It’s arguably the most famous episode of a sitcom that never made it to air.
Midway through black-ish‘s Emmy-nominated fourth season was supposed to be an episode, “Please, Baby, Please,” about Dre (played by Anthony Johnson) telling bedtime stories to his son Devante. But it was shelved indefinitely due to “creative differences” between ABC and creator Kenya Barris, who has since landed a massive deal with Netflix. One of the reasons why he “quit Disney,” as The Hollywood Reporter put it, was because of the never-seen episode.
“I don’t know that I would have been as useful to them as they’d need me to be after that,” Barris said, while Anderson added, “He’d given his blood, sweat, and tears to [the episode], which they had signed off on every step of the way — from the outline, to the script, to the table read, to the point where they actually spent the money and made the episode. And I don’t know what those conversations were, but we entered into this partnership with the understanding that we would be able to tell the stories that we wanted to tell.”
As for the content of the episode:
It was, per multiple sources, a mix of political allegory (an animated fairy tale about a character named The Shady King) and actuality (news footage of Donald Trump, the Charlottesville attacks, and the NFL kneeling protests). “When you’re putting a baby to sleep, you’re trying to soothe whatever anxieties they’re having,” says Barris, speaking for the first time about the controversial episode. “So, this was about me trying to pat the butt of the country and soothe people.” (Via)
It was a more-expensive-than-usual episode, too, with the extra money spent on the rights to the Sam Cooke classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” and voiceover from Spike Lee, “since the episode took its title and inspiration from a children’s book” written by the BlacKkKlansman director and his wife, according to the Reporter. “We approached it with the network and the studio as, ‘This is different.’ We certainly knew people would talk about it,” Barris said.
There’d been a flurry of back-and-forths with executives as high up as CEO Bob Iger, who called Barris from home, sick with laryngitis, and, per two sources, had a reasoned conversation with the showrunner about the political sensitivities of being a broadcast network in 2018. Executives at ABC, more than any other network, have been forthright about their desire for more red-state programming since Trump’s win — and with Barris’ latest episode, they feared they’d be alienating the very population they’d tried so hard to court. (Via)
Barris tried to tone down some of the anti-Trump bits in editing (despite the issues with this particular episode, he still calls Iger the “best CEO in the world”), but “what it ended up being, and I think the network would agree, was not a true representation of what we intended to do. Because if it was, we would’ve shown it.” He bolted to Netflix (for $100 million) a few months later.
You can read more about what Barris plans to do next here.
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)