20 November 2014 | scglook
Abandon preconceptions, give it a chance, and you won't be disappointed
This series might not start off great, but it has certainly won me over. Despite its title, it doesn't make everything about race (in fact deals little with race at all), but instead skillfully and hilariously considers how self-identification and values change trans-generationally. I did not give the show a 10 star rating since it still needs a little work. It's already one of my favorites and I believe it has the potential to be a great family sitcom. I believe the lower rating it has received here has little to do with the quality of the show and more to do with human tendency to categorize and then refuse to see beyond preconceptions.
To tell the truth, I had also dismissed 'Black-ish' when I first heard about it, basing this rejection simply on the title and a very cursory glance at reactionary reviews. The racist in me had immediately lumped this show together with the likes of UPN classics 'Moesha' and 'Girlfriends', shows which I never cared much for. I was therefore pleasantly surprised after I watched the first episode on Hulu...and then the second, and then subsequently caught up with all the currently available episodes (seven at the time of this review) within a day.
First off, the cast grows on you quickly. Initially, the family seemed a little oddball in how it was put together. But that went away within an episode or two, when the family dynamic was a bit more apparent. The children are adorable and I finally appreciate how beautiful Tracee Ross is (I guess I was previously blinded by my profound crush on Persia White in 'Girlfriends'). Ross' portrayal of her character is refreshingly playful; I wouldn't have known she had it in her. The writers should probably have a consulting doctor, though. It annoys me, how unrealistic the portrayal of her profession is.
Anthony Anderson's lead character is not perfect, but is on its way up. The character had started off a little unrefined but I am fully confident the writers will make full use of Anderson's talent as the show progresses. But Laurence Fishburne as "Pops" has to be my favorite casting decision. Hopefully he won't be too busy to stop by every once in a while. Another notable side character that I must mention is Deon Cole's "Charlie". I'll just abbreviate by calling him hilarious.
Now, the controversy/hoopla surrounding the show. There are, of course, those who think that the show perpetuates stereotypes about black people, that it demeans them or tries to declare what attributes define "black culture". It doesn't help that even the title of the show brings those thoughts to the forefront of the mind. I'm not black, and therefore cannot say definitively that this show isn't offensive to any specific category of people. But I honestly feel that the writers are trying to do a good thing here. They do more to try to break stereotypes than disseminate them; and they manage to do this, for the most part, in clever ways that don't look too forced. I don't feel like I'm being asked to laugh at caricatures like with other sitcoms.
But critics might say, "Why do they even have to broach the subject of race? Why can't they be a successful family which happens to be black?" If the show didn't mention race at all, but instead chronicled the comedic hijinks of an affluent family (which happens to be black), and had a completely innocuous title, there would be critics up in arms about the show being ashamed/afraid of celebrating black culture. I don't think 'The Cosby Show' or 'Family Matters' work as rebuttals to that argument – those were products of a different era, one before the fracturing of network television and before relegation of "black interest" shows to pigeonholed networks.
Anyway, you can't please everybody. I'm happy to say that this show pleases me. The show makes me reflect on how my cultural and racial identity has shaped how I perceive myself and others. It definitely makes me think about how my upbringing and self-identity differs from that of my parents, and how my children's upbringing and self-identity will certainly differ from my own. So please don't put this show into a tiny box. It's not just for black people, or just for racist people, or just for poor people. If you give it a chance, I'm certain you will see its appeal.