I grew up watching reruns of my favourite sitcom-Diff’rent Strokes– that aired at a local TV station. Although the show aired long ago, between 1978 and 1986, the invaluable lessons offered back then are relevant to date. I would watch the episodes over and over, enjoy a good laugh and still learn something. After watching most of the episodes, the comedy bug bit me. I developed a certain level of liking for sitcoms which informed my decision to buy, borrow or download many comedy series which light up my dull days. I have watched many funny movies and series but none quite tickles my fancy as much as ABC’s Blackish does. Right from season premiere on September 24, 2014, the sitcom promised to be enlightening with a shot of humour, quips and repartees.
It features a successful African-American family enjoying middle-class living but struggling not to lose its cultural identity. The head of the house, Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) is a successful marketing executive at a firm where he has risen through the corporate ranks. He is married to a beautiful doctor wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) and together they have four children- Andre jr. (Marcus Scribner), Zoey (Yara Shahidi), Diane (Marsai Martin) and Jack (MilesBrown).
The creator and executive producer, Kenya Barris, has done a great job to produce a comedy master piece that sheds light on the issues that affect most, if not all, modern families all over the world. All the episodes have loads of witty remarks and a great sense of humour making them irresistible to watch. They address the day-to-day issues in a humorous manner that makes us learn a thing or two. After watching both season and two, there are a few pointers I on life I got from the sitcom.
Here are some of those.
The sitcom portrays Dre as a man who grew up living under a father who was a miser. Through stories narrated to his kids, he had just enough for survival. He’d get only one present for Christmas. Celebrations such as Father’s Day were seen as a waste of money back in the day when he was growing up. He didn’t have much in life. Through sheer effort, he succeeded in life and rose through the corporate ranks to hold a senior position in his organisation. He is married to a successful doctor and they live lavishly. He owns a palatial home, splashes his kids with numerous gifts and at the office, he is ‘balling’-carrying huge sums of money to take care of his bills as seen in Season two, the ‘Keeping Up with the Johnsons’ episode. At some point they are forced to cut some expenses simply because they cannot afford the lavish living. This perfectly illustrates what goes on in many people’s lives warns against unnecessary spending.
Live within your means.
In season two, Dre and Rainbow take their daughter Zoey on a college tour in Brown University. Dre calls his co-worker, Charlie, to baby sit his kids. Although Junior, Diane and Jack are big enough to take care of themselves, Charlie sees this as an opportunity to entertain his ex at the palatial home pretending it is his. He plays a great dad to Dre’s kids which his ex finds impressive. He however gets tired of pretending and has to come clean. This same scenario is seen in many people’s lives especially on social media where people live to impress. It’s about time that you started living within your means if you haven’t already.
Throughout the episodes, the value of proper conduct has been emphasised. Both Dre and Rainbow freely interact with their kids. His pops, who live with them, advocate for spanking as a way of instilling discipline in the kids but Dre declines to follow his father’s instructions. Rather, he teaches his youngest son how to conduct himself appropriately. This family has everything going for them; Dre has the option of ‘spoiling’ his kids with whatever they ask for as he can afford it. Instead, he makes them work for what they want. They are made to start their own businesses which teach them financial discipline.
The issue of race and class is one people would rather not discuss or they would rather discuss in hushed tones. It is viewed as a hot-button issue hard to talk about without offending people. Dre’s modern family lives in a predominantly white community. His work place has more white people than black. There are misconceptions about black which Dre seeks to debunk. Closer home, the issue of tribalism and class is rife. People continue to segregate themselves along tribal and social class lines. Although this may not be done intentionally, it affects the normal coexistence of different communities in Kenya. It is about time that people started shedding light on it rather than burying their heads in the sand.
Bo and her mother-in-law Ruby are at loggerheads most of the times throughout the episodes. Bo sees Ruby as an intruder to her home coming in the way of her husband. Ruby on the other hand is a possessive mother who wants her son to cater for her every whim. She dislikes Rainbow. Thing is, this perfectly illustrates the kind of relationships families have. These episodes try to show how detrimental it can get if these relationships are left to deteriorate.
I bet you are not hearing about Blackish for the first time. If you haven’t watched this hilarious sitcom, make a point of doing so. You’ll learn these among other lessons and still enjoy the subtle humour in it.