Tweetable Takeaway: Dre and the family weather the winter in style, hinting that this year Black-ish will really earn its stripes. Tweet
Airtime: Wednesday at 9:30pm on ABC
By: Brett Salinas, Contributor
While many may regard upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as “that three-day weekend after Christmas when the banks are closed,” it is a very real and, obviously, very culturally rich day of observance. In case the unseasoned BLACK-ISH viewer had any doubts, Dre carries much stock in this National holiday, and wants everyone else to do the same. Hewing once again with thoughtful, cogent commentary and more than a handful of outrageous laughs, “Martin Luther Skiing Day” proves 2015, and the second half season, is shaping up to be one big victory lap for the series.
Dre, being self-appointed educator of the young and the guileless, wants to ensure that his flesh and blood intimately know the history of Dr. Martin Luther King. But when Junior’s very very white friend can spout more knowledge on the Civil Rights Leader than his own son, therein lies a problem. And a new campaign has sprung. But meanwhile, Rainbow and the kids just want to get to their annual skiing trip and unwind with facials and hot stone massages (fat chance, ‘Bow). The episode does a decent job of anchoring the story in Dre’s favor. While it’s always a little tricky to fully get on board with his radical, sometimes agitating efforts of justice, this particular case is a pretty compelling one. Getting kids properly educated about Martin Luther King? Yeah, I can get on that bandwagon.
At Dre’s work, things are no better. When the boss gives him permission to take the day off, honoring it just a “black holiday,” Dre realizes it’s time to take a stand. It’s time to remember what Dr. King did for his community. But compounding the drama, unwaveringly zany colleague Charlie (Deon Cole) invites himself along on the ski trip (insert comic misadventure here). So Dre decides that he needs to really instill in his son what Dr. King is all about, what he stands for, and how we do not live in a post-racial world. But, as chance would have it, a watched pot never boils and every nook where he goes looking for blatant acts of prejudice, he ends up dry. Dre couldn’t find racial profiling or persecution if he tried. Rainbow and the kids (minus Junior), ride towards the snow in the fun caravan, enjoying a nice group sing-along of “All About That Bass,” which I certainly wouldn’t begrudge anyone.
Once at the resort, Dre causes a massive scene when he’s denied adjoining rooms, being that a nice white couple snatched up the last ones moments earlier. In his own impromptu, upper middle class sit-in, Dre plants himself in a luggage cart until his demands are met. But, all this does is land him in the resort’s super friendly, snickerdoodle-dispensing security office. Dre can’t catch a break. Even Rainbow besmirches the good name of Dr. King, shrugging the idea that they share the same title of doctor, even though only one could actually save a life (physically speaking). She even goes so far as to throw air quotes over his doctorship, via his PH.D. But just when Dre has lost all faith in his family and compatriots, Junior stages a Rosa Parks-style protest on the bus to the slopes, refusing to sit in the back just because he carries a snowboard rather than a pair of skis. Harkening back to an old motif of the show, Dre revels in his son’s conviction, recognizing that we all have our struggles in this world, you just have to stand up to your own.
While the episode isn’t completely unproblematic, Black-ish is even further refining its recipe with this offering. Being on a bit of a roll in the comedy department, “Martin Luther Skiing Day” dished up some great laughs. From the fantastically exaggerated fantasy of the “big white party” at his office, where all unencumbered Caucasian employees don golf clothes and blare Spin Doctors like there’s no tomorrow, to the in-car karaoke jam, this episode delivered in laughs. What was rather unfortunate was Deon Cole’s lackluster arc here. Charlie’s character has always been a bit of a cartoon, but the material he was given this week felt especially broad, and, quite frankly, it didn’t deliver.
It is most refreshing to see that there is still another item on the political laundry list that the show was able to cross off. After the last few weeks sunk into a complacently average sitcom format, which ultimately worked because it was so funny, it’s nice that the show hasn’t lost sight of its own concept. The writers are, rather judiciously, peppering the series with layers of race commentary rather than saturating the whole batch. It seems clear that Black-ish, while ultimately a show about family values, still has some teeth. Although, I will admit, Junior’s pious speech about snowboarders’ rights was heavily on the nose, if even a little eye-roll-worthy at points. But in the end, this week’s story perfectly balanced everything the show does well from start to finish. And if you didn’t find yourself smiling or laughing through at least 90% of the episode’s run time, then you’re just missing something.