We shouldn’t underestimate the ability of a television comedy to speak with weight about a real world issue. We also shouldn’t forget that it is a challenge to craft smart social commentary and avoid falling into the traps that turn those well-meaning efforts into cloying overly simplistic “Very Special Episode” fare. That’s a reality that probably forces many shows to stay on their side of the comedy/drama divide, but the producers behind Mom, The Carmichael Show, Black-ish, and a handful of other shows have no shortage of guts or skill when it comes to addressing big issues.
Wednesday night’s episode of Black-ish is a reminder of that and it deserves (and has been getting) high praise for the passionate and intelligent way that it addressed the plague of police brutality and how it impacts the black community. The producers and writers also deserve praise for the seamless way that they worked a giant issue into the realm of the show, something accomplished by focusing on the sometimes tenuous existence of hope and the heartache parents surely feel when they must decide when it’s the right moment to burden a young and wholly innocent mind with the unconscionable realities of a world that is clearly broken. Because of the focus on the family and the impact on them, this both feels like an episode of Black-ish and a snapshot of a living room in this country on any one of the many nights when justice fails and anger rages.
Obviously, to pull off this kind of episode, you need more than bold producers and a well-crafted script — you need actors who can draw people in and really make the material stand out. And as you can see in the above clip, Anthony Anderson (Dre) and Tracee Ellis Ross (Rainbow) absolutely deliver. Anderson will get a lot of the attention for the intensity that he puts forth as he reminds Tracee Ellis Ross’ character that, despite every move in the right direction, there remains a fear that hate and stupidity will conspire to set back progress, but Ross’ more subtle response is haunting. This is a mother accepting that she can’t protect her babies anymore from the real world. A realization that is necessary and heartbreaking. Just like Wednesday night’s episode of Black-ish.