I don't have too much new to say about Black-Ish this week. The three adult leads remain strong given limited material, though Fishburne remains underutilized. The children remain painfully bad (perhaps more noticeable here as the youngest girl was given a lot of good material to ruin with stilted delivery). The narration remains excessive, and the jokes remain surprisingly infrequent but occasionally sublime (the sequence with Andre in his car at the bus stop springs to mind). Perhaps most significantly, though, Black-Ish remains totally toothless.
That isn't necessarily a criticism. Not every "black" show needs to be The Chris Rock Show. The problem here is that Black-Ish seems to think it is. A good fifty percent of the material in the show, if not more, comes down to "what it means to be black," but the observations and claims is makes are total softballs. This is a family comedy pretending to be hip and edgy, and it rings false. I'm not saying the black experience depicted is inaccurate- I could not be any less qualified to comment on that- only that it seems, well, white-washed. It's a comedy about race that's afraid to make jokes about race, let alone jokes that are racy. It's equally afraid of bringing up anything of real racial substance; for a show about the conflict between black identity and white culture, there's shockingly little conflict. The edgiest thing in this week's episode is a joke about how much black people like Air Jordans, which is both tired comedic ground and not especially edgy or interesting. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing; if Black-Ish just wants to be an inoffensive mass-consumption family comedy, that's fine.
But it really doesn't feel like that's what Black-Ish wants to be. The marketing for the show has tried to sell it as a show that's not afraid to talk about race (all of the "edgiest" material is in the initial trailer), and Andre narrates with an assured "yea, I just said that" swagger that suggests he's much more of a rebellious outlier than he is. Perhaps that's the point, and if so, it's well made, but it doesn't leave the show with much to go on. If all Black-Ish wants to be is black Full House that's totally fine, but it should go be that, and stop pretending to be incisive and risqué.
That's all I've really got for today, though I suppose the never-not-funny Charlie Murphy deserves a mention for his guest appearance. He deserved better writing than he got, but he certainly made lemonade. There are definitely a few laughs here, and the production remains mostly slick. For all I've said, and while it could stand to up the jokes per minute ratio, Black-Ish isn't bad at what it is- it's just bad at what it pretends to be. Since this is a show notionally about being true to who you are, that's a pretty big problem.