Last night’s Black-ish showed something rarely seen on primetime TV, let alone on a network sitcom that airs right after Modern Family: a black family debating how to introduce the realities of police brutality to its young children.
Black-ish has dealt with some heavy-hitting issues before, with episodes devoted to guns, spanking, and the n-word. But “Hope,” the episode that aired last night, is the most daring: its 23 minutes take place entirely within the Johnson family living room, as they wait for news reports on the indictment of a cop who tased a black man 37 times. (When daughter Zoey asks if the man’s OK, Dre responds, “He got tased 37 times, so, you know, he’s not great.”)
Andre, the nerdy oldest son, has been reading Between the World and Me, and there’s a running joke that Dre is jealous that his son hasn’t been looking to him for guidance instead.
What makes the episode work so well—and allows the show to deal with this heavy topic while still providing its share of jokes—is that it’s about a very specific black family, one whose inter-generational nuances writer Kenya Barris has spent the past year-and-half developing.
Barris has talked about his admiration for Norman Lear’s socially conscious 1970s sitcoms; last night’s episode was further proof that he’s created a worthy successor.