‘Black-ish’ Stages A Terrific Musical ‘Juneteenth’ Celebration

Senior Television Writer
10.04.17 3 Comments

ABC

A quick review of last night’s black-ish season premiere coming up just as soon as I fly to Oakland for an Electric Slide convention…

black-ish at its best — and “Juneteenth” was very much the show at its best — manages to hit that sweet and elusive spot of arguing and entertaining at once, so that the sociological material doesn’t feel like a lecture, while Dre and Charlie’s goofiness has enough depth behind it to not seem completely dumb. (Well, maybe Dre’s goofiness more than Charlie’s.)

So on the one hand, Dre’s fixation on the Juneteenth holiday is presented as just the latest thing he’ll be obsessed with for two days before forgetting all about it. As usual, he goes overboard, bringing in Aloe Blacc to write songs and even use his personal social media accounts to spread the word. And as usual, Dre’s co-workers (even Daphne) view his lectures as something to be either avoided or endured as quickly as possible. And on top of that, we got a collection of wonderful songs, from the animated “I’m Just A Bill” parody about slavery with The Roots to the more elaborate Broadway musical numbers, complete with gospel choir, as the Johnsons (one of them played by a woman with a lot of music in her DNA) assumed the roles of slaves waiting for their freedom.

Yet in the midst of all the joking and stomping, there’s also some very straightforward and heartfelt commentary about the origins of Juneteenth, slavery’s role in building America, and the importance of acknowledging this date as opposed to many of the other holidays the Johnsons spend more time obsessing over. Junior scolding Dre once he realizes what Juneenth is actually about worked as both a good joke about the family dynamics and one more brick in the foundation of the episode’s argument.

I would call this the platonic ideal of A Very Special Episode, but black-ish pulls off this particular mixture so often, and with such apparent ease, that I’ve just come to expect it. Still, even by the series’ standards, this was stellar.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His next book, Breaking Bad 101, is out 10/10 and available for preoder now.

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