On 'black-ish,' the Johnsons Find the Difference Between Comfortable and Spoiled
Last week was black-ish's first bye week, and I can honestly say it was missed. It's become a resoundingly pleasant, if not revolutionary, little show that also just happens to be a ratings juggernaut (for an ABC comedy, anyway). This week, we're back in social commentary mode as Dre makes his children get jobs in order to help them find the "hustle" he's always had as a self-made success story. But the episode takes its time getting there, which is a shame.
It starts out as a story about food, where a buffet that was once a treat for Dre is gross to his kids, who have grown up with more rarefied palates. To reckon with their generational differences, Dre tries to show his kids how little he grew up with by emptying their fridge. The kids react in sitcom kid fashion, with punchlines that make them sound like real brats. Fortunately, Dre and Rainbow agreed that the kids are being bratty, and conspire to teach them a lesson, which I found incredibly refreshing. It's a little disjointed, but it moves nicely from scene to scene, even if it takes almost half of the episode to get to the big reveal: all the Johnson babies are getting jobs.
And all four of the kids react more like kids to this development: with annoyance, but obedience. Sure, Jr. doesn't want to take out the trash, but when his dad tells him to he does it. The only problem? Adding the stuff about Zoe's makeup vlog and making Dre the bad guy kind of undercuts the generational comparisons that were being made by the first half.
While I know Laurence Fishburne is a "guest" and not a main cast member, he would have been appreciated here. His ideas of a lean fridge, his childrearing tips, and his POV on jobs when he seems to spend most of his time in Dre's guest house would all have been comic gold. Or at least comic bronze. But instead, we have a few other supporting characters in their place, like the underwhelming douchey white coworker and the clueless white boss, both of whom are mirrored by the condescending white neighbor played by Nicole Sullivan of Mad TV, whose attempts at charity are pretty generous, even if the show seems to want us to think she's only offering them because she assumes the one black family in the neighborhood must of course be the poorest, which… no.
In my mind, the real moral here isn't that Dre was enabling his kids' brattiness. It was that there's a balance between happily providing more for the kids and spoiling them, which is especially easy today, where there's just so much more — phones, computers, baby Jordans — to spoil kids with. But if the kids weren't a little bougie, they wouldn't be nearly as fun to watch, especially when their parents work together to call them out.
Images: ABC (screenshot) (2); Giphy