BGN Podcast with the black-ish Kid Cast

This week, I had the awesome opportunity to once again join the Black Girl Nerds Podcast, whose guests for the week were the kids from ABC’s hit new sitcom black-ish. Three out of four of the kids were able to join, Miles Brown, Caila Marsai Martin, and Marcus Scribner, while Yara Shahidi was unable to join in due to travel conflicts.

It was a fun podcast. The kids are all super polite, eloquent, funny, and really self-assured. They had us adults talking and listening re-evaluating our lives! They really know their stuff and know how to inspire people (Dream Big, Inspire Many! as Miles likes to say). They have a lot of fun on set and it seems all three kids had great Christmases. I am so glad the world is theirs and they are such good kids to represent the black kids watching them on TV. They will be a great inspiration to so many young children watching black-ish, the way the Huxtable kids or the Banks kids or the  (for older viewers) the Hillman kids were for the young viewers watching them. Marcus, as the oldest, especially. He wants to go to Stanford to be a Journalist! He’s already got really academic aspirations and seems smart, and confident yet still nerdy. And humble, all three sounded extremely humble and just happy to be where they are. It was a great conversation and I feel so inspired having spoken to them. Listening to them will make me like black-ish even more because I know such great kids are behind their characters.

Listen to the podcast here. I’ll be back on the BGN Podcast next week with author Daniel Jose Older, author of a novel coming out this week titled Half-Resurrection Blues. Then I’m on a podcast hiatus for a while. Maybe.

#BGNPodcast In Case You Missed It: The Kids of #BlackishABC.

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ConStar’s Pilot Watch: Black-ish

I’m not sure how I feel about Black-ish. There are parts I really enjoyed and I think it had the humor it needed. I think Tracee Ellis Ross was fantastic and funny, and the kids on the show are super adorable. Plus, it’s a pilot, so there’s always room to grow and get stronger, but I’m not sure what I am supposed to take away from it. I think, and hope, that they’re building a show where the dad tries to make his family act stereotypically “black” but then realizes his family is black no matter how they act. They don’t have to conform to some stereotypical ideal of what black means. Because some of the “black” things he tried to make his son do were ridiculous and weren’t things that were even apart of his own culture, something I suppose they will touch on as well (the differences between being black and being African).

I do enjoy that there is a struggle and an uncomfortableness, because I struggle with the idea of being called “white” by my black family/friends or being called an “oreo.” I think it’s about people either adapting or sticking out and trying to find that balance and I think the show will explore that. I like the idea of the main character being in the wrong: every episode will deal with him trying to impose some sort of ideal on his family, then being forced to realize that they can balance the new aspects of themselves they like (field hockey for instance) with the things of “classic” black culture (there are Adidas track suits at the end of the episode that are literally in my cousin’s closet).

There were really funny moments, though I’m not sure how I feel about the voice over done by Anthony Anderson’s character. I suppose it flowed once the story picked up steam, but I wasn’t expecting it. Again, Tracee Ellis Ross was really great; I haven’t watched Girlfriends yet, so I’ve never seen her act in anything. I enjoyed her and the kids are cute and precocious, though only the oldest gets real character development.

There’s a lot of pressure on this show. It’s the only network black sitcom and if it fails, there might not be a call for more. And of course it has to follow in the footsteps of black family comedies like The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince, and Family Matters. There’s totally room to grow; but let’s not get over-ambitious and call it the Cosby Show of this millennium. I’m not ready to give it that high honor yet. Just in terms of character and writing, what I remember of the Cosby Show defined all the kids’ characterization and their relationships in a stronger way than this did; and no one will ever forget the “I brought you in this world, and I will take you out” line that, while stemming from Cosby’s stand-up, really made an impression on the series’ tone and potential.

Verdict:  I will watch it regularly unless it disappoints. ::please don’t disappoint::

Upfronts 2014: Black-ish

Could this be the return of the black sitcom?

This is the question on everyone’s minds as the Laurence Fishbourne/Anthony Anderson comedy gets slated for ABC’s post Modern Family time slot. It’s definitely a strong lead-in, both because of Modern Family’s consistently high ratings and Emmy nominations as well as being similar family programming. Check out the teaser trailer below:

Based on Barris’ own life (loosely), Black-ish will follow an upper-middle class black man, intent on raising his kids with some sense of cultural identity, in the face of an assault of constant contradictions and obstacles coming from various directions, insisting that his children be color-blind.

decided to do this project when I looked up and realized that everywhere I go I’m constantly the fly in buttermilk… I’m usually THE Black guy at work. We’re THE Black family in the neighborhood. My kids are basically THE Black kids at school. I think it’s kind of a situation of be careful what you wish for. It’s almost in like moving on up, I’ve sort of priced myself “out” of being Black,” said Barris.

The show makes me both excited and nervous. I’m excited to see a black family on television. I’m even more excited to see a black family in a single camera sitcom (has there been one? I can’t think of one  Everybody Hates Chris was one!). But oh boy am I nervous. As a person who is often not seen as black because of the things that I like and the way I speak and the education I got, and as a member of the Black Girl Nerds community and seeing a lot of other people who struggle with being called “oreos” or “not black” and often being the only black person in your work/school/extracurriculars, there are a lot of sensitive issues to deal with. As long as the show deals with being black in a middle class environment without the characters losing their identities as black people.

The title alone is a little worrisome–black-ish implies that through their middle class lifestyle, they’re not fully black, only a little black or sort of black. Just because they have Jewish friends or hang out in affluent neighborhoods shouldn’t take away from the fullness of their blackness. It sounds like the character “insisting his children be colorblind” means that 1. they accept everyone regardless of their background and 2. the struggle the father endures through the series is that the children should be allowed to be who they are and like what they like with it having no reflection on how “black” they are. That’s not the kind of colorblindness we should have, but is often the kind we get: accepting characters regardless of their color but erasing any ethnic identity they have. I don’t know if I am explaining things right or if it’s truly the measure of how I believe things should be. Again, it’s sensitive issues and hard to define or draw the lines, but hopefully the team behind the show address these issues with comedy and class. Maybe the title was just a catchy way to express what the show is about.

So I’m excited! I’ll definitely be checking it out; I hope it’s funny and strong and I hope I can relate to the characters, as their experiences already speak to mine. But I am also nervous.

 

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TV #Diversity Pilots 2014 Trend: More Black Actors

TV Pilots 2014 Trend: More Black Actors.

With Scandal ruling primetime and star Kerry Washington becoming an awards season fixture, more pilots led by black actors are in the works this season.

These are some of the black actors getting roles in upcoming pilots: Viola Davis, Anthony Anderson, Kevin Hart, Craig Robinson, Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Octavia Spencer, & Halle Berry. This is a star studded list of people and doesn’t even include the actors from FOX’s upcoming Hieroglyph, who are less mainstream A-/B-list actors. It’s wonderful getting to see more faces of color on television, hopefully with stories that diversify the stereotypes often relegated to such characters.

Now we just have to hope these shows get picked up past their pilots, so we actually get to see them act in these shows.

 

Pilot Season Diversity Watch: Anthony Anderson to Star in ABC Comedy Pilot ‘Black-ish’

It’s early pilot season, so it’s a good time to start looking at the shows coming to our screens in the fall. Let’s look at the shows with diverse casting or production staffs that have been greenlit by the network. This doesn’t mean they’ll air in Fall–that depends on various things and most decisions are put forth in May–but they’ve been approved to be shot.

One pilot to look for is Black-ish, starring Anthony Anderson. Here’s the  TVLine description:

Black-ish (Comedy) [ABC]
EPs | Kenya Barris, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, Tom Russo, Peter Principato, Paul Young, Brian Dobbins
CAST | Anthony Anderson (Guys With Kids)
An upper-middle class black man struggles to raise his children with a sense of cultural identity despite constant contradictions and obstacles coming from his liberal wife, old-school father and his own assimilated, color-blind kids

Sounds interesting. I hope it doesn’t go the way of Guys with Kids, which failed to really spark anything in me and I gave up after like 2 episodes. I think this wants to hearken back to the Cosby Show, which I loved, but updated for a modern era. The Cosby Show was more insulated in terms of who the kids hung out with than this sounds like it will be.

I wonder why there are so many executive producers, usually we get one or two main names, rather than the list of 8 like above. And is the last time ABC had a majority/all black comedy cast My Wife and Kids (another show it relates to in terms of being a black family comedy, but again, that show was very isolated in terms of who the family interacted with on camera)?

I’m not sure how I feel about the title, or some of the implications. I can only hope that while maintaining “cultural identity,” the show also focuses on and allows the kids and the family to like “non-traditional” things and it being ok or at least a plot point. I could see Anderson’s character trying to get his kids to like classic hip-hop but they like rock instead (just a random example). Which, it’s great and necessary for black children to know their culture and where they came from, but also realize that black people are not a monolith and can enjoy a variety of pursuits not traditionally seen as a part of black culture. A fine line to walk, but one that might be necessary going forward.

I hope we hear more about this.

for more, check TVLine’s Pilot Scoop

Anthony Anderson to Star in ABC Comedy Pilot ‘Black-ish’.

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