CRUSHING ON: THE CHILDREN OF BLACK-ISH

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MARCUS SCRIBNER, TRACEE ELLIS ROSS, MARSAI MARTIN, ANTHONY ANDERSON, MILES BROWN, LAURENCE FISHBURNE, YARA SHAHIDI

SPOILER ALERT—Black-ish is actually very funny. At the center of the ABC comedy’s hilarity are the children.

If you’re anything like me, you might have tuned into the Wednesday night sitcom a little past it’s debut and found yourself pleasantly surprised. When I first heard ABC—the network constantly striving to promote diversity—had plans to premiere a show called Black-ish, I scoffed and expected the worst. I imagined a gimmicky show driving the nail into an overly stereotyped concept. What I didn’t expect was an unembellished show full of laughs every ten seconds.

Black-ish stars Anthony Anderson as the patriarch of a black family living in suburbia. Along with his wife (Tracee Ellis Ross) and his live-in and slightly meddling father (Laurence Fishburne), Anderson’s character Dre instills everyday values into his four children – Zoey, Andre and twins Jack and Diane (yes, that is a John Cougar Mellencamp ditty pun). Every character has their strengths and minimal weaknesses, but the standouts in Black-ish are by far the children. It’s easy to make the lazy comparison to the youngsters of The Cosby Show, which is fair and quite accurate, but the children fall into the sitcom spectrum of many of our favorite household comedies from Leave it to Beaver to Modern Family.

Like many of those family sitcoms, the children of Black-ish tackle a barrage of conventional issues but with more of an evolved humor. If you grew up with siblings, you’d appreciate the comical camaraderie between these brothers and sisters. In episode 5, “Crime and Punishment,” Dre is faced with the social debate of whether or not he should spank his children. The drollery is centered on the kid’s reactions and how they band together to keep one of them from falling victim to dad’s belt. Though the subject is taboo, the point-of-view writing of this episode in particular reminds us that these are some of the issues every family deals with behind closed doors. And it is the children’s take on the matter that sparks the humor and reminds us that we don’t always have to take life too seriously.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a long and fruitful series run so I can watch these kids grow up and continue to see what they have in store.

Let’s meet the kids:

ZOEY
YARI BLACKISH

Yara Shahidi portrays the sassy eldest child of the Johnson clan. When she’s not exuding her teenage angst and taking it out on her mother, she’s forever finding ways to maintain her nosebleed position on the popularity hierarchy at school. Shahidi made her feature debut (and only her second credit) opposite Eddie Murphy in the less than stellar fantasy-comedy Imagine That. But her memorable role as Murphy’s daughter placed her in the sights of Hollywood casting agents and led her to many other opportunities, including the part of young Olivia in ABC’s Scandal.

ANDRE
Marcus Scribner

Marcus Scribner’s character Andre (or Junior) and his relationship with his father draws a good majority of the cackles. Andre and his Dre couldn’t be any more different. Dre is forever down the cause—the only time Black-ish lives up the expectancy of its name—and Andre is as ‘whitebread’ as they come. For example, in the pilot Andre Jr. reveals he wants a bar mitzvah on his 13th birthday. One of the finer father & son interactive moments occur in “The Nod,” where Dre tries to instill in Andre Jr. the importance of going out of your way to always nod at a person of color. I found this especially funny, because I often find myself nodding to another person of color even if we’re on opposite sides of Sunset Blvd.

JACK & DIANE
JACK & DIANE

These twins, played by Miles Brown and Marsai Martin, may be the youngest members of the cast, but their comedic timing is snappy and never misses a beat. Jack and Diane are two old souls, yet their characters remain childlike, refraining from the exhausting recent television trend of kid characters outpacing their parents in the intelligence department. With her black-rimmed spectacles, Diane is the brainiac of the bunch. She believes herself superior to twin brother Jack simply because she came into this world a minute ahead of him. In Jack’s eyes, his father is the cream of the crop. He agrees with everything Dre says, often sounding like a parrot. The multi-talented Brown is also known for his pop-locking prowess, which has yet to fully reveal itself in his character of Jack. Watch below as he shows off his hip-hop moves during his appearance on Ellen in 2009.

You can catch Black-ish on ABC Wednesdays at 9:30 eastern/pacific.

 

Christopher McDonald is a Senior Producer, Writer, Music Producer, Talent Booker and Photographer. He has produced and written for an array of programming including late-night television, cable news & editorial interviews. Having worked at CNN and PBS, Christopher is experienced in both live and taped formats and has 15 years continuous experience in the fast-paced ever-changing medium of television.Chris helped launch “Tavis Smiley” and “The Arsenio Hall Show” rebooting from the ground up. If you ever need to talk music and lyrical meaning with anyone, Christopher’s your guy. And whether he’s wearing loafers, Oxfords, clogs or sneakers, he’ll pull off the best moonwalk you will ever see.

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