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Blackish & The Carmichael Show: Why The Carmichael Show is Better

ABC’s Blackish (2014 – present) started off promising as the quintessential family show which addresses and sheds light on relevant issues in which race, gender and sex relations take place. The series, about an upper class black family who try to unravel their cultural and social identity in White America, has received critical acclaim and gone on to win multiple awards.

Blackish was the first of its kind to be deliberate in its social and political commentary, such as Black Lives Matter, Homophobia, President Trump etc. One of the reasons Blackish was so important was due to it being on Network Television – in South African terms that would translate to our free-to-air channels SABC and ETV. Network Television (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox etc.), unlike Cable Television (HBO, Showtime, FX) is known for limited content creation/creativity and cancelling pilots before they even air. So, for a "black show" to be this aggressive is very rare

The show naturally took time to find its feet, but once it did with season two, it was brilliant. It had found a home at ABC and acquired a loyal fan base with every kind of demographic. However, as the series progressed, I noticed a pattern with the show that I didn’t resonate with – everything was done and said through the perspective of Andre “Dre” Johnson (Anthony Anderson)

Created and executive produced by Kenya Barris, Larry Wilmore and Anthony Anderson – the show is originally centered around the real life of Kenya Barris and his family. Given that it is written by a black man, I was unable to unknow certain naunces and storylines that focused on the black man narrative in all topics and shun anything that was relatable to me – a black woman. And although there were centralized themes about Dr. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) – Dre’s wife, who is evidently more rational and smart, it always reverts back to being about him. And as much as much as the show tried to be inclusive of our issues, it failed for many reasons I could speculate, but none other than no one can write stories for and about us BUT us

Many a people have gone on to compare Blackish to NBC’s short-lived series The Carmichael Show, which conveys the same vision but the latter has proven to be the better show off of one main reason – The Carmichael Show tells the story from the perspective of everyone.
The cast, which includes young black man (Jerrod Carmichael) and his biracial feminist girlfriend (Amber Stevens West), Jerrod’s parents (Loretta Devine and David Alan Grier), some 60+ year old’s who have lived through the Civil Rights Movement and might not have an understanding of modern conventions, and divorced but “still living together” dysfunctional pair (Tiffany Haddish and Lil Rel Howery) who essentially represent the ignorant everyman American (think highly of themselves but have low self-awareness)

Filmed in front of a live studio audience, the NBC situational comedy is very confrontational and conversational. It details people of different backgrounds, upbringings, values and thoughts in the same room sounding off difficult conversations together. The art is in realizing that these people are here for our convenience, because as much as we think that these discussions happen, they are rarely done head on

What made The Carmichael Show better than Blackish is the emphasis of importance of each character. With every arising issue, a character is equally central as another because the difference in opinion and perspective help bring the conversation in full. I also love how it shows that there need not be an answer or solution to every thing. The idea is to open up the dialogue for people to have these conversations amongst themselves and not necessarily look to the show for answers. Its aim is for everyone to see a part of themselves in the (some) of the characters – their behavioral patterns, responses, reactions and so forth

The structure of it being a situational comedy (sitcom) as opposed to a standardized comedy show is one of the reasons it works best. A situational comedy forces the cast to be together on one set at all times, whereas when Blackish attempts to have people in the room together, it does not look as natural. The characters on The Carmichael Show are never without each other or separated from an episode’s plotline. For instance, Dre and Bow could have a main storyline and their children have their own subplot and the stories don’t connect in the end

Because Blackish is a centralized comedy like Modern Family which shows enamored growth, the stories are often left open ended and, the growth hinders the sphere of the initial narrative. How is it possible that 4 seasons in Andre Johnson still has similar reactions and feelings to the same issue he had in season 1? Unlike sitcoms, when growth happens, the characters still remain the same because the environment stays the same. You don’t have the need for them to be the person that you had envisioned them to be because they already told you who they are and them unraveling, only unravels more of who they are

In short, The Carmichael Show is what Blackish should’ve been and it’s unfortunate that it had to be cancelled.

Op-ed Television comedy blackish the Carmichael show

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