ABC’s new family sitcom “Black-ish,” starring and executive produced by Anthony Anderson and created by Kenya Barris, has a lot going for it even before its premiere on ABC next week. It’s the first show on the network in a long while to focus entirely around a black family and offers the cultural perspectives of three different generations of African-Americans.
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It’s also taking over a coveted 9:30 prime-time slot, namely the one after TV’s #1 comedy “Modern Family.” ABC even managed to snag Larry Willmore to help with writing duties for the first few episodes before he takes over the vacant spot left by Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central. It’s safe to say that expectations are sky high for this series.
Anderson stars as Andre “Dre” Johnson, the head of a more than well off African-American family in Los Angeles, which includes Tracee Ellis Ross as wife/mother/doctor Rainbow Johnson, four pre-teen to teenaged kids, and Laurence Fishburne (who also produces) in wisecracking granddad mode as “Pops” Johnson. The show follows the family as they all struggle with the question of what it means to be “black” in contemporary American society. “Black-ish” is scheduled to premiere on ABC next Wednesday, but iTunes has the pilot for free right now, so hit the jump for my thoughts.
1. Opening the show with “Jesus Walks,” huh? I get that it alludes to the whole black bourgeois thing, but why Jesus Walks…?
2. So her name is actually Rainbow…cool.
3. I get that this show takes place in LA, but that’s a LOT of Clippers gear!
4. No way would any family stand there while Hollywood tourists gawked at them.
5. That redhead was too busy being rude to bother parking her car straight!
6. Robin Thicke’s not an R&B god anymore…
7. Why did no one ever think to cast Laurence Fishburne as a granddad before? Perfect!
8. Anthony Anderson has gone from dancing with kangaroos to the Senior Vice President of a company – in his roles, I mean.
9. No better way to start a series than “son chooses after-school activity that disappoints dad,” in this case field hockey.
10. Andy isn’t the kind of name I think of when I think of “edgy but approachable.”
11. You know what? I’ll say it. I can get used to seeing Anthony Anderson as the cool guy…
12. …but I can’t get used to him wearing that polka dotted shirt with that nice blazer.
13. …or this talented cast being stranded with a slightly less than average script
14. If Undercover Brother has taught me anything, that’s not how a black guy would say good morning.
15. “If you chase a squirrel, you’d better be prepared to eat his nuts”. That is all.
16. So are Andre and this out of touch white guy in the green sweater supposed to be enemies or is he just another comic foil?
17. Baked fried chicken = dining faux pas
18. So the dad is overbearing, the mom is chill, the kids are clueless, and the granddad’s sardonic? Okay.
19. The generational divide when it comes to race is a great topic that I hope is explored further.
20. Can’t remember the last time I heard someone say “keeping it real.”
21. Tracee Ellis Ross, always good to see her.
22. Bi-racial is its own category, as far as I’m concerned. Best and worst of both worlds!
23. Hinting at sex on an ABC show? We’ve come a long way!
24. The black kid wanting a bar mitzvah moment is what inspired this show in the first place so, of course, here it is in the pilot.
25. And Pops is off to the track! Relic of a by-gone age.
26. Anthony Anderson is the only person I can see doing this part the way it’s written. When he yells it’s VERY hard to take him seriously.
27. Give Tracey Ellis Ross more to do! I wanna see her do doctor stuff on top of killing it in the house!
28. LA riots, Malcolm X, boxing, and OJ’s White Bronco all in one montage? Yeesh!
29. He’s in a dashiki throwing chicken bones at his son…
30. You’re going to throw away your job because it isn’t called what you wanted it to be called, Andre? Really?
31. Andre Jr. is trying to hold onto his first boob. I’m glad ABC is letting stuff like this slide.
32. Hip-Hop Bro-Mitzvah: a place for Adidas track suits, Kangol bucket hats, and little children dancing.
33. HOW MANY TIMES ARE THEY GONNA TO SAY KEEPING IT REAL?
34. Urban = hip. colorful, and cool. Did Andre really not see that before?
As far as pilots go, “Black-ish” is looking like a grower. It’s got a great cast with great chemistry and a lot of great things to say about cultural identity in contemporary America, but it’s just not very funny, and for a comedy, that’s a big problem. The cast’s delivery saves the show, with Laurence Fishburne’s Pops being the standout. Maybe now that the characters have been introduced and relationships have been established, they’ll start to bring the comedic heat.
Dylan “CineMasai” Green is a movie geek, hip-hop aficionado, and pita chip enthusiast. Find him on Twitter