Black-ish deals with serious questions of assimilation and race – but does so in the format of a family-friendly comedy.
Andre “Dre” Johnson has made it. A loving husband and proud father of four, Dre is also a successful, well-to-do advertising executive. But the African-American Dre is promoted to vice-president of “urban marketing,” and his son goes out for field hockey instead of basketball – then requests a bar mitzvah — Dre worries that his children have lost touch with their cultural identity. Andre’s sensible physician wife Rainbow (herself of mixed heritage) tries to protect their bewildered children from Dre’s sudden emphasis on making the family “black, not black-ish.”
African-Americans assimilating to wealth and fitting in to mainstream white culture has been a consistent theme throughout the history of American television programming, from The Jeffersons to The Cosby Show to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Black-ish provides, if not a backlash, then a counterbalance, asking the question, “While American blacks have gained tremendously, what have they lost? And how do they regain their own unique culture?” – concerns that the show’s co-creators Anthony Anderson and Laurence Fishburne take seriously. But while the program addresses these questions in a humorous fashion, Black-ish is also a warm family sitcom that anyone can enjoy, from Dre’s over-the-top rants to the grumpy responses of his elderly “Pop.” There is little content of concern: “If I’m not really black, could someone please tell my hair and my ass?” Rainbow says at one point; and when Dre tells his son, “You need to hold onto your culture,” the 13 year old replies, “The only thing I’m trying to hold on to is my first boob.” “You can’t be mad at him for that,” Pop says.
For combining clean family humor with a serious but gentle examination of race in America, Black-ish is definitely recommended for family viewing.
Black-ish premieres: Wednesday, September 24 at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
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