Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Black-ish: “Colored Commentary”

Illustration for article titled Black-ish: “Colored Commentary”
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.

In the spirit of December and all the upcoming year-end lists, I should say that, with only nine episodes, Black-ish has easily emerged as my favorite new sitcom of the television season (though both Cristela and Selfie put up an impressive fight) and is having one of the strongest sitcom debut seasons in recent years. I say this because it means I already have pretty high standards for each new episodes, because the series started on a high note with the pilot and then continued to impress in subsequent episodes. So “Colored Commentary” was a bit disappointing because I’d been expecting it to be great—as I always am—but it wasn’t bad, or boring, or unfunny. It was a little disjointed and average but not enough to shake my faith in the show at all.

The two main storylines in “Colored Commentary”—the older children babysitting the twins and Andre/Rainbow arguing over him throwing her under the bus in public—don’t really work well together even when they are explicitly overlapping. It all feels a little haphazard and thrown together, and neither have much to do with the running theme of Andre wanting some family togetherness. In fact, that doesn’t really come into play except in the cold open, when they all run away from the games, and the end tag, when we all get the wonderful pleasure of watching Tracee Ellis Ross kill it at karaoke.

What the episode does focus on is Jack’s baseball game where Bow believes the announcer is saying some subtly racist shit: comparing him to a panther, declaring him a natural athlete. The (white) mothers stare at Bow like she’s crazy and even Andre, who you’d expect to jump at the chance to make a huge display about racism, disagrees with Bow’s perception. It’s not a race thing, Andre says, but a sports thing. This was definitely the most interesting aspect of the episode and very true to life. See, the thing about being black—or any minority, I suppose—and constantly surrounded by racism is that it can make you feel paranoid. People will tell you that something they deem innocent—a watermelon joke, a blackface sketch, a distinct lack of minorities on a television program, or, in Black-ish’s case, a questionable statement—isn’t at all racist and that you’re just being paranoid or oversensitive, or you’re just looking for a reason to play the race card. It can make you question yourself: Maybe I am being paranoid; maybe this joke really is more funny than offensive; maybe I should keep my mouth shut and accept this. In “Colored Commentary,” it’s even worse: It’s not a random white person but Andre, Bow’s husband, who is telling her that she’s reading too much into this, that she’s finding racism where there is none. And what’s more, he’s doing so publicly, in front of the aforementioned group of white women, and essentially shutting her down and throwing her under the bus, leading to her feeling unsupported and embarrassed.

This all leads to Andre needing Bow to attend a function with him and she agrees, after telling him that he can’t ever correct her like that again in public. So at the party, she makes a mistake (confusing Matisse and Magritte) and Andre internally agonizes about what to do but eventually lets it slide. When he tells her later, she’s understandably upset—this time he just let her make a fool out of herself. This culminates in another predictable scene in which Andre uses the baseball field’s loudspeaker to angrily call out the announcer’s possibly-racist remarks but then turns it off and admits he’s just doing it to make things better with Bow. Except, of course, he doesn’t actually turn it off because hey, it’s a sitcom!

Meanwhile, the older siblings are tasked with babysitting Jack and Diane and things obviously go awry when the twins sled down the staircase and smash up the wall. There are a few cute, funny gags happening—there always are with these child actors—like the montage of them sledding, the way they band to lie to their parents (oversold it with the broccoli), how Diane quickly sells out her siblings for some ice cream, and how they all keep calling her a snitch afterward. Still, it didn’t totally work for me. It was funny enough, sure, and I liked the direction the episode took but it still felt scattershot. Most of the episode felt scattered, but there was still enough good happening to keep it from losing me.

Stray observations:

  • As someone who briefly had a dent in my forehead from laundry basket sledding down the stairs and plowing headfirst into a hot radiator, I wish someone had at least put me in a helmet.
  • “Sadly, I won’t be playing my race card today.”
  • Anthony Anderson throwing the doll down the stairs as he attempts to uncover the truth was a great moment.