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Have you ever watched Modern Family and wondered where all the black people are? Enter Blackish, ABC’s upcoming family comedy where the only race cards you’ll see played are the Jokers. Seriously, ABC should pay me $10 for that one, so I can go to the track with Laurence Fishburne.
Meet the Johnsons. There’s Andre (Anthony Anderson) – but you can call him Dre – the family patriarch with a great job and a wonderful wife in Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross). The two have four kids, including Zoey (Yara Shahidi), Jack (Miles Brown) and Diane (Marsai Martin) and Andre Jr. (Marcus Scribner), whose unwitting ancestral defiance will end up giving Dre a heart attack. And then there’s Fishburne as Pops, the old school presence serving as the probable impetus for this show’s narrative thrust.
Here’s the deal. Even though Dre’s life is seemingly perfect, he wonders if the arrival of the American Dream replaced his sense of cultural heritage. So he decides to up the ante on his family’s “blackness” and tries figuring out ways to honor their past while preparing for the future. This is the kind of idea that would work really well as an indie flick, but will possibly equal out to a string of stereotype-driven one-liners without a sense of anyone’s independence. The dashikis! The sitcomish homogeneity of this picture is striking.
But I could just be basing my gut wariness on the use of the names “Schlomo” and “Shmuel” as the son’s Hebrew names, and a few other to-be-expected gags. This might be a case of the promo shooting for the broadest jokes, with the real gems hidden in other moments.
The creative team is comprised of The Game writer Kenya Barris, co-creator of America’s Next Top Model, along with executive producers Larry Wilmore, whose The Minority Report will take over for The Colbert Report, Anderson, Fishburne, Peter Principato and Paul Young (Reno 911!. The first episode was directed by James Griffiths, the Episodes and Up All Night frequenter who made his feature debut recently with the dancing comedy Cuban Fury. And it looks pretty good, so there’s no problem there.
There’s definite potential in Anderson and Fishburne playing off of one another, and there are a plethora of ways the storylines can take the “be more black” angle. African dashikis included, natch. Plus, Ross has one of the best "what the hell is happening?" faces on TV. If you're itching for some more bar mitzvah jokes, take a longer look at that scene here.
Live the non-thug live with the Johnsons when Blackish premieres on ABC this fall. Check out ABC's 2014-2015 lineup here.
Photo Credit @ABC