When Kenya Barris revealed that part of his reasoning for signing a whopper development deal with Netflix was his frustration over ABC shelving a Season 4 episode of black-ish, intrigue around the lost episode that was pulled from the schedule days before it was set to air in Feb. 2018 grew exponentially. The Emmy-nominated sitcom had already tackled the n-word, police brutality, and Juneteenth by the time the episode was set to air; what could possibly be so triggering in the episode that it could be yanked so far into the production process?
On Monday, viewers got to find out for themselves when Disney-owned Hulu (and a new slate of ABC executives) put the episode -- listed as Season 4, Episode 99, "Please, Baby, Please" -- up on the streaming service. The episode centered on Dre (Anthony Anderson) trying to explain the world as it was in that moment to his infant son in an effort to calm the tot back to sleep. Every time he gets close to getting Devante back to sleep, another family member interrupts, prompting another debate about the world at large. Dre's various conversations tackle white nationalism, government corruption, NFL protests, and climate change.
Watching the episode in 2020, amidst a global pandemic as protests to defund the police rage on in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, it's hard to see how the points raised in the episode could ruffle the feathers of ABC executives so much that they'd shelve the episode. But if the societal changes during Trump's first year in office caused Dre and his family anxiety, it's hard to imagine how he'd explain impeachment hearings, COVID-19, and the current tense social climate to baby Devante now. The public landscape has shifted so much, it's nearly impossible to get back into a 2018 mindset when kneeling at a football game seemed truly sensational. The most controversial part of the episode in this jaded 2020 light is a slight dig at Ellen DeGeneres getting the Medal of Freedom, which only raises eyebrows due to the talk show host's most recent public debacle.
Would Trump have some choice tweets about "The Shady King" sequence, where he's painted as a narcissistic oligarch in direct comparison to Obama's "Prince Barry"? Yes, but Trump has never been the intended audience for the show. The point of Dre's story is to shed light on the fears of Black and Brown people in America at that uncertain time -- fears that have only been proven valid in 2020. Even so, when Dre is later discussing the Charlottesville protests with Pops (Laurence Fishburne), he defends the right of white people to have pride in their own race even if he's nervous about how brazen white supremacy had become with Trump in the Oval Office. He presents a fair argument that no one should be able to dictate to another group of people whether they get to have pride in themselves. He mentions that Black people are so proud they even have a song about it, referencing James Brown's "Say It Loud -- I"m Black and I'm Proud." Pops counters that James Brown didn't write that anthemic tune because he was feeling cute, but because Black people were exhausted by the fight for civil rights as the Vietnam War raged on. The song was a call to action, a message to the oppressed so they would know they are not alone. The context is everything.
The NFL protests led by Colin Kaepernick get the same even-handed treatment as Junior (Marcus Scribner) agonizes over his school's new policy to suspend any student who kneels at a school football game. Dre points out that Kaepernick is far from the first black athlete to use their platform to advocate for social change. Muhammad Ali, tennis pro Arthur Ashe, and Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos all made huge sacrifices to stand up for what they believe in and fight for justice for Black people in America. Junior admitted that even if he isn't sure that kneeling was the way to go about protesting (what if he knew the NFL has since completely reversed its opinion on kneeling during games?), but concedes that students have a right to peacefully protest their beliefs however they want, and as student body president it is his job to represent and support them.
Both the Pops and Junior conversations, and the episode as a whole, exemplifies what black-ish does so well -- provide context and multiple sides of any given argument. The show never fully settles on a right or wrong party when it comes to the serious topics it decides to tackle, leaving the door open for families at home to continue the conversations for themselves. Perhaps, if you're a white viewer, the show provides a perspective you weren't able to access because it's not your American experience, but it's never presented in a condescending way. "Please, Baby, Please," ends with Dre looking fondly at his family, who have all found their way to his king sized bed to sleep, and saying that even if the state of the world has him worried, he's hopeful that the next generation will fight to make it right. As anxiety inducing and stressful as the topics covered within the episode are, the ending message is still one of hope and unity.
Considering that black-ish has always been lauded for its ability to shed light and tell the truth in difficult conversations, it's so difficult to pinpoint what the executives in 2018 felt was so abrasive that the episode couldn't air in light of everything that has happened since. The actually alarming thing about the episode in this three-years-later context is how many warning signs there were back then about where we are now, and perhaps if the episode had been allowed to air, black-ish could have helped spur more people to do something about it before we got here.
"Please, Baby, Please" and the rest of black-ish is now streaming on Hulu.
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In news that will make you scream "Kelly Clarkson!!!" at the top of your lungs, the talented songstress and affable TV host is stepping in for Simon Cowell as a judge on America's Got Talent. Cowell is currently out on medical leave after breaking his back in an electric bike accident which required surgery to repair. Per TVLine, Clarkson will join permanent judges Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, and Sofia Vergara during AGT's first round of live shows set to air Tuesday and Wednesday at 8/7c on NBC.
"My friend, Simon Cowell, is doing better now but was in an accident and won't be able to make Tuesday and Wednesday's live shows for AGT. But no worries America, someone far wiser, cooler, and hotter is taking his seat! The unbelievably amazing Kelly Clarkson You're welcome in advance!" Clarkson said in a statement, according to TVLine. Cowell is expected to make a full recovery and will eventually return to the reality competition series at some point.
Clarkson is no stranger to a judge's panel having served as a coach in Seasons 14 and 15 of NBC's The Voice. (Fun fact: She is the only female coach to win back-to-back seasons.) in 2019, Clarkson nabbed her own self-titled talk show The Kelly Clarkson Show which recently won three Daytime Emmy Awards including Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host.
Catch Clarkson and the rest of the judges in action when America's Got Talent airs its lives shows starting Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 8/7c on NBC.
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Zac Efron is heading back to Disney! The High School Musical alum will be starring in a remake of the classic 1987 comedy, Three Men and a Baby, according to The Hollywood Reporter, who first reported the news. The feature will debut on Disney+, Disney's streaming platform that saw massive hits this year with originals like The Mandalorian.
Starring Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenberg, Three Men and a Baby followed a trio of clueless New York bachelors as they tried to take care of a strange infant dropped off on their doorstep while fending off drug dealers after a comical misinterpretation about the baby's origin. The movie was the biggest box office hit of the year and was lauded for showing a softer, paternal side of three acting heavyweights. There was a sequel three years later titled Three Men and a Little Lady, but it was significantly less successful.
This marks Efron's return to Disney; the entertainment conglomerate first launched the teen star in High School Musical, after which he went on to superstardom. No other casting news about the project is known yet, including which of the three infamous men he'll be playing. Disney is currently searching for a director.
The original Three Men and a Baby is currently streaming on Disney+.
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