April 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

man, i didn't even realize teddy perkins was glover until the episode was over. and apparently he didn't break character on set at all. crazy. this was a great episode, though my favorite scene was honestly paperboi at the drive through.
posted by JimBennett at 12:02 PM on April 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was the opposite. I immediately assumed that it was Glover, but then looked closer and said, "no, that can't be him" What a weird, great episode. I was really worried that Darius was going to be killed off, Game of Thrones style, when Teddy pulled out the shotgun and was relieved when he made it through the episode.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:49 PM on April 8, 2018

I am so torn about this season. I lovelovelove the weirdness of this episode, and the boldness of the choices in focus of the last three episodes, and the brilliant acting performances throughout by everyone. But

...well, I can't quite put my finger on what it is that has me a bit cold on season 2 in general. I mean, sure, part of it is Glover's deliberate decision to fuck with our expectations about what a TV show - and a black TV show - should be "about," but most of it, I think, is that Earn is such a deliberately unlikable character. I'm curious about where Donald Glover is heading with this, but suspect it's just more "let's fuck with them." Which, I mean, is great; it's different and suspenseful and it cracks me up thinking about what FX execs were thinking when he handed this episode to them, but, well, I'm just feeling like there's some misfiring in the writing that I can't quite name yet.

Ugh. I find this bizarre season fascinating, to be clear. I'll stop now.
posted by mediareport at 4:19 AM on April 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I kind of like how Earn started out as someone who seemed normal & likeable but is turning out to be just like every other guy. Whether or not this is on purpose (I don't believe in authorial intent) I think it's a delightful effect.
posted by bleep at 9:10 PM on April 11, 2018

Also thanks for this great post. It's great to read about all the references & influences in this. I really enjoyed watching this thinking "Man, Donald was really inspired by Get Out." I love it. It's like a very deep, thoughtful riff on Get Out and thinking about Michael Jackson and unnecessary sacrifices for genius & success.
posted by bleep at 9:20 PM on April 11, 2018

The whole thing with Get Out being, I want to be someone else so I will steal that self from them. The thing with the fathers being, I want my child to be a specific person so I will beat them into who I think they need to be.
posted by bleep at 10:40 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I seriously cannot watch him eat that egg.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:01 PM on May 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just caught up with this one last night, and can confirm that if you Google image search "sammy sosa hat" just like Darius said to, it is an amazing second-screen experience.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:17 AM on June 14, 2018

posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:56 PM on June 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

This episode was SO GREAT. I was giggling uncomfortably all the way through. And the fact that it was Darius made it so much better, because he's so full of Deep Thoughts and weirdo conspiracy theories that of course it was.

Also the egg....urgh....

This show is one of the best things on TV by a long way.
posted by biscotti at 6:35 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hell of a teevee show.
posted by Nelson at 10:08 PM on August 2, 2018

My god. I was shouting at the tv the whole time. That egg! Teddy! Blood on the piano keys! Aaaaarrrghh! Poor Darius.
posted by harriet vane at 6:26 PM on September 14, 2018

Just catching up with this show and want to add: when the elevator takes him to the basement and he tries to get it to go back up and it doesn't so he's just like: sigh. "Okay destiny."

posted by nushustu at 6:15 PM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

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