Like Lieutenant Dan, ABC's Black-ish found some legs to stand on last night.
Last week's pilot made me nervous. I wondered: Will this series be one episode after another of stereotype bingo? How much more luscious can Rainbow's WonderFro get? Will Zoey, the oldest daughter, say more than four words at once?
After viewing the pilot, one of my hopes for the show was that every episode wouldn't center on Dre's hair-brained schemes for the family to out-Black themselves each week. They're not leaping through hoops to eat Black Breakfast, Walk Down The Stairs Like Black People, and tackle Unsolved Black Mysteries nonstop for 21 minutes. While the pilot's heavy-handed (disarming) exposition was off-putting to some, episode two was a showing of the potential we all pointed to last week.
Last night, all of my doubts faded as I connected with each member of the Johnson clan.
I laughed many a hearty laugh while watching Dre and Rainbow's awkward attempts to bridge the parent-teenager gap. Rainbow's progress down the yellow brick road to Cool Momhood was repeatedly derailed by untimely crack-ish self-congratulatory stupors that thwarted her hopes at being her daughter's confidante.
Meanwhile, Dre walks in on his teenage son getting touchy-feely with himself. The resulting sex talks crash and burn after being mauled by uncorked freak nasty teenage curiosity. I don't know which of them was more mortified, but I felt Dre Jr here. At thirteen, I, too, was Hornball Numero Uno. A gust of wind? HOT NOW light on at Krispy Kreme? Boing.
But, unlike Dre Jr, I didn't run to my parents for answers. I learned about the birds and the bees from Tiger Tyson and the cast of Aprende, but that's a whole different conversation.
The littlest family members, twins Jack and Diane learn that big brother Dre's getting "the talk," and figure that they, too, need this talk, despite having no idea what this talk entails. Adorableness ensues, and I'm damn glad that they don't fit into the "fucking obnoxious younger sitcom sibling" box, because Lil Nicky Banks, Cindy Brady, Michelle Tanner (both of them), and Judy Winslow were all fucking insufferable.
The twins and their grown ass names are great. Jack and Diane are witty, smarter than the cast of [insert Bravo reality show], and have great timing. They carry scenes together with ease, and play very well off of one another. They are my 40 acres and a mule for enduring eight season of Vanessa Huxtable The Terrible.
Tracee Ellis Ross is a goddess. I was waiting to see her be her glorious, goofy, gorgeous self. I'm glad I get to see her be zany and fly every Wednesday night.
I can't wait to learn more about Pops. What's his backstory? Someone that wise has surely seen some shit in their day. If black-ish were on cable TV and Pops could cuss, I'm sure I'd only love him more. Because who doesn't love vulgar older people?
Overall, it has been truly tickling to watch shocked and awed writers spend 1000 words marveling over how normal and relatable this family is. Yes, we eat oatmeal in the morning and have hairy backs, too. Many of us do in fact know our fathers and we don't all speak with rap hands. This is not revolutionary.
While other viewers may feel bamboozled by the perceived bait-and-switch—a softening of the initial promises of in-your-face "race-themed" content—I find the direction of the show encouraging. And, with the news of Jenifer Lewis' addition to the cast as Anthony's presumably loud ass mother, I definitely plan to keep watching.