Glover joins the ranks of comedy auteurs such as Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari and Pamela Adlon, who are all experimenting with the sitcom format.

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Donald Glover, who for five seasons played the adorably goofy and nerdy Troy on “Community,” was asked recently why he chose not to return for the final season of that show.

“I just like endings,” he replied. “… I’m glad things end because it forces things to progress.”

Consider “Atlanta,” Glover’s new FX comedy, to be an impressive career progression. No longer relegated to a secondary role, he’s the leading man in a smartly crafted, precisely rendered 10-episode series he created, produces, writes and directs.

TV review


10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6, FX

As for viewers who knew him only as Troy: You might have a hard time recognizing this guy.

Glover plays Earnest “Earn” Marks, a restless drifter trying to gain some traction in life. He’s got an unglamorous airport job and limited options. He can’t stay with his parents because he has worn out his welcome. And though he’s now living with his daughter’s mother (Zazie Beetz), that arrangement appears tenuous because she’s demanding rent money and dating other guys.

“I just keep losing,” Earn says, wondering about the “balance” of society. “… Are there some people on Earth who are supposed to be here just to make it easier for the winners?”

A chance to turn his luck around comes when he discovers that his cousin Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) is an emerging rapper nicknamed “Paper Boi” whose homemade mixtape has been making the rounds in the neighborhood.

Earn offers to manage Paper Boi, but the rapper questions his motives. Moreover, he believes his soft-spoken cousin lacks the aggression to be a top-notch manager.

“I need Malcolm,” he says. “You, too, Martin.”

“Atlanta” continues a trend popularized by Louis C.K. (“Louie”), in which an ambitious, do-everything comic artist with a distinctive voice is given free rein to experiment with the genre. The movement includes “Better Things,” an FX comedy starring Pamela Adlon that debuts Sept. 8, and Netflix’s brilliant “Master of None,” led by Aziz Ansari, who like Glover, gained fame as a role player on an NBC sitcom.

What these shows have in common is that they reject the march-time pace and predictable pap of the standard sitcom in favor of a naturalistic, indie film-like approach.

With “Atlanta,” it’s quite clear that Glover not only wants to make you laugh but is striving for a certain observational and introspective vibe. As he told reporters at the recent TV critics press tour, his “thesis” for the show was to “show people how it felt to be black.”

That mission is carried out via conversations and characters you don’t often find on television. The cast, for example, includes Keith Stanfield, who plays Darius, a skinny stoner who habitually offers his skewed takes on the world — some of which are deliriously nonsensical and others that contain nuggets of truth.

This isn’t “Empire,” with its shiny excesses. It depicts a more textured and grounded world in which poor and frustrated black males are struggling to figure out what they want from life and what it takes to be a man. Even Earn’s rap-music aspirations are tethered to reality. It’s not that he has stars in his eyes and Hollywood on his mind. He’s simply looking for a way to provide for his daughter.

And though the show contains laugh-out-loud moments, it occasionally proves to be more melancholy than mirthful. Along the way, it has some sharp things to say about race, gender, the absurdity of celebrity and the nagging fear of failure. Glover’s “Atlanta,” it turns out, has all the right beats.

SWEET “SUGAR”: The fall TV season doesn’t launch in earnest for another couple of weeks, but a few new shows have started to roll out. Among them is “Queen Sugar” (10 p.m. Sept. 6, OWN).

From filmmaker Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), the drama series follows the lives and loves of three estranged siblings in a rural Louisiana town. They include Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), who had been living in California as the wife of an NBA star, Nova (Rutina Wesley), a journalist and activist, and Ralph (Kofi Siriboe), a formerly incarcerated young dad.

They are brought together when their father, the owner of a woefully neglected 800-acre sugar-cane farm, has a stroke. Now they must work together to rebuild the family’s land and their relationships.

“Queen Sugar” is deliberately paced — almost annoyingly so at times — and the opening scenes of the pilot episode have a disjointed feel to them. But the show eventually finds its footing and packs an emotional wallop as you get to know and care for its characters.

“Queen Sugar” also strikes a blow for TV diversity with its largely black cast and all-female directing team.