Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ABC Fall Pilot Review: black-ish - Premieres September 24; USA Network Schedules New Comedy Benched for Oct. 28

black-ish
black-ish - Wednesdays at 9:30PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 9:30PM ET/PT


by Skees

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.

Cast Details:

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.
 
Yara Shahidi (Zoey Johnson) is a relative newcomer to the small screen, but she previously appeared in the syndicated sitcom The First Family. She has had guest appearances in series such as The Wizards of Waverly Place, Family Guy, and Cold Case.
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 Plot:

"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.


Analysis:

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.

Conclusion:

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):

Watchability: 3/5
Funniness: 2/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, September 24 at 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:


  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • black-ish Photo Gallery

    Preview:




  • Benched

    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.


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Sunday, March 29

    Last Man Standing - "Break Out the Campaign" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Vanessa turns to Mike and Carol for advice on her State Assembly campaign; Kyle is overcome with anxiety when Ed gifts him an expensive watch.

    Outmatched - "Royal Rumble" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    When Mike and Kay get caught in a lie about Leila's birthdate, they throw her a party with a theme of her choice; Brian, Nicole and Marc struggle with the news that Rita and Irwin would be their guardians if something happens to Mike and Kay.

    The Simpsons - "Screenless" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    When Marge implements a screen time limit for the whole family, she realizes that she is the one addicted -- not her husband and children.

    Duncanville - "Pilot" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Annie worries about her very average teenage son.

    Bob's Burgers - "A Fish Called Tina" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    Tina goes too far trying to be a perfect mentor; Bob and Linda test out the gym next door.

    Family Guy - "Peter & Lois' Wedding" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
    The Wi-Fi goes out in the Griffin house, leaving the family with nothing to do for the evening; Peter and Lois decide to tell the kids the story of how they met and fell in love in the '90s.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 23)

    Friday, March 27

    • Tina Fey (30 Rock) - Watch Tina on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
    • Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show/My Boys/Welcome to New York) - Jim is a guest on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Glenn Howerton (A.P. Bio/The Mindy Project/That '80s Show) - Glenn appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • John Krasinski (The Office) - John is a guest on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Garcelle Beauvais (The Jamie Foxx Show) - Garcelle visits The Real, so check your local listings.
    • Amy Poehler (Bless the Harts/Parks and Recreation) - Amy appears on a repeat of The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
    • Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) - Nick talks about Devs on Couch Surfing at 8am.
    • Christopher Knight (The Brady Bunch) - Christopher is a guest on a repeat of The Doctors, so check your local listings.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (January/February/March)

    My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume One Martin - The Complete Series Step by Step - The Complete Sixth Season Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - The Complete Series

    01/02 - My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume One
    01/02 - My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume Two
    01/14 - Veep - The Final (Seventh) Season (Blu-ray)
    01/14 - Veep - The Complete Series (DVD)
    01/21 - Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete Third Season (WBShop.com)
    01/21 - The Mindy Project - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    01/28 - Ballers - The Complete Fifth and Final Season
    01/28 - Ballers - The Complete Series
    01/28 - The Mindy Project - The Complete Series (DVD)
    02/04 - Martin - The Complete Series
    02/11 - Step by Step - The Complete Sixth Season (WBShop.com)
    02/18 - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    02/25 - Better Things - The Complete Third Season
    03/17 - Crashing - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

    03/28 - SitcomsOnline Digest: One Day at a Time a Hit in Ratings; Late Night Talk Set to Return Next Week
    03/27 - Fri-Yay: Review of One Day at a Time Season 4 Premiere; NBC Sets Will & Grace Finale Night and Special I Love Lucy Episode
    03/26 - CBS Slates Primetime Special from Home with James Corden; Fox Announces Living Room Concert for America
    03/25 - Antenna TV Schedule Change on March 30, Doubling Up Comedies; Millionaire 20th Anniversary Premiere Celebs
    03/24 - ABC Giving A Modern Farewell to Series; Samantha Bee Returns from Home on Wednesday
    03/23 - Bounce Sitcom Returns April 1, No Foolin'; Never Have I Ever Gets Netflix Premiere Date
    03/22 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 23, 2020)
    03/21 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Netflix and Hulu to Share Rights to Community; Preview of New Netflix Series Never Have I Ever
    03/20 - Fri-Yay: Best Sitcom Episodes for Coronavirus Isolation; Antenna TV Weekend Binge Marathons for Tough Times
    03/19 - Conan Returns March 30 via iPhone Video; Showtime Alters Schedule for Black Monday
    03/18 - Billboard Music Awards Postponed on NBC; Acorn TV Extends Free 30-Day Trial
    03/17 - Network Upfronts Canceled But Will Go on Digitally
    03/16 - Hallmark Slots More Golden Girls, Frasier; Primetime Schedule Changes Due to Coronavirus
    03/15 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 16, 2020)
    03/14 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Shout! Factory Acquires Broadcasting and Streaming Rights to Stephen J. Cannell Library; Schitt's Creek Plans for Series Finale
    03/13 - Fri-Yay: One Day at a Time Moves to Pop TV and Takes Jab at Former Home; Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt's Creek Farewell
    03/12 - Quibi Announces Fire Island Sitcom; ABC Picks Up 4th Season of Red Hot Drama
    03/11 - Apple TV+ Animated Comedy Premieres May 29; Brooke Burns Returns to GSN to Host Game Show
    03/10 - Netflix's Lost in Space Gets Final Season; Remembering Sitcom Writer Earl Pomerantz
    03/09 - Hulu Gears Up for Comedy Premieres in May; Quibi Programming Slate for April 6 Launch
    03/08 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 9, 2020)
    03/07 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Kids in the Hall Returning for New Episodes; Pop TV Cancels Florida Girls and Other Originals
    03/06 - DuckTales Returns with New Season and Cross-Overs with Disney Shows; Isla Fisher Joins CBS All Access Comedy
    03/05 - The CW Spring and Summer 2020 Schedule; Kim Fields Joins Netflix Sitcom
    03/04 - Hulu's Future Man Returns for Final Season; NBC Escapes with Celebrities
    03/03 - Just Roll With It Brings Out the Guest Stars; Quibi Announces Comedy Talk Series
    03/02 - Courteney Cox Nabs Starz Horror Comedy; Superstore Losing Series Star
    03/01 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 2, 2020)
    02/29 - SitcomsOnline Digest: America Ferrera Leaving Superstore; NBC Renews Several Dramas for Three Seasons
    02/28 - Fri-Yay: How Much Do Live Ratings Still Mean?; Disney+ Gets Proud Family Revival Series