Anthony Anderson

Here’s a tricky parenting situation: How do you balance the desire to give your child everything with the fear that they’ll become ungrateful and spoiled? Andre and Bow, well especially Andre, are torn because they are in a position where they have the opportunity to give their children everything that they didn’t have growing up (again, especially Andre, who grew up with a fridge only full of bologna, ketchup, and baking soda)—which is every parents’ dream (and, according to Bow, also Dr. King’s dream). But at the same time, they know that they can’t give their children too much or else they will become the sort of insufferable children who treat ice cream trucks like music video props and who make it rain while “It’s All About The Benjamins” plays. (Which is maybe my favorite music cue in this series so far and it’s a tough race.) ”The Gift of Hunger” is about trying to achieve this balance.

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When the family goes out to a steak dinner at the “Beef Plantation,” a restaurant where you can get pay-what-you-weigh steak (this sounds beautiful) and the kids are disappointed in the buffet offerings, Andre begins to realize that his children might be spoiled. After ”the day I realized my family kind of sucks,” Andre makes the decision to be harsher with his family, reducing the food options in the fridge so they can “learn to live with less” and—worst of all!—making his children get jobs.

The children (mostly) fare alright at their respective jobs. Zoey and Dre both work with their father at his advertising job. It turns out Zoey’s is pretty savvy on YouTube (which is a job now) with her makeup tutorials and Andre suggests she try to go legit with it and make a profit by pitching three ideas to his company. Zoey does so, showing her enthusiasm for the whole thing, but Andre bulldozes over her ideas with his own bizarre presentation—once again showcasing his overbearing personality. Dre is also having problems at work: He can’t even get a simple coffee order right but when he finally does and smacks into the glass wall, it is a hilarious and golden piece of physical comedy. Meanwhile, the twins are relegated to a lemonade stand—as Andre puts it, “Child labor laws forced them into selling unregulated beverages on the street”—with Bow and are doing pretty well for themselves, even showing off their business acumen.

One of the most compelling aspects of ”The Gift of Hunger” is the interesting way in which it adds some extra depth and development to Rainbow. As I’ve praised before, Black-ish does great things with Bow in that it allows her to have her own life and storylines. In this episode, she shows two sides of herself: First, the materialistic and proud part of herself that causes her to be overly concerned about her appearance to her neighbor Janine and second, the obsessive and go-all-in personality aspect that we have previously only seen in her husband Andre.

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When the twins go straight to begging (“In our defense, we complained first.”) for food from Janine, Bow is mortified. She’s worked hard for her achievements and to get to the place that she is—financially and professionally—and wants others to see her that way. On the one hand, it’s perhaps not the best look (and doesn’t make her the best role model) but on the other hand, she’s worked her ass off and deserves to show it off. The escalating misunderstandings are hokey but funny—the children begging, Bow at a lemonade stand (and taking ”church meat”), holding a rake in front of a pick-up truck—but what I most enjoyed is seeing Bow go all out to prove otherwise. It’s usually Andre who is doing utterly obsessive and ridiculous things but this time it’s Bow, in that amazing end tag, who hilariously steals an unfathomably expensive car and talks about her diamonds, ultimately showing that she can just as easily fall prey to the all-consuming and over-the-top side of her personality, just as her husband does.

Keeping up the nice pattern that Black-ish has been on, “The Gift of Hunger” takes a familiar storyline (a parent forcing his child/ren to get their first official job) and admirably adds a personal twist that accurately reflects the show’s style and tone. It’s been both surprising and impressing me week after week, and I have a feeling it’s only going to keep getting better.

Stray observations:

  • “He rarely takes cash out of my wallet. Why? Because I give it to him.”
  • “This food makes me sad.”
  • And my favorite delivery of the night: “I’m about to make it rain in the comic book store.”
  • Black-ish can be hit or miss with its fantasy sequences but the ice cream one was so, so good.
  • Still no Pops this week.

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