TV Preview: Black-ish

Black-ish: TV2, 8.00 Sunday


By Doug Coutts

Black-ish is a new sitcom from the US in which the hero is an African-American doing very well indeed – he’s a professional, lives in a lovely house, has an equally lovely and professional wife and some sassy kids …

Why, it’s The Cosby Show for the new millennium!

No, it’s not. Instead of living the American Dream with a live audience, our man is having an identity crisis and thinks it might be a good idea to return to his roots, in an Alex Haley kind of way.

Oh, and there’s no live audience – not even a laugh machine. And that’s good in a way, because it would have nothing to do.

Black-ish isn’t very funny-ish. It’s trying very hard to be edgy and Make a Statement, but doesn’t get there because it still has to play it safe – after all, America is where they think ‘niggardly’ doesn’t mean what the rest of the world knows it means.

It would be uncharitable of me to suggest they resort to slapstick because there’s no other way out, but I will.

There may be a valid point lurking in the background – about selling out, perhaps – but it’s struggling to be made over the whizz pans, internal dialogue and snappy one-liners.

I wonder if they’ve considered casting Jack Smethurst somewhere down the track? He could be just what the show needs.

What other critics said:

Black-ish is a good idea — or at least a provocative one — rather disappointingly executed. Anthony Anderson stars (and provides a running voiceover) as the patriarch of a successful, well-to-do African-American family, who begins to fret that his brood is losing contact with its culture. ‘When brothers start getting a little money,’ he says, ‘stuff starts getting a little weird.’ But weird, alas, is only sporadically funny, and while there’s ample potential in the concept, it would behoove the series to get a bit better, fast-ish.” — Variety.

“A throwback to the All in the Family days when sitcoms linked saying something funny with saying something meaningful, Black-ish explores what it means to be black in America today — including whether it does (or should) mean anything at all. As others have discovered, that’s a risky area to enter, ringed by barbed wire, surrounded by a moat, and laden with land mines. But where others fear (or in some cases, should have feared) to tread, Anthony Anderson and creator Kenya Baris are stomping with glee.” — USA Today.

“It’s not a perfect pilot; most sitcoms aren’t. But like a precious few others, you can see that everyone involved is funny and connected to the concept … More than anything else, however, Black-ish has something to say about cultural identity and parenting and the changing world around us. Those are universal issues, and Black-ish is a true bright spot in a bleak fall TV landscape.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

“The series has transformed from hokey formula into one of the goofiest, most reliably enjoyable comedies around. Early on, the show kept aggressively re-stating its thesis … It’s hard to even remember that version, though, because, once Black-ish settled in, it began, like so many smart sitcoms, a quiet reinvention.” — The New Yorker.

Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years. He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at: Weakly Whirled News.

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One Response to “TV Preview: Black-ish”

  1. Thanks for the heads-up on this gem. I see most critics are ‘niggardly’ in their praise of this programme. I’ve added to my list of must-avoids.

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