Black-ish has made something of a name for itself by being willing to tackle topics ranging from gun control, police brutality, to the election of Donald Trump. However, it appears that the one no-go zone for the series will be the issue of American football players kneeling.
It recently came out that ABC and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris mutually agreed to refrain from airing an episode that would have dealt with Colin Kaepernick and NFL players kneeling among other worries that Dre suffers from. While this is hardly the first time a TV show has canned an episode (Pokemon’s infamous Porygon episode comes to mind), it’s rather strange to see a show like Black-ish get its hand tied by the network regarding a topic like this.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t simply a matter of the network and production agreeing not to move forward with an episode. This is one that was fully written, cast, and completed before it got the brakes pulled. If this were perhaps earlier in the show’s run when the show didn’t have a history of confronting the outside world, or the audience didn’t have the stomach to watch such stories, it might be understandable. However, this late in the game, with so many other episodes of this nature under its belt, it’s hard not to see it as a betrayal of the show’s ethos.
The show’s audience is able to register that Black-ish has an eye for the zeitgeist and with a few exceptions (they still hired Chris Brown without blinking for an episode), they’ve generally shown a nuanced regard for the conversation taking place. Part of the reason for that is the variety of voices, ones with different opinions, but all still African-American that have allowed the show to approach current events. Moreover, it also helps create the appearance that ABC thinks there’s a limit to what the show can approach (well, in ways not restricted by network television guidelines) by either advertisers, or its sister company ESPN’s partnerships with the NFL. Either way, it’s a stunning lack of regard for what makes Black-Ish such a distinct show. One hopes ABC shows respect for the show’s audience and puts the episode on air.
What do you think? Should the episode air? If not, why? If so, why? Let us know in the comments!