Tweetable Takeaway: Leave your winter woes at the door, because the Black-ish team are back in top form and all about family this week. Tweet
Airtime: Wednesday at 9:30pm on ABC
By: Brett Salinas, Contributor
It would appear that after a little break, and some much-needed down time to process a lavish Thanksgiving feast, the Johnsons are back with a vengeance. December is officially upon us and we’re careening towards the holiday season headfirst, which also means that it’s time to hunker down and prepare for lots and lots of time with family. This week on BLACK-ISH, the usual suspects are back and Dre is trying to pull his kids out of their phones and back into his life, of course with some hiccups along the way. With the writing back to being hilarious and razor-sharp, the show hits a new high after a slow few weeks. It’s nice to see everyone in top form again.
Sometimes, a man just wants to spend time with his family. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Unless you’re Dre and your family is an outfit of self-involved divas who need incentive just to talk to you let alone spend a raucous game night with you. Even mobilizing the Johnson flock to attend Jack’s baseball game is an uphill climb. But Dre’s persistence, albeit brute at times, pays off, and the game becomes a (reluctant) family affair. It’s nice to see Dre’s once prickly edges soften a bit as the show has progressed, as he’s become a truly empathetic leading man in recent weeks. What was once an inward-focusing sense of expectation on his part has evolved into a genuine concern for the happiness and harmony of his family, however fruitless most of his attempts may be.
But during the game, amidst the groans and eye-rolls coming from the Johnson section of the school bleachers, surprisingly, Rainbow’s ears start to twitch at the potentially racist comments piping in from the announcer’s box geared towards her son. “Born to steal” and “natural athlete” sound like iffy language if you ask her, and it doesn’t quite sit right with this mama bear. But Dre, in a complete role reversal, eschews the whole thing and throws his wife under the bus to a group of white moms who think she’s flown off the handle. Ouch, not a good move, my friend. It’s rather refreshing though to see Dre take a back seat in the drama department this week and let the comparatively P.C. Rainbow take a minute to unravel. Because, let’s face it, we all have our moments. But Dre’s marital peacekeeping to-do list just added a few new tasks: 1. Don’t contradict your wife in public, 2. Support your wife and her opinions at all costs and 3. Do not embarrass her!
One thing Dre has never been accused of is not trying hard enough. And later at his work party, when Rainbow launches into her impassioned speech about Matisse, whom she confuses for Magritte, it takes his might not to correct her (because, remember, don’t contradict your wife in public). But, again, Rainbow ends up looking like the fool and Dre is digging the hole deeper and deeper. What this episode absolutely nails is the perfect balance in Dre and Rainbow’s relationship between the abrasive fighting and the lovable taunting. Because, like the show or not, this couple is charming, which is both testament to the characters and the talented actors who play them.
Another plan is afoot though to win back Rainbow’s affection. When the kids, left on their own, end up busting a hole in the wall and blaming it on the shoddy shoes that Mom had bought for Diane, Dre smells something fishy and decides to uncover the truth in an effort to lift any guilt from his wife and patch things right up. And while some late-night ice cream lures Diane to spill that they were actually sledding down the stairs on a laundry basket, it’s no use. Rainbow is still upset. Even when Dre causes a major scene at Jack’s next game and hijacks the announcer’s booth to defend his wife’s concerns, he ends up embarrassing the dampened woman more than ever.
It’s not until Dre is banned from Jack’s games (following his outburst) that Rainbow rushes to his side to defend his idiotic attempt at solidarity. Because that’s what being family is all about. Even the kids come to forgive Diane, the snitch. And so, Dre’s family sees unity, which is what he wanted all along. Hurray for all.
After a noticeable slump the past few weeks, Black-ish finds its footing again and makes a giant leap in the right direction. What was especially fresh about “Colored Commentary” was the snappy comedic timing and momentum that kept the train running this week. The show is finally finding its comedic voice between continuing its sense of absurdist humor and still maintaining some poignancy as a family sitcom. After all, funny is money and this episode could open a hotel chain in Monaco with its riches of comedy fodder.
The episode also drives home the notion that the show is richer and more interesting when the premise du jour involves the whole gang. With a strong ensemble cast, it just seems wasteful not to include such talented actors. And this week Diane (Marsai Martin), despite not having much screen time, really shines. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Martin is a wickedly talented young actress. She more than makes up for Marcus Scribner (Junior), who is still tragically a bit broad. But Rainbow and Dre steal the show here. The leading couple is steadily becoming one of the great TV husband-wife duos. They may be chronically at each other’s throats, but in a totally cute way.
While it didn’t exactly break new ground this week, Black-ish crafted a really snappy, witty, winning half-hour of comedy. And, as is its forte, left us with a nice little message about loyalty and togetherness along the way, just in time for the holidays. With a renewed sense of confidence and spunk, it’s once again hard not to fall in love with the show. And that, for one, is what I’m thankful for.