NVTV 37: Black-Ish "The Gift of Hunger"

There's something I used to say about Batlestar Galactica, and I think now, with that show long departed, the mantle has been passed to Black-Ish. "I don't know whether this is the best bad show on TV, or the worst good show on TV." 

It's definitely one of the two. The production is slick, the core adult cast (though they were sadly Fishburne-less again this week) is fantastic, and the joke writing it often competent. On the other hand, most of the child actors stink, the joke writing is never stellar, the show's laboriously over-narrated and broad, and the office segments often feel more like a Key and Peele sketch than a part of an actual sitcom. The show is either well made crap or poorly made gold, but either way there's a lot of room for improvement here, but very little momentum in that direction.

There's also been an astonishingly lack of utilization of some very funny supporting actors; we've watched for weeks as Charlie Murphy does the best with minimal material, and now we've got Nicole Sullivan basically back to playing a bougie Mad TV caricature of a rich white woman. These guest stars- and for that matter, the very funny main actors- deserve better, and Black-Ish refuses to give it to them. This is the show I least look forward to each week, as even inferior shows- like the god awful A to Z- are interesting failures;  whether or not Black-Ish is a failure is an open question, but it's only very rarely interesting. 

NVTV 26: Black-Ish Halloween

Big strides for Black-Ish this week despite the absence of the show's usual MVP. The list of terrible child actors has shrunk from four to three as Yara Shahidi showed off some impressive deadpan chops. Charley Murphy returned, and was deployed with a bit more expertise. Tracee Ellis Ross turned in her usual great work but was actually given something to work with, and Anthony Anderson got to be more than just a narrator. The jokes were the most consistent they've been so far, and while the ending was telegraphed, it was also an ending that worked for the show, and didn't sell out any of its characters. Perhaps most importantly, after six weeks of pretending to be about race, Black-Ish actually showed some teeth with it's racial humor (mostly at the office).

On the negative side, the show still feels compelled to hold its audience's hand a bit too much... though sadly they may be a necessity for a hit network sitcom these days; Black-Ish is curb stomping every other show I'm reviewing in the ratings despite being somewhere in the middle of the pack qualitatively. Three out of four child actors are still butchering otherwise good material (the oldest son was particularly brutal this week, turning on-paper funny material into a real snore), and Pop's was conspicuous by his absence; since that absence likely means Hannibal is shooting again, I'm ok with it, but within the realm of Black-Ish less Pops is worrisome as he's been their most consistently funny character thus far. 

Overall, big thumbs up for this week relative to last week, and a moderate thumbs up in a vacuum.