It’s rare to find a good TV show nowadays so when I do I appreciate the hell out of it. What’s even more rare is to find a TV show that remains culturally relevant and touches on sensitive topics while remaining light-hearted and politically neutral. Black-ish is THAT show. Since 2014 the show has been delivering content that almost always perfectly aligns with the cultural conversation of the day. They cover everything from corporal punishment to police brutality to the use of the N- word. Here are a few of my favorite episodes (ranked):
#4 - Crime and Punishment
Season 1 - Episode 5
In my opinion, this is the episode when Blackish turns from the same conversation of “are we black enough?” and touches on other angsts that come with family life. “Crime and Punishment” starts with a rebellious little Jack and his worrisome mother who loses him in the mall. A security guard finds him hiding and Bow rightly threatens him “when we get home, your father is going to spank you”. The rest of the episode follows Dre’s uneasiness with the task Bow so graciously assigned him. What I love about this episode is how common this conversation is and how it often ends with the same moral. Any parent saying they are “disappointed” with you hits harder than any belt.
#3 - Lemons
Season 3 - Episode 12
Blackish tackles another familiar conversation, but this time a conversation that’s been held on a national scale. This episode follows the anxiety, outrage and disappointment following the results of Trump’s election and premieres just one week before Trump’s actual inauguration. Each Johnson family member handles the disappointment differently but each approach seems to resonate with the country’s actual differing reactions. Junior chooses to educate himself more, Bow decides to push her daughter to become more socially active, Dre remains silently outraged during political conversations at work and Zoey-she makes lemonade. Like most Black-ish episodes, Dre ends with a tear-jerking monologue - this one in particular is his response to his Boss’ suggestion that Dre doesn’t care about what’s happening in the country.“I love this country even though at times it doesn’t love me back. For my whole life my parents, my grandparents, me, for most black people, this system has never worked for us.” and continues “I’m used to things not going my way. I’m sorry that you’re not and it’s blowing your mind, so excuse me if I get a little offended because I didn’t see all of this outrage when everything was happening to all of my people since we were stuffed on boats in chains.” Mic.Drop.
#2 - THE Word
Season 2 - Episode 1
Little Jack forces us to explore another tricky subject in “THE word”. After Jack drops the N-bomb performing the classic “Gold Digger” by Kanye West, he is immediately expelled for “hate speech”. Dre and Bow (who ironically proposed the zero-tolerance policy for hate speech in school) argue that Jack can get away with it because, well- he’s black but the question arises- should the word ever be used? Bo calls it a disgusting word, Pops uses it to differentiate himself from the rest of (as he says) “you n-s” and Dre’s black colleagues explain systematically who is and who is not qualified to use THE word. This subject has been up for debate since the “repurposing” of the word but Dre ends with this “This country has been schizophrenic about what to call black people for two centuries and the last person that should be held accountable for it is an 8 year old boy who doesn’t have an ounce of hate in his heart” well said, Dre, well said.
#1 - Hope
Season 2 - Episode 16
This episode most showcases Black-ish writers ability and agility with keeping up with conversations of the day. “Hope” was first aired February of 2016 while the conversation of police brutality highly prevalent on the news, in classrooms and - as depicted in Blackish - in family living rooms as well. The episode is isolated in the Johnson’s living room while their TV is blasting upsetting news of yet another case of an unarmed black man’s murder and no indictment against the cop. As the Johnson family listens they discuss their stances and anxieties on the matter. What I love is that each character assumes a different perspective on the issue- reflecting the reality of how this conversation looks across the nation. Bow takes a more hopeful stance and shows sympathy for police that “are just doing their job”, Dre (like most of us) is angry that this is happening again, their son, Junior takes a more educated, statistical approach and Zoey seems indifferent. All of their cases are presented as valid but also refutable by the opposing, the conversation toggles from one viewpoint to another but in the end they all agree that “something’s got to change”.