I’m going to try not to get too deep in this review. After all, this is a sitcom. But I watched Black-ish and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I loved the trailer and laughed out loud when Dre’s son Andre (Andy) came home and wanted to have a bar mitzvah and change his name to his hebrew one (either Shlomo or Shmoole…which I’m probably butchering the spelling.) I loved the instant chemistry between Anderson and Ross. In a 2 minute trailer, I totally bought them as husband and wife. So I was very excited for this premiere. But then I watched it all and for the most part I liked it but I do have a bit of “Mike and Molly” fear for this show.
Shows like this, where they push racial and cultural boundaries, are always interesting because it can insight passionate responses from viewers…both good and bad. I’ve already seen lots of comments on this about how “white people won’t understand the humor” and “this show is racist and offensive” etc, etc. I think everyone needs to take a deep breath. In the simplest of terms, this show is about an African-American family living a hugely successful life (Dre is a SVP of his company and Rainbow is a surgeon) in the suburbs yet still trying to stay true to their roots…at least Dre is. Now he has to remind the rest of his family how important that is as well. The cast is led by Anthony Anderson, Tracey Ellis Ross, and Laurence Fishburne. But my favorite so far is Marcus Scribner’s Andre Jr. That kid had the best lines and best material in the pilot. First with the bar mitzvah. He also wants to be called Andy (because it shows he’s edgy yet approachable), play field hockey, and hold onto his first boob (vs. holding onto his roots.) I loved that kid. And like The Goldbergs last year, I instantly felt like this was a family. The chemistry between all of them was evident right off the bat.
This could be a groundbreaking show. The kind of show that families can watch and have a great discussion about afterwards. There are many people who argue, that shows like that don’t work on network TV any more. Well, maybe not. Unless it’s a well written, well thought out show that has the abilities to push the boundaries with humor to bring real conversations to the forefront. And Black-ish has the potential to be that show. I already have tons of questions. I can’t directly relate to the internal struggle of an African-American man who came from a tough background to raising his family in the type of environment that was better than his and how he balances raising his children in a color free world yet staying true to their cultural heritage. There is no way I can ever completely understand that. But I’d like to understand it better than I do now. And I’m curious to watch it and learn more about it. For example, the one part of the show where I raised my eye brow was when Dre was upset that his daughter didn’t want to hang out with the only other black girl in the school and that she didn’t even refer to her as the “only other black girl in the school.” His daughter responded by saying “I don’t know. When I hear Liza Jackson I think of meatballs and turkey burgers.” Isn’t that a good thing, that she didn’t see the color of her skin? Why was Dre so upset? I don’t understand. I feel like the way his kids were talking about Liza is exactly the way you want them to talk about her…as a little girl, not a little black girl. I would think so. Look at how upset Dre was with his promotion. He was hoping to break down barriers at his company by becoming the first black SVP. But not the first black SVP of the “Urban Division.” It took something away from the promotion for Dre and I do understand that. But if your goal is to break down barriers then why drive the “blackness” so hard at home with your family? It’s that the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve? It’s confusing. So I hope the show explores that a bit more because while I’ll never fully be able to relate because I’m not African-American, I could certainly be more informed and have a better understand than before. I want to know why someone who wants his family as far away from the way he was brought up as possible, also wants to make sure his roots are still very prevalent in their everyday lives. What specific parts of your roots are you referring to? I really want to know.
But my “Mike and Molly” fear is that I don’t want the show to be all about “black” jokes. With M&M, I didn’t want the show to be all about “fat jokes.” Initially it was and then it toned down and went to everyday comedy with the fat jokes coming every once in a while. The pilot of Black-ish was very heavy-handed with the jokes about fried fried chicken being too black for Rainbow (who is mixed race) and “if I’m not black enough can someone tell my hair and my ass.” That’s all well and good but I hope they tone it down and it’s more background humor than the front and center humor. I know that’s kind of the premise of the show but I think that humor can still be part of the show maybe not just every joke….like M&M was with the fat jokes. It gets old after a while. And I think this cast deserves to be more than one trick ponies because they’re pretty fantastic.
I enjoyed Black-ish and will continue to watch. Not only because I find the show incredibly interesting but it’s also really, really funny!