Tuesday, September 23, 2014
ABC Fall Pilot Review: black-ish - Premieres September 24; USA Network Schedules New Comedy Benched for Oct. 28
black-ish - Wednesdays at 9:30PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 9:30PM ET/PT
Anthony Anderson returns to TV with yet another sitcom in black-ish, a sitcom about a black family living in an upper middle-class white neighborhood. It seems like it wouldn't have many challenges, except Andre (Anderson) is dealing with a conflict within his own life: he's tired of his family being thought of as "black," but at the same time he is tired of his family not "being" black... instead, he has to settle for his family being, well, black-ish.
Anthony Anderson as Andre Johnson
Tracee Ellis Ross as Rainbow Johnson
Yara Shahidi as Zoey Johnson
Marcus Scribner as Andre Johnson, Jr.
Miles Brown as Jack Johnson
Marsai Martin as Diane Johnson
Laurence Fishburne as Pops
Anthony Anderson (Andre Johnson) was first introduced to the small screen in the TNBC series Hang Time. Since then, he has had regular roles on series such as All About the Andersons, The Bernie Mac Show, Law & Order, and (most recently) NBC's Guys with Kids.
Tracee Ellis Ross (Rainbow Johnson) is the daughter of singer Diana Ross, and is best known for her role as Joan Clayton on the long-running series Girlfriends. In 2011, she starred in the BET sitcom Reed Between the Lines.
Marcus Scribner (Andre Johnson, Jr.) is a fourth-generation Los Angeles native making his debut as a regular in a series. He has previously had single episode roles in series including Castle and New Girl.
Miles Brown (Jack Johnson) is a nine-year old dancer from Oxnard, CA. He has appeared in episodes of Shameless and Raising Hope.
Marsai Martin (Diane Johnson) was first discovered when she was five years old, and recently moved to Los Angeles, where she has appeared in a Meineke commercial. This series marks her television debut.
Laurence Fishburne (Pops) is well-known to viewers everywhere, as he has had a long and successful career on TV, on film, and on stage. He first appeared as a regular on the soap opera One Life to Live, and came very close to having the role of Michael on Good Times (until Ralph Carter got it). He also played Cowboy Curtis on Pee-wee's Playhouse and has most recently appeared on the NBC series Hannibal. Some of his movie credits include, among many others, The Matrix and Boyz n the Hood.
"Pilot" – airs Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 at 9:30PM ET/PT
Andre Johnson seems to have the perfect life, with a perfect home, perfect family, and perfect job. But one thing is constantly nagging him: he's the only black guy at work, the only black family in the neighborhood, and at times he feels like he is even the only black person in his entire family. Things only get worse when he gets a promotion at work, which seems fine, except it is as Senior Vice President of the Urban Division. At home, his oldest son Andre Jr. is now going by Andy... and wants to play field hockey instead of basketball, and is ready to have a Bar Mitzvah. The challenge for Andre is to figure out how to balance all of this against the culture that he grew up in.
I've always heard before that you can pigeonhole every series into just a few concepts, and while I've definitely seen exceptions to this rule, this isn't one. Once again, we've got a "fish out of water" sitcom about a black family moving to a predominantly white neighborhood. We've seen this before, most famously with The Jeffersons, and more recently with The Hughleys. The difference with this series is that it's taking that on with a single-camera approach and no laugh-track to go along with what happens.
There is a big difference with those previous shows, though. When The Jeffersons aired, the idea of a black family living in a wealthy white neighborhood was still a new idea, as nothing like it had certainly ever been seen on television, and some parts of the country were only decades away from that actually being illegal. The Hughleys came along and brought a few laughs to the concept, but it was only marginally successful (it did air for four seasons, but was canceled and moved to UPN after two on ABC).
Much like those previously mentioned series, the character of Andre is the husband who would like to live in the mostly white neighborhood while constantly reminding his family that they are black, while Rainbow is the wife who tries to maintain the sanity and just take race out of the picture. The kids seem to be living in a world that is more "white," which seems to infuriate Andre. One refreshing change, though, is the character of Pops, who is Andre's father and seems to not even care about the racial disparity, thinking that his son is a fool when he tries to create an African alternative for Andre Jr. to have instead of a Bar Mitzvah. Speaking of Pops, though, one thing that bothered me a bit was how there is only a nine year age difference between Anderson and Fishburne, and seeing them together on-screen does not make the most convincing father-son pairing. I do think Fishburne is perfect for the role, though, but the makeup department could make him look a bit older.
Of course, despite all of that, I can't be completely negative about the series. Besides Fishburne and Anderson, I felt that the show is very well cast. The family actually feels like a natural family, and the actors cast seem to be perfect for their roles. Additionally, I think that Andre's narration (along the lines of The Middle) adds a bit to the series, and the series certainly benefits from it. Otherwise, some of it would just seem outright offensive with no explanation. And there were some funny moments in the pilot, just perhaps not enough.
I feel that my expectations going into watching this were not exactly met after watching this. The clips from the promos for the series seem pretty good, but those small moments probably were some of the best moments from the pilot, unfortunately. But I can't say that I am giving up on this series just yet. Part of the problem--and this was something that critics brought up when the idea for the show was just being floated as words on paper--is that the premise of the show, particularly the focus on being the only black family in a mostly white neighborhood, is no longer the novelty that it once was. That doesn't mean that it can't be a part of the series, as such situations can create material for a sitcom even in the 2010s, but focusing on it for every episode really does not make a particularly entertaining series when it is set in the modern era. I'm hoping to see future episodes focus more on the family dynamics and getting to know the characters for who they are, not just focusing on the fact that the family is different from most of their neighbors. If the series can move a little more in that direction, I think that it has the potential to be another new Wednesday night hit for ABC... otherwise, it will be nothing more than a niche comedy that will be burning off episodes within a few months or just completely off the lineup.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):
Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, September 24 at 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.
Courtroom drama is no laughing matter... until now! USA Network's new original half hour comedy Benched now has a premiere date and will premiere Tuesday, October 28 at 10:30pm ET/PT immediately following USA's laugh-out-loud reality hit Chrisley Knows Best. Benched, starring Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings), is a single-camera comedy about a high-powered corporate lawyer's fall from grace into the rough-and-tumble world of the public defenders. Tuesday night brings laughter to USA Network, kicking off with a two-hour block of the Emmy Award winning Modern Family at 8pm ET/PT, followed by Chrisley Knows Best at 10pm ET/PT and culminating with Benched at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.
Benched from ABC Signature Studio, stars Coupe as Nina Whitley, a distinguished corporate lawyer who has given up everything in her climb to the top. However, when she's hit with her ex-fiancé's engagement announcement and learns that she hasn't made partner at her high power firm, Nina snaps -- breaking vases and burning bridges. Now that Nina is shunned from the corporate world, the only place she can get a job is at the Public Defender's office: home to the underfunded, understaffed, overworked, "if you can't afford a lawyer, one will be provided... " lawyers. In addition to her new clients, Nina must learn to connect with her co-workers, including the roguish Phil (Jay Harrington, Better Off Ted), the idealistic Carlos (Oscar Nunez, The Office), the useless empathetic Cheryl (Maria Bamford, Adventure Time) and the dedicated intern Micah (Jolene Purdy, Under the Dome). If that didn't sound tough enough for Nina, she'll also be going head-to-head with her ex-fiancé, Trent, (Carter MacIntyre, Drop Dead Diva) the rising star of the District Attorney's office. Joining the all-star comedic cast are previously announced guest stars Fred Melamed, Molly Shannon, Chris Parnell, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon, Erinn Hayes and Mechad Brooks.
New on DVD/Blu-ray (March/April)
03/03 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - Now... In Living Color! (Blu-ray)
03/07 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - Mama's Family - Mama's Favorites
03/07 - That '70s Show - The Complete Series - Flashback Edition (Blu-ray)
03/07 - What I Like About You - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - You Me Her - Season One
03/14 - Newhart - The Final (Eighth) Season
03/14 - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season Two
03/21 - Master of None - Season One
04/04 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season
04/11 - Father Knows Best - Season Five
04/11 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Third Season
04/11 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
04/11 - Veep - The Complete Fifth Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest
Sitcoms Airing Tonight
Wednesday, April 26
The Goldbergs - "Fonzie Scheme" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
When Murray is honored as one of Jenkintown’s top businessmen, his plaque is hung on a wall with all of the other honorees. And soon Beverly is dismayed to learn he has no discernable hobbies, and her attempts to help him find some backfire. Meanwhile, Barry creates a scheme stealing golf carts, but the situation goes awry and Erica comes to save the day.
Speechless - "R-U-N-- RUNAWAY" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Maya learns JJ attempted to run away, she is determined to help him complete the task as any able-bodied person could, but her actions exasperate JJ, as he longs for independence. Meanwhile, Jimmy struggles to have hard talks with the kids without Maya, and Dylan tries to get Kenneth to revive his glory days as a high school sports star.
black-ish - "Sister, Sister" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Bow’s sister comes to town after filming a stint on a reality show, and they couldn’t have less in common. Meanwhile, Zoey suggests that Dre spend more time with Junior since she’s leaving for college, and Jack and Diane decide to rebrand themselves.
black-ish - "All Groan Up" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Zoey gets into several colleges around the country, Dre and Bow begin to feel worried and sentimental. They reflect back on memories they’ve had with the family and wonder what life will be like without her around all the time. Pops enlists the twins to try and sway Zoey to go to college in a city they want to visit.
Nobodies - "Not the Emmys" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
It’s Award season! Larry, Rachel and Hugh are going to the Annies… while all their Groundlings friends are going to the Emmys.
Lopez - "No Country Club for Young Men" (TV Land, 10:30PM ET/PT)
George gets Hector a job at his country club, but he falls in with a bad crowd of rich kids. Olly's little sister rolls back into town while Manolo struggles to stay focused in his GED class.
Hollywood Darlings - "Driving Miss Jodie" (Pop, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Jodie must choose between a sports car and a minivan; Christine's dream of participating in an exclusive yoga class is thwarted by a loud-breathing celebrity classmate.
Return of the Mac - "The Wrong Stuff" (Pop, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Feeling threatened by newly appointed sidekick Joey Fatone, Joe heads to a comedy club to hone his comedy monologue skills.
Wednesday, April 26
- Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) - Watch Chris and the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
- America Ferrera (Superstore) - America is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
- Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) - Thomas visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
- Maria Bamford (Lady Dynamite) - Maria appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
- Henry Zebrowski (A to Z) - Henry is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
- John Leguizamo (The Brothers Garcia) - John guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
- Molly Ringwald (Townies/The Facts of Life) - Molly stops by LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
- Anna Chlumsky (Veep) - Anna stops by Harry, so check your local listings.
- Sherri Shepherd (Trial & Error/Less Than Perfect/Sherri) - Sherri talks about the disease she won’t let destroy her on The Dr. Oz Show, so check your loclal listings.
- Felicity Huffman (Sports Night) - Felicity makes pecan bars on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
- Morris Chestnut (Out All Night) - Morris is a guest on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
- Hank Azaria (Brockmire/The Simpsons/Free Agents) - Hank appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
- Jodie Sweetin (Fuller House/Full House) - Jodie is a guest on The Real, so check your local listings.