Joey Czaja ’17 / Emtertainmently Monthly TV Staff Writer
Michael Slezak recently published an editorial on TVLine.com about how Black-ish has carefully and effectively cemented its place as “one of the best comedies on television,” while being able to tackle controversial and delicate issues.
And it’s true. The first two episodes of the season focused on the “N-word” and guns. The third episode of the season, “Dr. Hell No” — which aired on October seventh — focused on Pops (Laurence Fishburne) and Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson (Anthony Anderson) struggling with Pops’ mortality after he must undergo surgery. The episode felt like classic Black-ish episode, complete with Dre’s usual overreacting, like when he’s in the hospital room waiting through Pops’ surgery and snaps into a blubbery panic at the burst of a kid’s balloon. It also had classic heartfelt emotions, like when Dre initially tells Pops’ post-surgery that he wasn’t scared, but then admits to being petrified. It was even sweet when Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) kissed Pops post-op, telling him she wanted to be the favorite grandparent, but not the only one.
Like with any effective Black-ish episode, the children of the show had their own storylines as well, all blending in and intermingled within the main Pops storyline. Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) and Jack Johnson (Miles Brown) clandestinely claimed Pops’ possessions in a quiet battle between the two of them, while Andre Johnson, Junior (Marcus Scribner) struggled to learn (and film) everything he could about his grandfather before his imminent passing, and Diane Johnson (Marsai Martin) slyly schemed to be granted Pops’ power of attorney. So while there wasn’t any controversial topic to be discussed or debated, it felt refreshing that there was an episode focused more on the family and their relationships with each other, than with society.
If only that refreshment had sustained for the episode the following week.
The only episode that hasn’t felt as powerful (in terms of social commentary or comedy) as all the other episodes this season was the fourth episode this season, which aired on October fourteenth. In Slezak’s article, he asserts that “there hasn’t been a single misstep – a moment where you feel like the show’s writers are going there for mere shock value – over the first four episodes of the season”, and while that may very well be true, episode four certainly felt like an uncharacteristic misstep.
In “Daddy’s Day”, Dre and his coworkers attempt to create a new holiday so that they can stop being underappreciated on the original Father’s Day, and receive their very own Mother’s Day-like treatment from their children and families. The execution of the episode’s storylines were comical, pairing Dre off against his older daughter Zoey in the A-storyline, and Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) with Junior in the B-storyline. While the two youngest kids Jack and Diane weren’t prominently featured in the episode, it was nice to see Shahidi and Scribner tackle more material than C-story fodder. Special guest star, Zendaya, as “Zoey’s friend” —who, by the way Bow, had a name. It was Resheida — had fun chemistry with Anderson, but there could’ve been more with her and Shahidi. There were hardly any hilarious quotes from this episode, unlike the past three easily quotable episodes of this second season.
It is hard to talk down on the most recent episode of Black-ish too much, mainly because of how successful the show has been in previous weeks; you can’t always strike gold, and sometimes that happens with the occasional Black-ish episode. Does that make viewers want to quit the show for good? Absolutely not, but it does make audiences hope that Black-ish doesn’t continue producing sub-par episodes like this one in the future.
Black-ish airs Wednesdays, 9:30/8:30c on ABC.
“Doctor Hell No” Episode Grade: B+
“Daddy’s Day” Episode Grade: B-
Slezak’s Article on TVLine.com: A+