Lynn Elber is an AP TV writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A surprise awaited “black” creator Kenya Boris and his family during a visit in 2016 to the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington: an exhibition of the series was on display.
“I was very, very emotional,” seeing the pride, Boris said. Earlier this month, he returned to the Smithsonian Museum to salute the “black” as his eight-season cycle drew to a close.
“It was just surreal. The Smithsonian, as a brand, is tied to things that continue, that are part of what is the core DNA of this world. For me, it meant a lot to put our show in it, ”he said.
Sitcoms, especially family ones, are more often remembered by viewers than museums. Shows like “The Brady Bunch,” “Good Times,” and “Full House” were part of the audience’s maturation, and the show and their characters were loved much more than their original shows.
Talk to fans of “Black” and the same seems likely for the series, which airs at 9pm on EDT on Tuesday (midnight on EDT on Hulu) and then “Black-ish: A Celebration” from ABC News of ABC. The series was a rarity of network television: a depiction of a thriving, cohesive family of color, the Johnsons, with black creators creating their own stories.
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“I remember when it first came out, I was worried that it would be either serious and scary, or really sad and comical,” viewer Onage Harper said, drawing on stereotypical characters who may or may not exist in life. The pandemic has turned it into a transformation that is eager to watch, reflecting on the internet that the show is not “real”.
“For them, it’s not real, but it’s my daily routine,” said Harper, an educator who became a Dallas businessman, the grandson and son of black professionals. He remembers feeling the same about criticizing the Cosby Show, a television coverage of a wealthy 20th-century African-American family.
But “black-ish” has a distinctly multi-layered view of race, starting with a title that reflects Andre’s father Dre Johnson’s fear that wealth separates his children from their ethnic identity. He is also more harsh about racial relations, Harper said.
He referred to an episode in which Dr. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson, played by Tracy Alice Ross, provides support from parents and volunteers to raise money for a private school. One of the white parents offers her help, which in the show is reinterpreted as a code: “I think you’re going to fail and you’re on your head,” as Harper recalled the scene.
“I died laughing because my daughter’s parents at school are weird, but we often leave this place with the thought, ‘Oh my God, I hope our daughter likes it, at least,'” Harper said.
Jerry McCormick grew up, among others, watching Bob Newhart’s sitcoms and “Good Times” in the 1970s and 80s. He compared “black” to another comedy of the time.
“We’ve never seen wealthy black people on television, except for the Jeffersons,” said McCormick of San Diego, a communications and instructor in journalism. “I grew up in South Carolina, and it helped because it was willing.”
He believes that “black” is similar to “Jefferson’s grandson” and a child from “Cosby Show”. You have Dre and Bow, a couple who really care about each other. They are raising their children. They run the house. Children do not overtake them. “
Ladina Brown, a fraud investigator from New York, said she likes “reality. It’s all funny because a lot of them are true.” She referred to her favorite episode, which was about color – discrimination in the ethnic community of people with dark skin.
“It responded to me because my kids look like different colors of the rainbow, different complexions and the same with my family,” she said. “I really understood when they talked about how people in the African American race are treated differently.”
Her daughter, 19-year-old Emily Johnson, welcomed the fact that the show addresses important and common issues that are part of black life but are largely ignored on screen. One example: a teenager is hesitant about whether to continue to straighten his hair or go natural.
“When I was younger, I really didn’t like my hair because I felt it was hard to manage and I didn’t like the way it looked,” Johnson said. “But over time, I appreciated my hair, and when I watched the episode, I enjoyed it when (they) talked about everything black people’s hair can do.”
“Black-ish” has also become a tool for sober, subtle chapters on racism, police violence and, in a major episode of 2018, the influence of Donald Trump’s presidency. (The episode, postponed by ABC, was released two years later on Hulu.).
The goal is to “tell stories that are about something, to tell stories that make sense, that are actually trying to say something. It was something that television has been talking about for a long time, ”Boris said, whether it was his father’s moral sermons in“ Leave It to Beaver ”or Norman Lear’s social satire“ Everyone in the Family ”and“ Maud ”.
While “Black-ish” dealt with painful problems, he never succumbed to laughter in his more than 170 episodes, said Courtney Lily, a series writer from the first season who became an executive producer and his showrunner.
“Obviously, there were episodes when we made sure we approached the issues. But even in this we were relevant and funny, ”Lily said.
The series received the prestigious Peabody Award and other awards – including several NAACP Image Awards for Anderson, Ross, Deon Cole and young actor Marsai Martin – but the highest Emmy Awards remained out of reach.
Asked about the show’s legacy, Boris points out that it focuses on those who feel inconspicuous in the world, regardless of their ethnicity, and how “blacks” sought to break up divisions.
“It is often considered rude to talk about certain topics that make people feel uncomfortable. We did it in the comfort of their homes, “he said.” I think it made people feel a little closer to people they may not have been close to before. “
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