Updated: Jul 25
The T.V. series Black-ish, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, broke ground when it premiered in 2014. It featured an upper-middle-class, inter-generational Black family, the dad an advertising executive and the mom a doctor. I chuckled at the quirky characters and side-eye looks that accompanied zippy one-liners. Most importantly, the Johnson family did not live in a bubble. Rather, they faced current and real-world problems. The series' writers did not shy away from tough topics like the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the N-word, the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and postpartum depression. Black-ish gained enough momentum to spark two spin-offs, Mixed-ish and Grown-ish. So, how did the series finale go largely unnoticed? Don't get me wrong, the final episode brought in a whopping 2.4 million viewers according to programminginsider.com. Comparatively, however, it was out-viewed by shows like This is Us and Judge Steve Harvey.
I'll be the first to admit that season seven's "road to divorce" episodes, as I like to call them, turned me off. Bo and Dre's on-screen tension hit too close to home as I was going through/had just gone through my own marital separation. I tuned in for laughs, not self-reflection. I could barely make it through a whole episode without sobbing. I also found myself less likely to watch primetime television once I returned to work after covid-19 cases plateaued and schools resumed in-person learning. I didn't have time for programmed entertainment. As a result, I turned to streaming networks. They allowed me to binge-watch at my leisure. Superhero spinoffs won me over as did period dramas. I enjoyed Hawkeye on Disney+ and Bridgerton on Netflix. There was also the Lifetime docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly. It was all anyone could talk about for weeks. Shows like Black-ish couldn't compete.
I'm not sure. It seems like the end of an era. The 2010's Black Woke Renaissance is over. Insecure (HBO Max) is no more. Dear White People and She's Gotta Have It (Netflix) have also come to an end. Tyler Perry's stronghold on BET continues but his brand of melodrama is not for everyone. Shows like The Oval, Sistas, and House of Payne don't have the fan-reach of This is Us or other series with a multi-racial or predominately all-white cast. They don't have to, either. Tyler Perry has diehard followers and his own production studio. Hollywood can kick rocks, for all Madea is concerned.
In truth, while I enjoyed them, I'm okay with the end of shows that feature the Black middle class/upper-middle-class and quarter-life crises. I would like to think America is on the fringes of an Afrofuturism renaissance. I want more shows like Lovecraft Country and Watchmen. I'd even tune into another season of Them (Amazon Prime). With one hundred seventy-five episodes under its belt, I believe, like A Different World and Sanford and Son, Black-ish will thrive in syndication. It will find new audiences and fans. Heck, my high school seniors quote The Boondocks, and that show last aired in 2014.
Marsai Martin and Miles Brown, the youngest members of the Black-ish cast, have bright futures ahead of them in entertainment if they chose to pursue acting, writing, producing, and/or directing. Fans may have said farewell on April 19, 2022, but not goodbye. The influence of Black-ish lives on. Echoes of the show can be seen in The Wonder Years reboot, Young Rock, Kenan, Fresh off the Boat, and The Upshaws.