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5 reasons 'black-ish' is the sitcom we've needed

ABC’s new hit show black-ish is one of my favorite shows of the season! It’s one of the best comedies of the fall, but it’s so much more than “just” a comedy. If you aren’t watching black-ish yet, here are five big reasons why you should start now.

1. A flashback to ’80s and ’90s family sitcoms: Remember when TGIF was not just a saying, but an actual programming block featuring tons of family sitcoms? What a happier time that was. Back in the day, a family sitcom was a primetime experience. Everyone wanted to see how the family would work out the latest issue. The problems were always something every family could relate to, like if the parents would remember their anniversary or if the siblings would finally get along.

black-ish-dinner-tableBut once the 21st century rolled around, the fun of the family sitcom fell out of vogue in favor of reality shows. Modern Family kept the primetime family sitcom aspect alive, but it is also filmed in a reality show/documentary style, and one of the best parts of the sitcoms of old was that the characters were never aware of the camera. Thankfully, black-ish is taking it back old-school, not only with relatable, TGIF-esque plots, but with the charm of an intact fourth wall. (Also taking it back old-school: The Goldbergs and The Middle.)

2. Representation of black experiences: The Goldbergs and Modern Family are two shows that showcase hilarious and entertaining families, but the last time I remember watching a sitcom specifically about a black family was in the late ’90s, with Moesha. Other shows like Sister, Sister, The Cosby Show, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Parent ‘Hood and several other shows about black families populated the airwaves in the ’80s and ’90s, but it would seem that after the year 2000, nearly all representation of black families ceased to exist. The service that these shows gave—taking the black experience out of the realm of stereotypes and humanizing it—was hampered.

Black-ish certainly is a throwback to a time when family sitcoms were popular, but it’s also a fantastic way to introduce viewers to certain aspects of the black experience, such as being the only black person in a mostly white office space or school setting (and how irritating that can be at times). It reminds us as viewers how we can learn more about society (and ourselves) from different representations of family in the media.

black-ish-pops3. Laurence Fishburne as Pops: Laurence Fishburne is one of Hollywood’s most respected veteran actors. He crossed paths with the legendary gentleman cannibal in Hannibal. He worked with Superman in Man of Steel. He played civil rights champion Justice Thurgood Marshall. He was even made Shakespeare cool by playing Othello. Also, let us not forget that Fishburne was Morpheus in The Matrix.

With that astounding resume, it’s so cool to see him on black-ish playing a character that could be considered atypical for someone as suave as him: a crotchety old dad who’s not used to his son’s newfangled ways of parenting. But what’s great about Fishburne is that he can make any character relatable. Whereas a character like Pops could be played strictly for laughs, Fishburne uses Pops to show not just a generational divide between the old and the young, but a divide in philosophies as to what constitutes a black man.

Pops, who was a young man in the ’60s and ’70s, certainly has a different definition of manhood. Those were tougher times for everyone, but especially if you were a black man finding your place within the civil rights and Black Power movements. But Pops seems to recognize that because of his struggles, Andre and his family can afford to live in a much more emotionally relaxed way and explore individuality—something that might not have been afforded to Pops as a young man. Instead of playing this overtly, Fishburne plays it as an intrinsic part of Pops’ characterization.

4. Marcus Scribner as Andre Jr.: If there’s one thing great about watching a show with new talent, it’s seeing that new talent thrive onscreen and find their voices. To be fair, all of the child actors on black-ish are superb. But there is a special comedic force to Marcus Scribner, who plays Andre Jr. Scribner plays Andre Jr.’s awkwardness and 21st century-isms spectacularly. To reiterate what was said about Fishburne, Scribner makes Andre Jr. completely relatable.

black-ish-Andre-JrEveryone knows an Andre Jr.—that kid who loves geeky stuff and atypical hobbies like Pilates. For me, Andre Jr. is like my younger brother, who is also a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings and classical music. Andre Jr., like my brother, is attempting to navigate high school while eschewing the societal pressures placed on him because he’s a black male (for instance, neither Andre Jr. nor my brother plays basketball, even though the stereotype is that black males are supposed to be great at it).  Andre Jr., a student at a mostly white school, is also like me, who also went to a mostly white school and had to deal with overt and discreet discrimination. Andre Jr. is at the crossroads of “affirmative action” and “post-racial,” and his struggles to find his place within the middle is something black-ish should explore more often.

5. The show’s name: It’s interesting to read that some people have had trouble with black-ish as a show name. But I believe the show’s name has merit. The name is asking, in a cheeky way, “What does it mean to be black in America today?” With so much that has happened in America’s history (civil rights advancements, multiculturalism taking root), and with so much still happening (e.g., Ferguson, the Venus Hottentot-esque obsession with black women’s butts), we are at a point in time in which the common conception of “being black” doesn’t mean what it used to. We needed a show to represent what it means to be considered black in the 21st century. Black-ish answered that call.

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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