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Say hello to 'black-ish'

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Pilot” | Aired Sept 24, 2014

The premiere of black-ish felt a little like I was watching a taped conversation with my family. At first it was actually jarring, because, sadly, we don’t see enough of black families talking (for the most part) like actual black families on television. But you know what? I hope black-ish stays around for a long time.

The premiere episode introduced us to the Johnson family. Andre (Anthony Anderson) is the everyman of this story. Or, I guess, the everyblackman. Even though he considers his father, “Pops” Johnson (Laurence Fishburne), to be the dinosaur of the family, Andre is just as behind the times when it comes to race relations and how much things have changed for the younger generation. That younger generation is made up of his children—Zoey (Yara Shahidi), Andre Jr. (Marcus Scribner), Jack (Miles Brown), and Diane (Marsai Martin). Andre’s mixed/”omniracial” wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), is also much more easygoing in the race department than Andre; her background gives her a different perspective, not to mention the fact that she handles the racial encounters she deals with as a doctor with an “it is what it is” attitude.

Andre has to advance to the 21st century when a promotion at the advertising agency he works at comes up. He knows he’s up for the promotion, as does everyone else at the office (especially the few black people in the office’s employment). Because he’s a black man in contention for a position that would have normally been given to a white person, he feels like he’s representing all his other black colleagues in a very positive way. He’s breaking the glass ceiling, if you will. But what he doesn’t know is that the promotion he’s about to get is for the “Urban Division.” As any self-respecting black man probably would be, he’s pissed that he’s assigned to the “urban” position, since “urban” usually means “black.” And not regular “black,” but “stereotypical” black. Now not only does Andre have to deal with the “urban” title, but he has to deal with it while working with Josh, who is constantly offensive.

Andre feels that being appointed to the position is just another way to stereotype him; it sets him down a slippery slope toward a pity party. What makes it worse is realizing that Andre Jr. wants to play field hockey instead of basketball, wants to hang with his white friends, and would rather be called “Andy” than “Andre.” Andre Jr. wants to be seen as just one of the guys. Andre Sr., on the other hand, is afraid his son is reneging on his culture and heritage. In simpler terms, he’s afraid his son is acting white to fit in. Speaking from experience, wanting to forgo your culture just to fit into your mostly white school is a challenge a lot of minority kids have to deal with. I’ve totally gone to school with many Andys before. You’ve probably gone to school with many of them, too; you might not have realized it, though.

The icing on the cake is when his children, little Jack and Diane, in particular, don’t realize that Barack Obama is the first black U.S. president. Also, strangely enough, Andre is ticked off when Jack and Diane, who are so small and new to the world that they don’t talk in terms of race, describe one of their classmates—the only other black person in their class—by all of her weird attributes instead of by her race.

Having had enough of this newfangled way of living, Andre decides to demand that his family “keep it real,” as in, talk like his family did growing up. The young children are only to describe people by their race, a.k.a. “keepin’-it-real identifications.” Andre Jr., who wants to have a bar mitzvah like his friends, is forced, according to “keepin’-it-real” standards, to have a made-up African Rites of Passage Ceremony. And as for Andre’s first assignment as SVP of the Urban Division—a commercial for the firm’s L.A. tourism account—he decided to turn in a pitch that shows the complete worst, most racially divisive side of the city.

Rainbow tried to rein in Andre’s racially based spaz attack, particularly after the ill-advised African Rites of Passage Ceremony. But once she learns about Andre’s failed pitch and that he’s a stone’s throw away from getting fired, Rainbow snaps. She lays out the rather true point that Andre would be just as mad about getting passed over for a white person, and that he shouldn’t be angry about actually getting the promotion he wanted. As he’s licking his wounds, Andre realizes that his son, Andre Jr., might have taught him a little something about being a black man in today’s world without realizing it. As it turns out, Andre’s fears about his son were unfounded. Andre Jr. doesn’t want to eschew his whole identity; he just wants to be able to hang out with his friends and be on par with the jocks. As Andre Jr. says, he just wants to get his foot in the door.

Andre decides to keep his own foot in the door by turning in an appropriate and snazzy pitch for the L.A. tourism account. Andre’s boss never wanted him to be a caricature of himself; when he told Andre to “put [his] swag on it” and “keep it real,” what he meant was to “be smart, honest, and you.” And, as Andre discovers, “urban” doesn’t have to mean the stereotype it’s turned into. It can mean being “hip, cool, and colorful.”

And yes, Andre Jr. does get his bar mitzvah—in the form of a “Hip-Hop Bro Mitzvah.”

What did you think about the premiere of black-ish? Give me your opinions in the comments section below!

Black-ish airs Wednesdays at 9:30/8:30C on ABC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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