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ABC’s fall lineup is spotlighting diversity, and family comedy Black-ish is center stage.
“We looked at the landscape of television and we thought something was missing,” said executive producer and star Anthony Anderson. Black-ish, which centers on an upper-middle-class black man, Dre (Anderson), grappling with his kids’ perceived lack of cultural identity, is his attempt to fill that void.
The series, which also counts Larry Wilmore, Laurence Fishburne and creator Kenya Barris as executive producers, will make its debut Sept. 24. In a vote of confidence from ABC, the network has granted it the plum time slot behind comedy juggernaut Modern Family. The pilot episode finds fodder in moments where Dre’s son reveals he wants to try out for the field hockey team instead of the basketball team; be referred to as Andy instead of Andre Jr.; and have a bar mitzvah instead of an African rites of passage ceremony.
In pitching the half-hour sitcom to network buyers, Barris relied on his own experiences as an African-American dad raising children today. His pitch began with a conversation he had with his daughter, which made him realize she was growing up in an entirely different world than he had. “My daughter was trying to describe a kid in her class to me, and she’s going on and on, and finally I had to stop her and say, ‘Are you talking about the only other little black girl in your class?’ And she was like, ‘Oh yeah, I guess so,’ and I was like, ‘Well why didn’t you just say that?’,” Barris told The Hollywood Reporter. “I looked at my wife and she was like, ‘Isn’t that beautiful? She doesn’t see color!’ And I was like, ‘No, that’s ridiculous.’ “
Fishburne, who also stars, acknowledged he had experienced a similar blending of racial identities in his home, too, something he became particularly aware of after putting his kids through private school and paying for horseback riding lessons. “Why are these kids so removed from what I know to be blackness?” he remembers thinking. “We all wanted to do well, but didn’t realize the effect it would have on the kids.”
Ahead of the series’ premiere, Barris noted that comparisons to either The Cosby Show or The Bernie Mac Show, a previous Wilmore creation, would be the greatest compliment of all. Fishburne, for his part, is hoping for Modern Family comparisons. One thing that all of the producers agree on: While Black-ish will focus heavily on black culture, they insist the show centers on broad themes to which any viewer can relate. “It mirrors humanity,” said Anderson, adding with a laugh: “If you like life, you’ll dig the show.”
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