Breaking Down the Banned ’Black-ish’ Episode

The 2018 episode 'Please, Baby, Please' was shelved by ABC for 'creative differences' but recently found its way onto Hulu. 

Photo Credit: ABC 

Viewers familiar with ABC's 'Black-ish' know that the Emmy-nominated sitcom is no stranger to taking on controversial topics and hot-button political issues with its signature mixture of tense moments and light-hearted exchanges. Everything from police brutality to the rise of Donald Trump has been documented and addressed during the show's six-year run. In fact, the comedy's devotion to discussing uncomfortable subjects makes the scrubbing of this installment even more confusing. Nothing in the twenty-minute run of 'Please, Baby, Please' strays too far away from the thematic DNA of the series, ultimately playing out like a fairly standard episode. Even though it does hit some familiar beats, this season four installment is certainly worth viewing for the creative and unique way it describes and breaks down the many troubling injustices that were taking place in late 2017 and still take place in early 2021. 

Similar to the 2016 episode centered on murder at the hands of law enforcement, 'Please, Baby, Please' incorporates the minimalist bottle episode format by keeping the story confined to the house setting alone. Because of this, the dialogue and storyline work overtime to create an interesting narrative. The episode focuses on the rather simple plotline of Dre (Anthony Anderson) attempting to quiet down baby Devante during the middle of the night. As a storm rages on outside, Anderson's character decides to discuss the hardships going on in America in a condensed, fantasy-like format instead of reading his son an actual bedtime story. What follows is an engaging and elaborate storybook-esque monologue that pans President Trump and lauds Barack Obama. Although Andre's character undeniably has a liberal slant to his anecdote, the installment does not aim to be a one-sided diatribe at all.

This becomes clear later in the outing when Dre's son Junior (Marcus Scribner) discusses his
disdain for athletes kneeling during the national anthem at his school. At the time of this episode's filming, 49ers football player Colin Kaepernick came under fire for protesting in a similar manner, facing consequences as a result of his activism. What 'Black-ish' highlights masterfully is that even if one does not agree with the act, everyone has the right to have their political opinion heard. As a result, the interaction with Junior and his father culminates with Junior deciding that he will stand by the students protesting even if he does not approve of their manner. 
Marcus Scribner (left), Anthony Anderson (right)

Prior to the talk with Junior, Dre had a chat in the kitchen with his father Pops (Laurence Fishburne) where Fishburne's character lampooned white supremacists for the way they no longer feel the need to hide their identity and terrible sense of fashion. It's not unusual for Pops to steal the show in an episode and his comedic take on the vicious and hateful organization is sorely needed in a story filled with gloom and doom. Amidst the laughs, the father and son duo do encounter a serious moment where Dre questions why it is discouraged for white people to have pride in their race. Pops responds to this with a speech about how other races feel pride for overcoming adversaries that white people were lucky enough not to face. This acts as a clever parallel to the way Dre later lectures his own son about how black athletes have used their platform to protest inequality long before Kaepernick. This mainly works to showcase how both Dre and Junior are a bit naïve and dismissive about struggles in the African-American community they were never around to witness. 

As 'Please, Baby, Please' comes to a close, Dre has his last late-night interaction with twins Jack & Diane, both unable to sleep because of the storm. This portion serves to veer 'Please, Baby, Please' closer to light-hearted territory as the two discuss how they will be the ones to lead the way for future generations in regards to climate change and global warming. Things eventually wrap up on a hopeful note as most 'Black-ish' installments do. Dre recounts all the tragedy and destruction the country has faced and reassures that we will always be able to get through it. What makes this sunny message a bit more morbid is the fact that this episode was written and filmed over three years ago, meaning the characters are oblivious to the hardships the world has faced in 2018, 2019, and especially 2020. The viewer essentially feels like a time-traveler watching this episode, unable to inform the characters of the devastating events to come. 

Ultimately, this 'Black-ish' outing feels both incredibly dated and relevant as ever. It feels dated because of just how easily we forget about the mass shootings discussed in this installment. Dre's mention of the Las Vegas shooting and Bow's callback to the horrific Manchester bombing are both references to tragedies that occurred well over three years ago. But it also feels relevant as ever given how much violence and hate continues to spread in the United States. Nonetheless, regardless of your political affiliation or societal views, 'Please, Baby, Please' sought to understand both sides and did it in an emotional and powerful fashion. 

This shelved 'Black-ish' episode is available for viewing on the Hulu streaming service. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

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