Well, well, well, America…it would seem the Johnson’s have finally arrived. Taking on controversial issues like racism, spanking and Black Santa, Black-ish has made a strong case for being The Cosby Show of the 21st century. Sort of. On the roster are several African American cultural mores that Black-ish takes turns mocking, supporting and then educating the viewer on things, we in the African American community, take for granted. In all honesty, it’s a public service if you ask me. Thanks to this show, I no longer have to explain what “the Nod” is to my more…pigment challenged friends and associates. All kidding aside, as it turns out, Black-ish is more of a delight than this viewer ever expected.
Black-ish centers around Andre “Dre” Johnson Sr. (played by Anthony Anderson), a successful advertising executive. Supporting Dre are his wife, Dr. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson (played by Tracee Ellis Ross) and their four children, Zoey (played by Yara Shahidi), Andre Jr. (played by Marcus Scribner), twins Jack and Diane (played by Miles Brown and Marsai Martin). For fun, the creators also threw in Lawrence Fishburne, who plays Dre’s father, Earl “Pops” Johnson and the always brilliant, Jennifer Lewis, who plays Dre’s mother, Ruby. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child and with four fairly precocious children, the Johnsons need every villager they can get.
In a nutshell the Johnson Family make up an un-even blend of “old school” and “new school”. Dre and his Pops’ are the former of the two and often collide with his wife and children over yester-year’s issues as they crop up in the here and now. This first season has seen the Johnson’s examine some pretty charged issues while not glossing over them with comedy but confronting them, naming them and working through them as a family. Like the name of the show, the creator (Kenya Barris) and writers seem to be bold and unapologetic as they navigate these choppy waters.
Dre has his home family, but he also has a work family, though I doubt he would see it that way since most of them are fairly damaged. As problems arise, Dre often consults with his work family in the conference room over lunch. In general, their advice is pretty terrible and since the only other black ad executive, Charlie Telphy (played by Deon Cole), is inarguably insane, Dre usually has to figure out how to proceed on his own. I'm going to take a beat here and say that Charlie is a fresh breath of hilariousness the writers ingeniously brought in to take some of the pressure of Anderson’s, Dre. Most of the time, he’s wildly inappropriate with only a sliver of the time offering Dre some actual good advice.
As far as casting goes, I have to be honest, I wasn’t always a fan of Ross and Anderson in the past, but Black-ish is a really good fit for them; their onscreen chemistry is undeniable. The kids, most of whom haven’t done much acting, hold their own with their veteran adult co-stars. Black-ish is off to a great start and the big question now is: Once the uniquely black issues are explored, where will they go from there? As for me, I think I’ll stick around a bit longer and see.