Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New TV Show Mini Review: Blackish

A lot of people have made comparisons to Anthony Anderson's new comedy Blackish and the 1980's classic The Cosby Show, saying how similar they are.

They aren't.

That isn't to say that the show is bad.  In fact it is quite a bit of good-natured fun.  But the big difference is that Cosby intentionally created a culture on his show that celebrated his black heritage in a way that did not seem confrontational or controversial.

On Blackish, Anderson's Andre Johnson is living the American dream where he and his wife have achieved great financial success.  But whereas Cosby saw this success for the black family, Blackish sees it as a threat to losing the black identity.

That isn't to say that the show is cynical or hostile.  Everyone is treated to good-natured parody.  And it highlights the paradoxical desires of Andre.  He is upset that his youngest kids don't hang out with the only other black child in their class because they don't think that they should care about race.  He thinks that they should be racially selective.  But Andre is upset that he has been promoted at his work as the head of "Urban" division.  He wants his bosses to be colorblind but not his kids.

What makes this work is that Blackish never seems mean.  Everyone seems ridiculous.

And the writing is fairly sharp.  My favorite part of the pilot was this exchange between Andre and his doctor wife Rainbow (Tracee Elis Ross) about their son losing their black identity (I'm paraphrasing)

ANDRE: If he [their son] tries to too much like a white man might end up being chased down the highway in a white Ford Bronco by the cops
RAINBOW: So you think if he plays field hockey he's going to end up murdering his wife?

I laughed so hard I had to pause the DVR.

The rest of the pilot was fairly fun.  Lawrence Fishburne as Andre's father brings a nice grounding.  When asked about how he used to keep it real, he responds, "I didn't keep it real, I kept it honest."

The thing I liked the least was a moment with Andre and his son Andre Jr. (Marcus Scribner) where he says that he says that he's trying basically to get to second base.  Rather than taking a fatherly moment and talk about respecting women, the grandfather chimes in "Can't be mad at him for that!"

But overall, the show is fairly funny with good potential.

3 out of 5 stars

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