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‘Black-ish’ Celebrates Black Culture

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By Rick Bentley

The Fresno Bee

(MCT)

LOS ANGELES — Network executives have talked for years about the need for more diversity in their programming. But all you have to do is watch TV to realize how far off they are from reflecting the real ethnic makeup of this country.

Larry Wilmore, executive producers of the new ABC comedy “Black-ish,” and the rest of the “Black-ish” cast and crew are looking to change that view.

“This show kind of celebrates black more as a cultural thing than a race thing. At the heart of it, it’s a family show and it’s about basically a father who feels like he may have given his kids too much. And whenever you give your kids a lot, something is always lost,” Wilmore says. “We have so many people from so many different groups, immigrant groups and different ethnic identities, who can relate to this where their kids, when they assimilate, something is lost in their own culture.”

In “Black-ish,” Anthony Anderson plays the concerned father who believes his family has forgotten their heritage. After his son asks to have a bar mitzvah (and the family isn’t Jewish), he decides to try to re-educate his children.

The plot line of the bar mitzvah comes directly from Anderson.

His 12-year-old son told him he just didn’t “feel black.” Anderson realized that his success—including roles in the TV shows “The Shield” and “Law & Order” and the films “The Departed” and Hustle & Flow”—allowed him to give his son a different lifestyle than the one he knew growing up in Compton.

“The existence that my son knows is nothing short of privilege. Being in private school since the age of four and his surroundings in that environment is what he was referring to. And I was like, well, son, this is your black experience. That black experience that you have right now is different than the experience that I had growing up,” Anderson says. “He got it and understood it. And then in the same breath, he said, ‘Okay, Dad. For my 13th birthday, I want a bar mitzvah.’

“I look him dead in his eye, and I said, ‘So you really aren’t black?’ Let me just figure out how I’m going to do this.”

Anderson’s solution of giving his son a hip-hop bro mitzvah has been worked into the comedy series. A photo album of the event was used when Anderson pitched the idea for the series to the network.

Part of the humor in the show is at the expense of the mother—played by Tracee Ellis Ross—being of mixed race. The actress was attracted to the role because that’s exactly the life she’s lived.

“As a mixed girl, you’re constantly ‘Are you black? Are you white?’ I’m like why do I have to be either. And so it’s this idea of what is race, what is black, and what is this conversation? I think it’s a conversation that everyone is already having and, yes, we are telling it specifically from this point of view, but it is a universal conversation, especially in this day and age in the world that we live in today,” Ross says.

Rounding out the family is Lawrence Fishburne, who plays Anderson’s father. It’s a very different role for the actor who has tended to gravitate toward more dramatic TV series such as ‘CSI” and “Hannibal.” His willingness to take on a network sitcom came from what he saw in the script and conversations with the producers.

“Ultimately our country is black-ish. We’ve all been borrowing little bits and pieces of culture from each other for however long we’ve been around,” Fishburne says. “It was the conversation about our lives and just the stuff that we have to deal with in our lives, yes, as black men in America, but those things are always changing and shifting and growing.

“We have a lot more in common with other people than the differences. Our differences are not as huge as they used to be.”

SHOW INFO

“Black-ish,” 9:30 p.m. Wednesday ABC

UPCOMING TV

New shows Wednesday

“Mysteries of Laura,” 8 p.m. NBC (NBC previewed the pilot episode Sept. 17).

Returning shows Wednesday

“Survivor,” 8 p.m.” CBS

“The Middle,” 8 p.m. ABC

“The Goldbergs,” 8:30 p.m. ABC

“Modern Family,” 9 p.m. ABC

“Law & Order: SVU,” 9 p.m. NBC

“Nashville,” 10 p.m. ABC

“Chicago P.D.,” 10 p.m. NBC

New shows Thursday

“How To Get Away With Murder,” 10 p.m. ABC

Returning shows Thursday

“Bones,” 8 p.m. FOX

“Grey’s Anatomy,” 8 p.m. ABC

“Scandal,” 9 p.m. ABC

“Parenthood,” 10 p.m. NBC

©2014 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

Visit The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.) at www.fresnobee.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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The official student newspaper of Northeast Community College.
‘Black-ish’ Celebrates Black Culture