By PATRICK A. HOWELL
‘black-ish – adj. – a characteristic of not being a stereotyped urban black person. An urban black person with non-urban characteristics — The Urban Dictionary
“Blackish” is a hilarious potpourri of colorful comedy featuring a variety of opinions and takes on the modern upper middle class family, full of a never-ending diversity of opinions and a marriage commoditized into slapstick. With keen insights into what it means to be Black and married and dedicated to raising smart, well-adjusted kids, it’s a quintessential family of the 21st century—if not post racial, then definitely DOPE II (i.e., Done, Obama Post Elected, Twice.)
Not since “The Bernie Mac Show” has there been a family comedy this on it, ‘bout it. “Blackish,” to me, is a hybrid concoction distilled from “The Cosby Show,” “A Different World,” “My Wife and Kids,” and, of course, “Everybody Hates Chris,” with shades of “The Jeffersons” and “What’s Happening Now.” It is both homage and trailblazer. Or, at the very least, it is The One which has picked up the baton.
I remember the first time I saw the “Blackish” billboard on the 5 Freeway driving into Los Angeles from San Diego: all those primary colors on the gigantic poster, the whole Johnson “Blackish” family like a bouquet of tropical flowers with open arms. I pointed it out to my wife and said, “Hanna, Hanna look. Look! That show’s gonna be awesome!” It was like when the Melissa Harris-Perry Show and “PoliticsNational with Al Sharpton” debuted on MSNBC three years ago.
So we basically spent the entire holiday by the fireplace carefully screening the “SELMA” trailer on IMDB, feasting upon D’Angelo’s hypnotic “Black Messiah” and re-watching “Blackish” episodes on On Demand. Just kidding. Sort of. And with all that goodness fresh on my brain, I’ve created an annotated guide to the “Top Five” (with a nod to another pop culture commodity this holiday season featuring Chris Rock as writer, director and leading man) funniest moments in “Blackish’s” history… so far.
My Top Five Funniest “Blackish” Moments
Runner Up No. 2
On the “Crazy Mom” episode in which Dre lurches for a shot at class Dad superstardom, there’s a sunny hip hop video montage of Dre dispensing delish cupcakes to the class of his son (Miles Brown as Jack Johnson) and daughter (Marsai Martin as Diane Johnson), to the tune Earth Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star.” The scene is so bright and cute and choreographed to perfection. Dre performs both an under-the-leg pass and a behind-the-back pass of white- and pink-frosted cupcakes to the gleeful kids. The look of pure joy on Dre’s face as he realizes rock star status is pure magic.
Runner Up No. 1
There’s more slapstick pranking and family foolishness on the Halloween episode: while the rest of the Johnson family is suspended in slow motion with the look of pure terror painting their faces at the prospects of a break-in intruder, Dre, laughing real wicked, has a look of absolute glee and open abandon. The contrast is jarring, and all sorts of belly-roll funny. Not too long afterward, Dr. Rainbow Johnson punches that intruder in his face in a fit of black woman realness. Hilarity ensues.
Funniest “Blackish” Moment No. 5
In an outtake, Dre, a homie and his dad (played by Laurence Fishburne) are in a Magic Johnson movie theater watching Dre go through the day-to-day with his wife, Bow (Dr. Rainbow Johnson, played to perfection by Tracy Ellis Ross). While watching himself brag about his dexterity and expertise at packing the dishwasher, Dre warns his other self not to get into it with the wife: “Don’t go in there fool! There’s an argument in there!” The terror! Or, like my uncle Leroy used to always say, “Make sure you get the last word in the argument with your wife: I’m sorry.”
Funniest “Blackish” Moment No. 4
In another outtake, Dre, sitting with perfect posture in a plush velvet sofa, claps his hands, summoning his butler. The butler, opening a cherry mahogany box, responds: “Your Race Card sir?” “Ahhh,” relishes Dre in a snoot nasal intonation, “my African American Express. I’ve been waiting since yesterday to use you!” Later in the same segment, upon feeling unsupportive and that his wife is being a bit oversensitive about race, Dre laments, “Sadly I won’t be playing my race card today.” “Very good sir. Will I be seeing you later at Chick Filet?” the butler inquires. “Probably,” Dre pouts.
Funniest “Blackish” Moment No. 3
Josh, Dre’s direct report at the marketing agency, has a ghost mask and is hiding in a hallway recycling bin at work trying to pop up and scare passers-by on the “Blackish” Halloween special. When Charlie (another one of Dre’s direct reports and conspirators) walks by, Josh terrorizes him, scaring Charlie so badly that he punches his annoying co-worker in the face. The slapstick is not quite at the level as Kenny Smith throwing Shaquille O Neal into the Inside the NBA set Christmas tree, but it’s close.
Funniest “Blackish” Moment No. 2
Ah, the “Cupcake Dance.” Dre shimmies with his hands up in the air, hop scotching down the hall way with the his twins, Jack and Diane, in tow. And this is not too long after saying, “I am cupcake man – saving the world through cupcakes that I bought at a liquor store—ha-haaa!” (Not sure, but that Dre laugh-cackle may have to be patented). This is not too long after a freeze frame of Rainbow looking for his comfort and support and the braggart Dre, who admits he just needs to appreciate his wife, does the exact opposite of what he ought to. “Babe, everyone can’t be cupcake man!” he says before yelling, “When I say cup! You say cake! Cup! Cup!”All too real. All too funny.
Funniest “Blackish” Moment No. 1
In the “spanking episode,” Bow and her adorable son Jack are engaged in a good old-fashioned stare down resulting in the most classic scene in “Blackish” history. The youngest Johnson receives a stern sentencing from Dre for a spanking after school for hiding where no one can find him and not listening to his parents.
The clever boy and his erudite siblings devise a scheme to break down his mother, thereby dividing and conquering his parents. He attacks her relentlessly with his unquestionable and incredible cuteness. All day he looks at her wide eyed, asking for his favorite dish, bringing baby albums to her attention and other acts of suck-up-titude, until they get to the final showdown in the kitchen. The classic, “I Put a Spell on You,” is blaring. She winces. They exchange spirit. She cringes. She cannot resist. His smile is so sweet. She looks away. No. Wait. Yes, it’s too late.
Later the dad laments, “You can’t look him in his eyes (Rainbow)… he’s like a Chupacabra!”
The episode’s opening scene, in which Bow is panking episode opened with Dr. Rainbow Johnson is running through the department store like a mad woman having lost her mind searching desperately for Jack, could also take the No. 1 spot.
Actually, the entire spanking episode is on point, timely, masterful and a crowning achievement given the sensitivity of the subject in light of the national conversation around corporal punishment for our children, particularly after the NFL’s suspension of Adrian Peterson this winter. If you ask me, the must see comedy got it better than NFL and commissioner Roger Goddell. Call it enlightened humor.
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Don’t miss the return of “Blackish” to ABC tomorrow, January 7th at 9:30 p.m. EST/8:30 C. Pops and Grandma Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) are going to get it on. In the classic Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get It On,” kinda way.
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Patrick A. Howell is an award-winning banker, entrepreneur and writer who lives with his wife and son in Carlsbad, CA. He is a frequent contributing writer to MyBrownBaby, The Goodmen Project, Magnanimity, The Black Book Review, Opportunist Magazine and other topical blogs and e-zines, and has co-authored the concept “Global I AAM” as representative of the Global International African Arts Movement. Both Howell’s book, “Yes, We Be,” and his magazine, Jicho.co, will be published by Howell Media Inc. in 2015. Check him out on Spotify, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest or Tweet him at @PatrickAnthony.
Photo illustration credit: Troy Dunham for the Huffington Post.