Tracee Ellis Ross Stands Out in Another Lukewarm 'black-ish' Episode — Let's Get This Lady Better Material, Please

When did black-ish go from Black Panther jokes to "mom joins Facebook" jokes? This isn't the thoughtful show I signed up for, but at least we get a black-ish about Tracee Ellis Ross' Rainbow and her life outside of the family, namely, her attempt to reconnect with long-lost college friends. The "kids put on a reality show" plotline proves that the Johnsons are no Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, and the attempt at a reality TV project would make more sense if it was totally consistent and committed. Why doesn't this start with a talking head segment from Diane & Jack explaining how they decided to revive The Real World because of... some reason, then progress like it's an episode of MTV's classic, a la The Queen of Jordan episodes of 30 Rock ? I guess in the episode it's because college friend Maci was a cast member on one of the earlier seasons, which needs a lot of setup. But it's paper thin, and basically just an excuse to feature the kids, who seem to be popular characters.

But the show does pull one MTV move, and that's that the ending feels real abrupt. I was half expecting Bow's emergency tracheotomy on Charlie to be revealed as her paranoid fantasy — or, that we'd watch them scream and race out of there, no longer laughing at Bow, but now terrified of her. It seems like things worked out a little too neatly for her, when she can totally handle the ambiguous way a Dre story would have ended.

Things I still enjoy about this show enough to endure this rough patch, accompanied by the Angie Jordan catchphrases that would have been welcomed at that dinner party:

1. The Hair!

The array of natural black hairstyles to be found on every cast member, especially Tracee Ellis Ross' (Type 3c shoutout!).

2. Running Jokes!

Charlie's continued fear and intimidation of Diane, which serves as the series' only real attempt at a running joke. It's a little overdone in places, but Deon Cole and Marsai Martin are at least hitting the softballs pitched to them by the writers.

3. Smart Stuff!

Bow & Dre's marriage continues to subvert expectations. Thankfully, the conflict about Bow's ex isn't about Dre being grossed out that Bow has a sexual past, thank god. Instead, it's over the revelation that Bow is chronically dumped and a total loser, when pre-Facebook she tried to pass herself off as a sophisticated, intelligent type. While it's pretty ridiculous that freakin' Facebook is the instigator for this story, rather than an important reunion (20 years, maybe?), no one can say that the show doesn't treat Bow as a character in her own right, something that Modern Family still struggles with, years and years into its run.

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