I thought last week's "The Dozens" was a more than a solid outing for black-ish, but this week did a lot better with the character work. This is our first introduction to Rainbow's hippie parents, played by Beau Bridges & Anna Deavere Smith, both working journeyman type actors who could play these characters in their sleep. But to their credit, they don't, and there's a little more depth to these guys than you'd immediately expect. Sure, A-lee-see-a leans into the crunchy granola, crystal deodorant thing, and lords it over everyone, but her husband defies pretty much all stereotypes about what a white guy is like (these characters are more nuanced than Dre's coworkers, for example, who I still think only work in small doses). If anything, his biggest sin is that he's absolutely terrible about concealing his crush on Dre's mom.
Dre is pretty hypocritical getting frustrated at Bow's mom for messing with their vow renewal, considering that his mother has done just the same things but for twice as many episodes. But those dinner scenes and big, six-person arguments are some of my favorite black-ish moments... ever. Fisburne and Lewis paired with Smith and Bridges act like magnifiers around their children — something that feels very true to life — and then they pepper the scenes with great jokes, keeping it from getting too petty and real.
Their conflict came in the form of a slobs vs. snobs comedy, using the black diaspora as the players. Most of this is acted through by the two mothers, with the fathers there to add comedy. Pops ultimately smooths things over and everyone found their role in the wedding, and we missed out on the boring cliche of a character who "can't write vows" and then has their soon to be spouse get mad at them.
There were a few times when I was looking for a better punchline or wished that the writing had been a little bit tighter, like Alicia's insistence that every single thing on Earth has a soul (shouldn't Ruby "accidentally" be dropping glasses all over the place?) and her disbarred church/the revelation that Dre and Bow might not actually be married. My soul broke in half with the revelation that high school sophmores like Zoe (excuse me, lil' Jon Snow) were born in 2000. And Jennifer Lewis sang AND danced (while grabbing a bouquet). It's pretty much as well these actors will ever be used in a half-hour appearance.
Image: Nicole Wilder/ABC