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TV Recap: Black-ish, Series Premiere

Plot: The show centers around a family man (Anthony Anderson) grappling with cultural identity in a predominantly white, upper-middle class neighborhood and ad agency.
A present-day The Cosby Show with humor framed like Modern Family would describe the debut of Black-ish on ABC.
Photo Credit: ABC/Bob D'Amico
Photo Credit: ABC/Bob D’Amico
The pilot episode steamrolls through a series of racially-charged controversial topics that don’t shy away from the show’s name, nor its previews. Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson (Anthony Anderson) narrates the show and walks us through cultural competence in the workplace, where he is put in charge of the “urban” division. He describes this as a world where “Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke are R&B gods, Kim Kardashian’s the symbol for big butts, and Asian guys are just un-holdable on the dance floor.” We see him cope with his son’s apparent cultural misappropriation, which Dre (Marcus Scribner) takes as a disinterest in being “black,” and his family’s lack of care for the black part of their heritage.
His son, Andre, Jr., sparks the plot of the pilot. Not only does he want to have a bar mitzvah, but he wants to change his name to Andy or Schlomo. He wants to play lacrosse instead of following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps of being a basketball player. Dre spends each scene going through a few perspectives from his wife his son and his pops before compromising his ideal black family for a “black-ish” family.
Black-ish explores discussions like “new black vs. old black,” something singer/producer Pharrell Williams coined during an interview with Oprah. Dre tries to hold on to tradition and black history with his Pops (Laurence Fishburne) while his wife Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross of Girlfriends fame), who is mixed race, and his children challenge that mission and help Dre accept who his family is.
Photo Credit: ABC/Adam Taylor
Photo Credit: ABC/Adam Taylor
Black-ish will certainly not cover every African American perspective, or experience out there. That’s a disclaimer for everyone who thought it would. The show has potential to last a full season, but my gut is nervous about it because of the delivery and the choice of what era (Andreson’s character) is narrating the show. I want Black-ish to have a chance to cover more ground and make mouths drop open when it says the very thing mainstream America is not supposed to say on camera.
Did America just air this? …Yes, it did.
Rating: 7 out of 10

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