The fact-based series stars Forest Whitaker as Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, a notorious gangster who returns home after spending 10 years in prison at Alcatraz to find his neighborhood in chaos due to the crack epidemic and incursions from the Genovese Crime Family, specifically Vincent "The Chin" Gigante (Vincent D'Onofrio). In an attempt to win his neighborhood back, Johnson finds himself making alliances up with figures such as Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) and Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (Giancarlo Esposito) while also dealing with his own familial and community issues.
The series premiered on September 29, 2019. It was renewed for a second season on February 12, 2020.
Tropes Associated with Godfather of Harlem Include:
- Age Lift: The real Gigante was in his mid-30s at the time this series is set whereas Vincent D'Onofrio was 60 when he took the part.
- Always a Bigger Fish: Gigante is powerful but he is only the acting boss of the Genovese family. His decisions can always be overridden by the imprisoned Vito Genovese. He also cannot go against the wishes of the Mafia Commission since that would mean war with the other Mafia families. However, as long as Gigante does not overstep his bounds, these people are unlikely to interfere on behalf of Johnson. If the Commission sides with Gigante, Johnson either has to try to fight it out or go to the federal government and hope that he can get protection in exchange for his testimony.
- The Alcatraz: The genuine article, where Bumpy was imprisoned, is occasionally seen in flashbacks.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: For all their talk of 'loyalty', the mafia and their associates are quick to betray each other for their own personal gain. Bumpy is the only one who makes an effort to maintain his own moral code.
- Criminal Procedural: The movie shows how the crime world overlaps with history, religion, and politics.
- Dangerously Close Shave: Bumpy Johnson's Weapon of Choice is a straight razor.
- Diabolus ex Machina: From Johnson's perspective the assassination for President Kennedy is this. The Kennedy administration is going after the Mafia and Johnson gets the New York mob families to back off by threatening to turn over to the feds records of tax evasion by the dons that will put all of them away for a long time. The one thing Johnson did not anticipate was that the President of the United States will be murdered and the new administration backs away from anti-mob investigations.
- Enemy Mine: Malcom X hates that Johnson is selling drugs in Harlem but he allies himself with Johnson in order to keep Gigante out of the neighborhood.
- Friendly Neighborhood Gangster: Bumpy is seen as this by the citizens of Harlem, but he is just as brutal and violent as any other criminal when the chips are down.
- Historical Domain Character: Most everyone, but the more notable characters are Malcom X, Muhammad Ali, and Bumpy Johnson himself.
- Ironic Echo: After screwing over one of Bumpy's plans and leaving him in debt to Luchesse, Gigante gloats that "that's me, above you". In the Season 1 finale, after killing the hitman Gigante sent after him, Bumpy calls him to let him know he failed, and throws the line back at him.Bumpy: Your friend from Sicily's going home in a box. You're next. And that's me, above you!
- Obfuscating Insanity: As in Real Life, Gigante feigns insanity to avoid testifying to the FBI and Congress.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Vincent Gigante, who plays the part of Dumb Muscle but is a lot smarter and savvier about the inner workings of the crime world than he lets on. This is lampshaded by Bumpy Johnson at their first meeting.
- Oh, Crap!: Johnson experiences this when he realizes that too many bets have been made on a single number in the Numbers Lottery and is Properly Paranoid enough to realize that the lottery has been fixed. He does not have enough money to pay out all those debts and if he does not pay out, his reputation and power base will be gone.
- Papa Wolf: Gigante is a violent man in the best of times, but you do not want to get involved with his daughter.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Vincent Gigante is unapologetically racist, which gives his desire to run Harlem a personal angle, as well as being particularly resistant to his daughter's romance with Teddy.
- Spiritual Successor: Or, rather, Spiritual Prequel to American Gangster.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Teddy Greene, a black musician, is in love with Vincent Gigante's daughter Stella.