As if it's also returning from a long summer vacation, black-ish takes a Disney World trip in the Season 3 premiere, filming in actual Orlando theme parks as the Johnson family takes their family vacation. It's not very clear where this picks up, since the tail end of last season pointed out that the Johnsons needed to work on their financial health, Dre's job was in jeopardy, and a new baby was another looming financial strain, whereas in this premiere Dre shelled out major bucks on a VIP Disney World vacation with all of the perks. However, you kind of have to move past this and think of the episode as outside of the show's light continuity — unless Charlie's lack of knowledge about Microsoft turns out to bite Dre in a future episode or that Disney package was purchased on layaway, it's probably never going to impact future Season 3 episodes.
And not only did Dre spend major money on the vacation, ABC sprung for a few VIP-worth needle drops, including "All the Way Up," which is certainly the perfect song for high-rolling and skipping past long lines. Jim Rash from Community brings a little bit of enthu-dean-asm to the role of the Johnsons' VIP guide. Forced to not just deal with the sweltering heat but also the deeply bratty Johnson kids + Dre, Rash is unflappably cheery, but still delights in rubbing it in when the limits of the VIP package is revealed and the Johnsons are forced to resume hobnobbing with the rest of the park attendees.
Naturally, when the kids react poorly, Dre snubs them, then realizes that it was mostly his fault for spoiling them and then realizes that they're good kids who love one another. At this point, black-ish could do this arc in its sleep.
On the more positive/surprising side, I love Earl and Ruby's rapport, especially when it's revealed that in typical fashion, Ruby saved up the money to buy Disneyland tickets for a young Dre and Earl broke into her car and stole them.
But it's hard to shake the feeling, even for major Disney World and Disney property cross-promotion synergy (*cough* Marvel movie *cough*) fans, that this is black-ish paying its bills by having a conflict free episode-long commercial. Hopefully this means that they'll be able to really push the envelope in future episodes, and with upcoming episode titles like "God" and "40 Acres and a Mule," it sounds like the show will be getting back to what it does best: mixing humor with serious social issues.
Images: Todd Anderson/ABC