• Pilot Season 2014: Why the Black Suburban Family Guilt?

    After “Guys With Kids bit the dust, Anthony Anderson is back with another pilot.

    The now untitled pilot (formerly called ‘Black-ish’) has been picked up and added to *ABC’s Fall lineup. The half-hour single-camera comedy series has Laurence (AKA Larry) Fishburne’s Cinema Gipsy production company attached to produce the program along with Principato Young Entertainment. Tracee Ellis Ross (daughter of Diana Ross and from the TV show Girlfriends) has been cast to star opposite Anderson.

    The Hollywood Reporter describes the pilot as:

     “From writer Kenya Barris (“The Game), the semi-autobiographical comedy centers on an upper-middle class black man who struggles to raise his children with a sense of cultural identify despite constant contradictions and obstacles coming from his liberal wife, old-school father and his own assimilated, color-blind kids”

    Granted this is only the pilot description, I’ve already got a few bones to pick with the show.

    For starters, why is there a need to beat the “guilt drum” regarding blacks living in the suburbs? With respect to “cultural identity,” exactly what culture are they speaking of?

    Black people are not one monolithic culture and it’s quite annoying to be portrayed as such.

    And what’s with the “liberal wife”?  Something tells me this could be an indication that Anthony Anderson’s character may be a moderate conservative. And what are the “obstacles” that would supposedly arise from “assimilated, colorblind kids”? Most kids interact with their friends and see them as friends and not as a “white friend,” or an “Asian friend,” or a Latino friend. The world does not revolve around skin color, and I hope this pilot doesn’t portray it that way.

    In the past, we have had shows with black actors that have done practically the same thing without the blatant emphasis on race. “The Jeffersons” (my favorite childhood show that taught me about the wonders of capitalism) had a self-made dry cleaning mogul, George Jefferson. His gracious wife and his engineer son showed audiences how hard work and dignity can move you forward. “The Cosby Show” made no apologies for how a Doctor and father (Bill Cosby) and his lawyer wife (Phylicia Rashad) raised five kids in a grand brownstone in New York City. The show also raised awareness about historically black colleges and universities. “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” had a black husband (James Avery) and wife (Daphne Reid) team that concentrated on raising their kids with excellence, despite Carlton’s (Alfonso Ribeiro) dancing, and also made no apologies for their lavish Bel Air lifestyle. And even more recently, Tyler Perry has produced such shows as “Are We There Yet,” “House of Payne,” and “Meet The Browns,” which showcase successful black families who are more concerned with the blessings of life and love of family and less concerned with the quandaries of color.

    Granted, this is semi-autobiographical and probably pulls from Ms. Barris’ own experiences, I still cannot help but feel that ABC’s new pilot is a weak attempt to put black faces on screen without substance of plot or message.

    *Note: The author owns stock in the Disney company which owns ABC

    Trish Williams

    Trish Williams is a former engineering major, who resides in Philadelphia. Trish is an avid reader, advocate for STEM education in schools, and a firearms enthusiast. She hopes to relocate to the coastal South for warmer weather and conservative political surroundings.

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