Sitcoms had always power on the American society as well as they always manages to teach something while they are entertaining people. One of the best sitcoms are the blackish sitcoms which both of its audience and actors are black. The other issue that is on the agenda in America is the police brutality towards the black people in recent days. The Talk, which is a popular TV Show decided to put this police brutality in their agenda and use the power of humor to criticize the things going on the Nation. It seems like the TV show managed what they are intended.
Within the show, The Talk was the conversation that African-American parents have with children about the realities of police brutalityagainst black citizens. Between the show and its audience, however, The Talk was the acknowledgment that “black-ish” is about a family in which that conversation was eventually going to happen.
Wednesday’s remarkable episode, “Hope,” pulled off both about as well as you could imagine: It was funny but heartbreaking, nuanced but not mealy-mouthed, blunt but not despairing. It firmly established “black-ish,” if there was any doubt, as a sitcom that’s not just timely but up to the challenge of its times.
The action in “Hope” started as a lot of topical sitcom episodes do, with a family watching the news on TV. The story was about a young black man brutalized by the police on video, with an indictment decision pending — but which one? The episode made the confusion part of the joke: Was it Chicago? Cincinnati? Charleston? Who can keep track? (Watching the episode, I had to Google whether the case — with familiar scenes of protest and coverage from CNN’s Don Lemon — was fictional.)
We’ve lived this scene many times, after all, since “black-ish” began in September 2014, a month after unrest broke out over the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. On the one hand, its timing was perfect: Here was a sitcom that was not only about a black family but asked what it means to be black today.
On the other hand, the premise of the pilot — Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) wrestles with how to instill racial consciousness in his kids, who he worries are growing up with an attitude that is too-postracial — already seemed almost quaint. The story lines in the first season of this ABC sitcom were smart about the particular dynamics of an upscale black family’s experience, but relatively small-scale.
The second season upped the ante, right from the premiere, “The Word,” a blistering and hilarious breakdown of a racial epithet and the customs around it. Even before this week, it had referenced police issues, as when Ruby (Jenifer Lewis), in a recent episode, urged Andre to call the cops, “but before you do, make sure they know a black man owns this house.”
I’m not sure if this is a matter of “black-ish” getting braver so much as the show realizing it was ready. Having fleshed out and added characters (Ruby, for instance, who can bring down the house with a line reading of “cilantro”), it built a multigenerational clan that could believably pin down a touchy subject from every angle.
The show now has history, it has our investment, and that lets an episode like “Hope” land hard. Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) could take the semi-thankless position of arguing for the legal system (and wanting to keep her younger kids innocent) without seeming simply naïve. Pops (Laurence Fishburne) could both bluntly argue that “the police are damn thugs” and reveal himself as a former member of the less-than-militant Bobcats (“We were Panther-adjacent!”).
Most movingly, “Hope” subtly circled back to that 2014 pilot, in which Andre worried that Junior (Marcus Scribner) was forgetting his blackness; when Junior resolves to join the protest, Andre suddenly worries that his son has become black-aware enough to get himself killed.
That, and Andre’s reminding Rainbow how exciting it was to see President Obama inaugurated, and how terrifying to see him leave the protection of his limo — and how the two feelings are inextricable — gave the show a new and well-earned depth.
But beyond the character moments, “Hope” managed to work in a stunning amount of American racial history (and current events) into a single episode without coming off like a sitcom Wikipedia page.
In a single half-hour, it connected Ta-Nehisi Coates with James Baldwin; offered a primer on Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland; contrasted Andre’s Gen-X-Malcolm-X black nationalism with the generation before and after him; and swiftly laid out O.J. Simpson as an “idiot” whose acquittal was nonetheless a moral victory. It was broadly relevant and brilliantly specific (see the final tag, in which Ruby spray-painted “BLACK-OWNED” on the garage, a visual reference to the Los Angeles riots).
A sitcom can’t erase differences. (I can come to “black-ish” only as a white guy who watches it every week with two sons who love it; that doesn’t change the fact that they’ll never need the same version of The Talk that the Johnson kids get.) But “Hope” proved how sitcoms can still matter; even in a time of fragmented audiences, they can connect. No talk is going to work miracles, but it beats saying nothing.