One of the few shows I have enjoyed watching over the past few years has been Black-ish. The show hinges around how ad executive Dre Johnson, who is played by Anthony Anderson, attempts to maintain his cultural identity while living in an affluent neighborhood. In many ways, Dre represented the successful American who struggled to maintain a sense of identity (and, for that matter, dignity) in an world that, notwithstanding the increasing identity politics, discourages people from attaching themselves to a broader culture. While the show has touched on several sensitive issues, particularly race, it had done so in a good-naturedly way that treated its diverse audience with respect.
The premiere episode of this season, “Juneteenth”, was a thirty minute scold-fest. The show usually takes advantage of Dre’s inclination to take a superficial matter as an indication of a larger injustice. However, in this episode, his indignation never lets up and hangs over it throughout.
It began with the Johnson family watching a school Columbus Day pageant in which Dre’s elementary school-aged children, Jack and (previously pathological) Diane, are participating. Dre imagines a rap his children would perform if the play was performed according to the truth:
Everything you know about Columbus is a joke
He didn’t discover America prepare to get woke
I’m Christopher Columbus, and I’m pretty much evil
On Hispaniola, my men killed the indigenous people
You’re so brave, Columbus more than words can convey
And it’s cool how your men killed 3,000 people in one day
So let’s make one thing perfectly clear
Celebrating Columbus is celebrating a slavery pioneer
But at least you can get a great deal on a mattress
Dre then uses the “fake history” (gee, I wonder if this is meant to sound like “fake news”? Bueller? Bueller?) of the play as the pretense to ask (once again, indignantly) if black people have to celebrate white holidays, why can’t white people celebrate Juneteenth, a “black holiday”?
The rest of the episode – otherwise known as the longest twenty five minutes of my life – is then dedicated to “educating” the audience on what Juneteenth is. (Spoiler alert: it’s the day that celebrates the abolition of slavery in Texas, which occurred on June 19, 1865.)
The dialogues were horrible. Dre and Bow (and Daphne Lido, who works in the same ad agency as Dre) were woke, indignant, and condescending to every white person to whom they spoke. The white people were subservient, inarticulate, and stupid.
Meanwhile, the middle of the episode included musical numbers about how black people used to be slaves in America, how slavery is bad, and how slaves became really happy when they were emancipated. Yes, there was the mildly amusing ditty that played tribute to Schoolhouse Rock’s “I Am a Bill” (can you guess which word they replaced with bill?), but that did very little to compensate for the fact that someone thought it was a good idea for Black-ish to teach lessons that 99.867936% of Americans learned when they were five.
I don’t know how the rest of Black-ish‘s season is going to play out, and I don’t care. It has joined the NFL, ESPN, and awards shows as those entities that have succumbed to the social justice virus. Given that they have taken severe ratings and popularity hits, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what will happen to Black-ish if they continue this course.
In fact, signs of the show’s deteriorating popularity can already be observed. According to tvbythenumbers.com, ABC had only 4.61 million viewers of Tuesday night primetime shows, behind CBS (11.03 million) and NBC (8.73 million). At the 9pm slot, 4.69 million watched Black-ish, well behind behind Bull (10.72 million) and This is Us (10.92 million). While Black-ish had a relatively similar portion of the 18-49 year-old audience as Bull, the youth have also been watching less traditional TV over time.
However, that will not stop the social justice virus from clinging to whatever host that will accept it. Unfortunately for TV audiences who merely look to be entertained, a previously successful sitcom is the latest victim.