Tweetable Takeaway: Put down the laundry, stop paying bills, this episode is perfection and it’s more important than what you’re doing.Tweet
Airtime: Wednesday at 9:30pm on ABC
By: Brett Salinas, Contributor
There are certain times, not often, when all the elements in the universe align just so that they produce something truly exquisite/beautiful/magnificent etc. For instance, when whatever mass of energy and matter scattered from the hotly seminal Big Bang and settled to become the life-sustaining blue marble we call planet Earth…that was pretty darn perfect and fortuitous. And, with only somewhat of an air of tongue-in-cheek-ness, lest I undersell it, this week’s BLACK-ISH proves that perfect cosmic alignment is still very possible.
I just want to clear the air right off the bat – whatever hasty ills I’ve ever spoken of Dre’s mother, Ruby, or of the show’s writing of late – I take back. I will eat those words with a brown butter glaze and a parsley garnish, because “Parental Guidance” was perhaps the best half-hour of television I’ve seen in years. The basic idea here is that Dre and Rainbow are set to renew their vows, but their pious, protective parents don’t approve of their respective child-in-law. It’s the classic my-baby’s-too-good-for-you syndrome, and it may be a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. And feuding parents would be one thing, but Dre and Rainbow can’t help but then cast the other adrift in the ebbing waters of blood-alliance. And now we have two camps to contend. Whoever said, “Love is all you need” clearly never planned a commitment ceremony with their in-laws.
This episode just works on so many levels. For one thing, it’s nice to see Dre’s indignant objections to the status quo not being the entire basis for yet another episode. As I’ve said before, Dre is so much stronger as a player in the action, not always a captain. And while I’ve had (unfairly) harsh opinions on her in the past, Grandma Ruby is steadily becoming one of the best characters on the show. When Rainbow’s New Age mother Alicia dispenses her animist theory that every object has a life force, Ruby’s beautifully terse retort – “You say this glass has a soul…uh huh…f— you” – basically wins the whole episode if not the entire fall slate of programming.
And to compound the bubbling drama of the hour, Alicia spills the beans that Dre and Rainbow’s wedding was shotgun. So, little Zoe, the “bastard Jon Snow” of the brood, was in fact born out of wedlock. AND, the original hippy-dippy church that married the young couple seems to have lost its accreditation, thus rendering the marriage “null and void” (per the website). This whole thing has just descended into chaos. But for Dre and Rainbow, it’s about their love for one another, not about their parents’ approval. So, since they’re not technically married anyway, they decide to do this City Hall-style, under their parents’ noses. But when Jack lets the new plan slip, the top-tier generation realizes they’ve ruined a happy occasion for their kids. Putting egos aside over ice cream and scotch (perhaps the greatest combination ever conceived), Alicia and Pops (yes, he’s finally back) decide to say “to hell with differences” and unite as a family.
Dre and Bow’s ceremony goes off without a hitch. Or, at least it would have, had anyone written any vows. But, with refreshingly sweet earnestness, Dre whips something together on the spot, and it reminds us why this show is truly great. Cut to an Earth, Wind & Fire dance number and you’ve got yourself good times all around. And, as fate would have it, the original marriage was legit after all, so harmony is restored throughout.
It’s been a while since a thirty-minute sitcom has delivered such an exhilaratingly fresh and funny product. Black-ish has proven to be pretty problematic for its unpredictably high highs and sometimes even lower lows, but its sine wave of success is beginning a long, upward slope after tonight — high-fiving all of us on the way. With the auxiliary cast glomming onto the A-story, creating one big mega-cast, it was like a quick-draw firing match of comedy. The only real disservice is that there was simply not enough room in the episode to let each brilliant joke land with proper resonance within the runtime. I say, if there is at least one moment in an episode that warrants a rewind, then the writers have done their job. But with upwards of ten moments demanding it, the writers have outdone themselves.
In all fairness, veteran Hollywood star and occasional TV guest star Beau Bridges made a somewhat underused cameo this week as Rainbow’s father…Beau. Giving credit where credit is due, I’d have to say that an actor with Bridges’ catalog probably demanded a bit more screen time on the likes of a network sitcom, but, at the risk of exaggerating, the episode was (just shy of) perfect either way.
Enough said. “Parental Guidance” is better than you, it’s better than me, and it’s certainly better than anything else that was on TV tonight. Stop reading about it and go watch. You’ll be glad you did.