Last night was the premiere of the highly anticipated Anthony Anderson fronted show “black-ish” on ABC. After months of promo’s, the show seemed like a no-fail concept, with a great and recognizable cast, an interesting concept, and an EXCELLENT time slot (right after 5 time Emmy winner for best Comedy “Modern Family”). However we’ve seen how hype and anticipation doesn’t always equal a good show (*cough, Martin Lawrence and Kelsey Grammer’s “Partners”).
What sets “black-ish” apart from “Partners”? Well, that FX series felt dated and corny while “black-ish” strives to be current, unique and show new perspectives on screen. On the surface, the Johnson family are similar to the famous Cosby family. They are loving, affluent, with children of various ages. However the Cosby’s never dealt with any tough issues about race. There was never anything about raising children in a white-dominated society, nothing about the struggles of blacks in the corporate world. “The Cosby Show” focused on showing America that black people CAN be successful in their careers and family life. “black-ish” looks like it wants to expose the difficulties, mentally and emotionally, of maintaining your cultural identity in a world that constantly wants to take that identity away.
The show isn’t perfect, but you have to champion it for tackling tough issues.
On the season premiere, Dre Johnson (Anderson) was excited to be getting a promotion to Senior Vice President at the Advertising Firm he works for. His excitement waned when it was announced he would get that title, but in the “URBAN” branch of the company. This happens when it seems his oldest son Andre Jr (Marcus Scribner) is losing his ethnic pride while trying to fit in with the white kids at his school. Dre fears his four children will grow up with no knowledge or care about their black heritage, and he immediately tries to force the situation before it goes any further.
I was personally a little uneasy about the resolution of last nights episode, but I applaud the show for being realistic about these feelings and fears, and the ability to do it with good jokes and great acting. All of the kids are adorable and do a great job ( Miles Brown and Marsai Martin are great for very young talents, and Marcus Scribner is especially good at being the lovable teenager). Tracee Ellis-Ross (of “Girlfriends” fame) is fantastic as the loving, supportive, but practical wife. Laurence Fishburne, as Dre’s dad aka “Pops”, does a good job of being the comic relief when things get too heavy (but, he seems to pop in and out so randomly which might be a gag). Finally, Anthony Anderson does a really good job in the lead. The character isn’t necessarily a tough one to tackle, but Anderson plays the different emotions and moods with a good balance of humor and sincerity.
I think this show is important, and especially right now as racial issues in the news seem to pop up every few weeks. The various stories of racial injustice bring the reality that racism still exists, but nobody seems to know what to do about it. Shows like “black-ish” are a step in the right direction, because the media is a great way at opening up an ongoing dialogue about race in America. Understanding different perspectives and emotions, but in a non-threatening and light way, is the only way we can attempt at making changes.
“black-ish” isn’t perfect (and a lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s JUST premiering, and we don’t have a real feel for the characters just yet), but it’s at least attempting to address problems in our society. Overall the show has tremendous potential, a great cast, and good writing, making it a Must-See of the new Fall season.