Tweetable Takeaway: Zoe lands a boyfriend at school and, shock, Dre is upset! The rest is as predictable as it is boring.Tweet
Airtime: Wednesday at 9:30pm on ABC
By: Brett Salinas, Contributor
Valentine’s day may be over (thank god), but love is still in the air this week on BLACK-ISH. There’s young love, scandal, intrigue, even foreign accents — this episode has it all…or at least it would, were it not so annoying and unfunny.
In “Andre from Marseille,” we spend a little more time with one of the lesser-known members of the Johnson clan: Zoe. To date, about the only things we know about the elder daughter relate to her looks, popularity, flippant disregard for her parents’ authority and obsessive dedication to social media. So, now with an entire A-story, more or less, centered around her, we’ve now learned that – yep, that’s pretty much all there is to her. When Zoe drops news that she’s seeing a boy at school, named Andre (eek, her father’s name), a wave of commotion inevitably follows. Because not only is this boy not black, this boy is white. And moreover, he’s a native Frenchman! As you can imagine, young Andre has the odds stacked so steeply against him in Dre’s eyes, they’re in danger of toppling over. And when this inherently sensual, coastal-born Casanova marches into chez Dre and charms the pants off of not only his daughter but also his wife, papa bear takes serious umbrage.
Now that we’ve leaped past the halfway point in the season, Dre’s overly excitable shtick is becoming less and less cute by the minute. Because, frankly, we’ve seen this before: someone does something Dre doesn’t like, Dre gets inconsolably upset and strives to stop it, only to be washed over by a wave of tolerance. Got it. And it would be one thing if the springboard for the episode, while overly familiar, launched us into 20-some-odd really fresh minutes of comedic television, but, unfortunately, “Andre from Marseille” just plods along to no good end.
As you may have guessed, Andre makes it his personal mission to split up the budding teens to his own liking. But, as it turns out, the too-good-to-be-true titular Andre breaks things off with Zoe, himself. And if that isn’t bad enough, he ultimately confesses to Junior that it’s because she’s shallow. Like a “kiddie pool.” For Dre, this, along with pretty much everything anyone else does, will not stand. But now he’s reached a quandary – tell his despondent daughter the reason for the break-up to offer clarity, or let her wallow but possibly preserve her ego. When the inconsolable Zoe reaches the depths of her post-break-up woes, Dre lets the cat out of the bag: she’s shallow. But this comes as a huge relief, because at least she’s not ugly…she says with a re-application of lip-gloss!
The biggest problem with this week’s episode is not even that it’s lacking originality, because, after all, sitcoms aren’t exactly famous for reinventing the wheel. The real issue is that it’s just not very funny. Perhaps the best bit here is the episode’s tag in which Zoe’s new boyfriend, basically a carbon copy of Dre, strolls up and finally wins the patriarch over with his professed love of advertising. The girl’s chosen a new boy, exactly like her father. And for Dre, that’s the best news he’s heard all month. But largely this week, Black-ish just lumbers along from one cheap joke to the next, seriously lacking the zippy timing that has made previous episodes so great. It almost feels like an early draft of the script before the punch-up. Honestly, the B-story of Rainbow’s rogue grey pubic hair offered more comedy fodder than Dre’s outrage du jour. I would have rather followed mom and her ever-gentrifying “downtown” off a cliff rather than sit through yet another one of Dad’s tantrums.
It’s been said before (by me, for one) that the show is lacking a certain range with respect to the world it exists in, and this week’s episode is truly exemplary of the issue. We get hints of the outside world (boyfriends from school, the council of colleagues, etc.), but the show still feels trapped, whether physically in that house or just at Dre’s fiery whims. Many of the best episodes so far this season find Dre not commanding the story but acting as merely a participant. I think the writers would find that the less pressure they put on Anthony Anderson to carry the plot, the funnier the show will be.