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TV Series Review

ABC's family sitcom black-ish gives the American public its first prominent (live-action) upper-middle-class black family since the Huxtables. The result is very much a product of our times.

Andre and Rainbow Johnson love their kids. Sometimes more when they're away from them. Andre, usually called Dre, is a vice president at an advertising agency—the first black VP in its history. (The fact that he's VP of "urban affairs" is a sore spot for the guy but, hey, a title's a title.) Rainbow, often called Bow, is a skilled anesthesiologist. The two clearly have formidable, in-demand skills outside the home—skills that have taken them high up in their fields and won them a comfortable suburban life.

But as soon as they walk through their front door, all their professional savoir faire means nothing. See, children are not impressed by business cards. They don't care how many people Mom has successfully anesthetized. They just want to know how to rescue phones dropped in the toilet or how to sneak away without Dad noticing or why they can't convert to Judaism so they can have a bar mitzvah like all their friends.

Mom and Dad respond by trying to pry teen daughter Zoey away from her smartphone on occasion. They attempt to instill in Junior a greater appreciation for his heritage. And they make a good show of keeping their youngest kids, twins Jack and Diane, in one piece.

That's Good and Bad, And Not Always Black and White

The show has become something of a critical darling—filled with clever writing and sharply drawn characters deftly played by its outstanding cast. It also can be, on occasion, a lens through which the makers examine racial issues from an array of viewpoints—Andre’s semi-radical take, reinforced by his Civil Rights-era parents, Pops and Ruby; Rainbow's measured ideals fostered by her comfortable background; their children's pride, pain and confusion about what it means to be black in America these days.

In the process, this being a sitcom in the 2010s, problematic content can become a … problem. There are immature hijinks and salacious shenanigans. Sexual stuff includes everything from matrimonial "meetings" to masturbation and musings about teenage "first times." We hear a smattering of mild profanities. Bathroom humor is a regular visitor.

Love and Life Lessons Don’t Know the Color of Our Skin

At least all those uncomfortable missteps seen in the first 20 minutes or so of each episode reliably give way to sweet and affirming hugs and sometimes quite nice life lessons in the last 90 seconds. The Johnsons really do love one another, and Dre and Bow would give up a lot to make sure their kids are safe and happy¬—even when they get confused about how best to do that.


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Episode Reviews

Black-ish: Feb. 24, 2016 "Hope"
black-ish: 10-29-2014



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Anthony Anderson as Andre 'Dre' Johnson; Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow Johnson; Yara Shahidi as Zoey Johnson; Marcus Scribner as Andre Jr.; Miles Brown as Jack; Marsai Martin as Diane; Laurence Fishburne as Pops; Peter Mackenzie as Mr. Stevens; Jeff Meacham as Josh; Jacob Kemp as Kris; Deon Cole as Charlie; Jenifer Lewis as Ruby






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On Video

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Paul Asay

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