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‘Black-ish’ Series Premiere Draws Passionate Support and Derision

ABC comedy’s racial content creates polarizing reaction among viewers and non-viewers alike

Anthony Anderson and Laurence Fishburne headline ABC’s new comedy “Black-ish,” which gained a lot of early attention for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a family comedy with a black cast, and there has been an inexplicable dearth of those on network television. Second, it certainly has an attention-grabbing title.

ABC has a knack for putting on shows with titles that immediately generate a strong response, dating back to “Cougar Town.” Last season gave us “Trophy Wife,” while “Selfie” has gotten plenty of negative reactions to its title in advance of its premiere later this month.

Also read: ‘Black-ish’ Review: Funny ABC Comedy Fearlessly Tackles Race

“Black-ish” tells us it’s going to deal with racial issues, and it’s going to deal with the experience of being black in America. Clearly this was something that was uncomfortable for some people, while others applauded it. The bottom line for many, though, was whether or not the show was funny.

TheWrap’s Mekeisha Madden Toby determined that it was, but also cautioned the show’s creator Kenya Barris from focusing too much on the racial stuff in future installments. “If they rely too heavily on jokes driven by race and culture, in every episode, the show will become a parody of itself,” she wrote.

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After the premiere, the Twitter-sphere exploded with mixed reactions from the pilot, but it was rarely about the quality of the jokes or the acting. In almost every case, people were discussing the racial aspect of the show, with some applauding “Black-ish” for so candidly broaching topics most other shows leave alone, while others blatantly called the show racist.

Most of the negative reactions about the show came before the premiere, based on the polarizing title and the trailer which heavily featured Anderson trying to impress his family’s African ancestry on his children. Thankfully, this was just a minor part of the pilot, but the promos for the show did make it seem that this mission would be the main thrust of the show.

Also read: ABC’s Diversity Push: Can It Put the Network Back on Top?

In many cases, people admitted to early misgivings about the show only to discover that they enjoyed it once they sat down and watched it. “Cougar Town” fans have been trying to convince their friends to do that for years.

We’ve compiled some of the best (and worst) reactions to the “Black-ish” premiere below.

“Black-ish” airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.