Black-ish‘s ninth episode, “Colored Commentary,” was a pretty funny episode, which is all I’m looking for out of the show at this point.
Despite receiving a million less viewers than the last new episode, perhaps due to the rerun over Thanksgiving, the somewhat bland premise on paper was executed quite well. This might be in part due to an experienced writer, Yvette Lee Bowser, who has written for some of the who’s who of black sitcoms including Hanging with Mr. Cooper, Living Single, and A Different World.
We start off seeing Dre (Anthony Anderson) trying to initiate a family game night with absolutely no interest from the kids, prompting him to make everyone attend Jack’s (Miles Brown) baseball game. Unlike some of Black-ish’s previous episodes like “Oedipal Triangle” which dwells on the initial premise for far too long, this episode starts with a racial focus and expands out to some universal problems. Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) picks a fight with Dre for not backing her up on what she describes as “coded language” from the announcer about Jack’s race influencing his performance, and extends to Bow demanding Dre publicly support her even if she is wrong. The show makes good use of a cutaway shot to Dre getting ready to use his race card like a villain about to push a bomb detonator, but him deciding it’s not the right time.
Dre further embarrasses Bow at an art gallery event where he lets her pontificate about the wrong artist to a bunch of art snobs. While I generally don’t like Dre’s voice-overs, in this case hearing his thought process for deciding whether or not to interrupt her is pretty funny and serves to show how long Bow has been talking. My biggest gripe about this whole plot-line is that the show falls too far into caricatured sitcom gender dynamics that stretches the believability of the whole story.
When Bow tells Dre to use his judgment when standing up for her in public he responds with, “So you want me to act like you’re right, even when you’re wrong?” Geez, despite being a hotshot ad executive, Dre has the common sense of a 4-year-old and one could make a case that Bow’s female unreasonableness gets played up this episode, too. I’m sorry to keep bringing Modern Family into my reviews, but it’s the de facto standard bearer for the family sitcom. The dad on that show, Phil Dunphy, is eccentric and weird, but he at least seems grounded enough to follow his wife’s train of thought most of the time – even if he ends up putting a weird spin on things.
While Bow is embarrassing herself at the art gallery, Jack and Diane end up putting a hole in the wall and all the kids are culpable. The subsequent cover up leads Dre to interrogate each kid one by one until he gets one to break. I appreciate the amount of conflict that the show often shies away from to the point where everyone is angry at everyone else towards the end of the episode. Furthermore, that conflict is based in the motif of the family not sticking together, which adds a cohesive touch to the episode about the family that’s anything but.
I found this episode to have engaging A and B plots, which is a stark improvement from the last episode, which had neither. There were a lot of great zingers and comedic bits that felt fresh and well-suited for the show, but Black-ish seriously needs to capitalize on the qualities that you can’t get from any other show in television. I’m seeing a show trying to find its legs, but hopefully viewership picks up otherwise this show might not get a chance to show all it has in store.