The Sunday Stream

There’s so much great television this season, with breakout hits and potential breakout hits gracing our airwaves each week. It’s a pleasure to see so many unknowns getting the chance to perform and prove themselves, and for that I’m forever grateful. With that said I think it’s also important that we don’t forget about the series that have gotten us to this point, the ones that started off unsure and became a staple in our homes. The ones that slowly became a breakout hit, and now has aged gracefully as it takes its final bow. Yup, I’m talking about Black’ish, which returned earlier this month for its eighth and final season. Who knew a show about a well-to-do family from Los Angeles would make such a splash on network television.

It was a wild concept, to be sure. There hadn’t been a sitcom covering the upper crust of Black living since The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air went off the air. So seeing a family that didn’t have to struggle or bemoaned the struggles of Black folks from that lens was something new. Something risky. Something middle America might not have been ready for. Thankfully Kenya Barris and Anthony Anderson thought they would be, and brought us one of the defining sitcoms of our generation.

Consider this my love letter to the series that birthed the spinoffs Grown’ish (great concept!) and Mixed’ish (not so great concept). Consider this a reminder to make sure and watch this final season with a hint of nostalgia in our hearts, knowing that we’ll be losing the chance to see so many great actors in one place.

We’ll be losing the chance to see Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) in all her glory, whether it’s embarrassing her son about his childhood or simply sitting on the couch reading “Church Hat” magazine. We’ll miss the presence of Tracie Ellis Ross’ character Rainbow as one of the decision-making doctors at her hospital. We’ll miss Dre’s shoe collection (and his hair evolution through the years) and his weekly rants/lessons about how life hasn’t been fair to Black folks. We’ll miss Pops’ weekly glass of bourbon, and the chance to laugh at the fact that they really named their youngest son Devante. We’ll have to look back fondly to recall how we literally watched the young actors grow up for most of the past decade, seeing them blossom into their zone of genius. It’s all been a delight and something I’ll never take for granted.

And then there’s the material they were given to work with, with scripts exploring every aspect of Black life. One of the funniest episodes of television I’ve ever watched was because of Black’ish. I swear my stomach hurt from laughing watching Dre and Junior at the barbershop.

Or the time the series gave America the ultimate lesson on the origins of Juneteenth.

Oh, and there was the time the series was going for that Emmy win, with Dre and Rainbow on the verge of divorce… Sigh.

And the time there was a quasi-Girlfriends reunion.

Thank goodness the series gave Deon Cole an expanded role after he initially came on board as a writer. As the character Charlie, he is responsible for many of my hysterical fits of laughter over the years. Whether it’s his stalkerish love of Rainbow, his ongoing rivalry with Diane, or his constant displays of terrible parenting, Charlie just got it right. Consistently.

There were many episodes that can be looked at for poignancy, but none more than the episode “Hope.” It’s my all-time favorite script from the show, and the cast put on their good acting shoes that week to make it live. What made it even more brilliant is the fact that it was a bottle episode, where everyone was gathered in one room to talk about one subject: police brutality. So many gems from the ep, from Dre and Rainbow discussing how to approach talking about the subject with their younger kids (Rainbow insists that they be allowed to “hold on to their innocence and be kids a little while longer” while Dre protests that “they are not just children, they are Black children and they need to know the world they are living in.”) They went on to name the names of those who had been affected (read: killed) by the police, including Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray.

And then there was the best part of the 22 minutes–Dre’s monologue about the Obama inauguration:

“Oh, so you wanna talk about hope, ‘Bow? Obama ran on hope. Remember when he got elected? And we felt like maybe, just maybe, we got out of that bad place and made it to a good place,” he started off. “…And we saw him, get out of that limo, and walk alongside of it, and wave to that crowd. Tell me you weren’t terrified when you saw that. Tell me you weren’t worried that someone was gonna snatch that hope away from us like they always do. That is the real world, ‘Bow. And our children need to know that that’s the world they live in.”

I swear, sitting there in that moment, his words gave me goosebumps and brought a thug tear to my eye. It said what most of us were thinking, and even if we weren’t, it gave America another perspective on how hope, while something we all do, can be such a fleeting thing. Just a job well done all around by everyone involved.

Such a great episode. Such a great series. One of the pieces of work that I’ll be sad to see leave this spring. Thank you to Kenya Barris for drawing from your family’s experiences to create this masterpiece. Thank you to Anthony Anderson, Tracie Ellis Ross, Laurence Fishburne, Jenifer Lewis, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Marsai Martin, Miles Brown, Deon Cole, Peter Mackenzie, Jeff Meacham, Katlyn Nichol, the writers, producers, directors and all of the crew that brought us eight years of excellence. Here are your flowers. We hate to see you go but already know that you will make a grand exit.

What a time to be alive.

Black’ish airs Tuesdays on ABC.

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