Airtime: Wednesdays at 930PM on ABC
Episode: Season 2, Episode 17 (S02E17)
Tweetable Takeaway: Jack joins a travel basketball team in a funny #Blackish.
The last episode of BLACK-ISH was an instant classic, addressing police brutality in a poignant, touching way. This week’s episode would invariably be a step down, but “Any Given Saturday” was decently funny, once again keeping the focus tight on the Johnson family. The episode is set up as a documentary, a 30 for 30 style sports expose titled “Paths of Delusion: The Jack Johnson Story”, shot by none other than Diane.
The twins need to do documentary projects about each other. Jack’s attempt was a framed picture of Diane, surrounded by chips, with the caption “my syster”, but Diane took it seriously, interviewing all members of the Johnson family (except a conspicuously absent Pops…mysterious). Jack is a basketball star on the local team and Dre is ecstatic that the so-called “Caucasian curse” skipped over him. Bow’s pretty stoked too—the pair are treated like royalty at the games. A very funny Ruby is the team’s spiritual advisor, praying for Clumsy Carl’s recovery from influenza, but only after the play-offs. A stand-out Junior acts the referee, getting way too into the job.
Zoe’s the only one not excited. She’d rather hang out with her 19-year-old boyfriend (he was held back twice for sports). No one cares what she does, as long as she keeps up the good grades. It’s a boring storyline that mostly has her talking on the phone.
However, things take a turn when Dre learns that another parent’s son has joined travel ball in Compton, the NBA for kids. He’s determined to get Jack on a team, so he pulls strings at his job and gets his client, State Farm Insurance, to sponsor a team, the State Farm Good Neighbors. This isn’t the first time ABC has centered an episode around a brand and thankfully this outing is less annoying than the disastrous Apple-centric episode of Modern Family. It’s natural that a large company would want to sponsor a local team, but let’s call it what it is for the show: a blatant cash grab.
The Johnson’s are shocked to see that Janine is at the game. Her son plays on the opposing team. Janine is at her worst today, smugly saying that the best part of basketball is the cross-cultural exchange, before using two black women as props by “boop-ing” them on the legs. Dre calls it “cultural co-opting”, but Diane points out that basketball was invented by a white dude.
It turns out that Jack isn’t as good as they thought. He just can’t keep up with the more talented kids. Bow gets demoted to snack mom, and makes the worst possible decision: gazpacho. She thinks it’s the “king of soups” but can we all agree that gazpacho is disgusting? Ruby calling it “chunky V8” later in the episode got a huge laugh out of me.
Junior seems to somehow have referee trading cards, including a homemade one he made for himself—he’s Junior “The Law” Johnson.” Instead of showing the traditional training montage, Diane gives us a montage of periphery characters. At the game, Dre threatens and cajoles the coach until he puts Jack in, but he keeps getting pushed down. Junior throws out Dre for a technical foul, but tells him not to actually leave, as he needs a ride home. Once again, Junior is pretty great this episode.
Dre and Bow discuss whether or not they should let Jack quit. Ruby reminds him that he quit a lot of things growing up, but in doing so eventually found his true passion in advertising. Surprisingly, Jack doesn’t want to quit. He realizes that if he wants to be the best one day, he needs to play with the best. It’s a sweet ending. Glad to have you back, Black-ish.
Jennifer Trofa lives for two things: spreading the “Superstore” gospel and themed “Law & Order: SVU” marathons on USA.
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor