Leave it to black-ish to tackle most of America's hard-hitting issues seamlessly. If you're already a fan of the show, however, you may remember hearing about a particular winter season episode that was reportedly shelved due to "creative differences." Well, in a June 7 Hollywood Reporter roundtable discussion, Tracee Ellis Ross addressed the black-ish episode controversy, and admitted that she's as confused as fans are about why the episode did not air. (ABC had no comment on Ross' comments about the episode.)
The episode, entitled "Please Baby, Please," was set to air on ABC on Feb. 27, but was pulled by the network on Feb. 22 and replaced with a rerun. According to Variety, the episode was set to cover the highly controversial topic of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in protest against police brutality. ABC issued the following statement to Variety on March 9 about the episode:
“One of the things that has always made black-ish so special is how it deftly examines delicate social issues in a way that simultaneously entertains and educates. However, on this episode, there were creative differences we were unable to resolve.”
Ross not only stars in the program, but has also had executive producing and directing credits for the show, but she expressed that she also wasn't sure about the specifics of the situation. In the THR Round Table, Ross continued:
"To a certain extent, I have purposefully stayed out of those conversations because I have had no power to do something beyond that. So, I have asked for the information and pushed for the information that I felt would be helpful to me and constructive in what I can do with it, because I find it frightening."
But seeing as black-ish is known for covering topical issues throughout the show's run, the shelving of "Please Baby, Please" left a lot of people stunned — including Ross. In THR's Roundtable discussion, the actor, who plays Dr. Rainbow Johnson on the show, said,
"We have conversations about the subject matter of our episodes, yes, we do. Very vocal, strong conversations about those things. The details of why the episode was pulled and everything that has surrounded that, I do not have the answers for."
In a statement also provided to Variety in March, Barris said, "Given our creative differences, neither ABC nor I were happy with the direction of the episode and mutually agreed not to air it." The publication also reported that the episode was filmed in November 2017.
"Please Baby, Please" being shelved definitely raised a few eyebrows. Especially after Roseanne Barr's Roseanne initially got greenlit and renewed by the network for a second season, in spite of its harmful rhetoric about people of color, such as a joke about TV shows about Black and Asian families that sparked a backlash.
In May, Roseanne was canceled after Barr posted a racist tweet and later apologized. ABC has been on the receiving end of praise for taking a strong stance against racism and bigotry by ending the series, but with so many unanswered questions surrounding the black-ish episode, which would have arguably contributed greatly to conversations surrounding racial equality, fans of the show are having a hard time basking in this pseudo-celebratory moment — leading some fans to request that the network air the black-ish episode soon.
It's all interesting to say the least. But, unfortunately, until ABC decides to deliver much-needed answers or clarity to their seemingly inconsistent motives, everyone, including its own network stars, will continue to be left in the dark.