Last fall, ABC’s Wednesday night lineup experienced a change when the station premiered its highly anticipated show “Black-ish”.
BLACK-ISH – ABC’s “black-ish” stars Miles Brown as Jack Johnson, Marcus Scribner as Andre Johnson, Jr., Yara Shahidi as Zoey Johnson, Marsai Martin as Diane Johnson, Anthony Anderson as Andre “Dre” Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow Johnson, and special guest star, Laurence Fishburne. (ABC/Bob D’Amico)
“Black-ish” would bring some much-needed diversity to the station. Before “Black-ish” premiered, ABC’s audience saw shows like “The Middle”, “The Goldbergs” and “Modern Family” on a typical Wednesday night.
“Black-ish” which stars Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Laurence Fishburne stood out from those programs. The comedy is centered around a Black, upper-middle class family that is loosely based off the show’s creator, Kenya Barris, and his family.
Anderson’s character, Dre Johnson, is an accomplished advertising executive who spends a large amount of his time trying to get his four children to understand what being black is. Dre is constantly worried that his children will grow up without an understanding of their culture because they were raised in a predominately White suburb, while he was raised in an inner city.
“These are just issues that we’re going through from our perspective,” said Anderson on teleconference call with reporters. “It’s about living the American dream, giving your children better than what you had growing up while assimilating in this homogenized world and holding onto their identity.”
Dre’s wife Rainbow, played by Ellis Ross, is a biracial anesthesiologist who has no issue disagreeing with the methods that her husband uses to push their children to become more interested in their culture.
While Dre and Rainbow have different parenting styles, they both try to build healthy relationships with each of their children.
Many critics have referred to “Black-ish” as a modern day “Cosby Show”, but Barris sees a major difference.
“‘The Cosby Show’ was about a family that sort of happened to be black and they didn’t run from it,” Barris said. “This is about a family that’s absolutely black, like it’s the basis of this show.”
Viewers see this first-hand as Dre battles with his 13-year-old son, Dre. Jr., because he wants to identify as a Republican or when Dre. Jr. decides he wants to play field hockey instead of basketball.
Like many parents, Dre and Rainbow struggle to connect with their children. The Johnsons strive to be fun and innovative parents, but their children are rarely interested.
This lack of connection is relatable for today’s parents as social media and technology are the most prevalent that they have ever been. Instead of bonding with their parents, many children, especially teenagers, are so immersed in technology that they are unaware of the things happening around them.
In a society where it is not uncommon to walk into a restaurant and see an entire table on their smartphones, “Black-ish” came right on time. The show addresses controversial issues such as corporal punishment, but it is the lack of connection between the parents and their children that makes the show extremely realistic.
Andre Jr. is a misunderstood 13-year-old who does not conform to his father’s Black standards. Though Andre Jr. does not intentionally defy his father’s ideals, he, like many teenagers, is not easily swayed by his parents’ opinions.
The couple’s six-year-old twins Diane and Jack, played by Marsai Martin and Miles Brown, are more open to connecting with their parents than their older siblings.
The twins do, however, keep their parents on their toes. For example, season two’s premiere will be about Jack saying the “N-word” while rapping Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” during a school function.
Each of the Johnson’s children could have an issue understanding their parents due to the generational gap that is bridged between them.
Despite Dre and Rainbow’s struggles to understand their children, they understand each other in a way that makes parenting much less stressful.
“They are the perfect complement of each other in terms of their parenting and at the same time, they’re flawed parents,” said Barris. “As most parents, as we’re being honest, are. They make a lot of mistakes, but they grow through those mistakes. Sometimes your biggest successes come from your biggest failures.”
Season two of “Black-ish” premieres September 23 on ABC at 9:30 p.m.