by Julian Spivey
On Monday (August 11) “black-ish” creator Kenya Barris shared a great surprise on social media to fans of the terrific ABC sitcom. Following recent changes in our country and recent re-airings of the powerful “black-ish” episodes “Juneteenth” and “Hope” Barris asked Walt Disney Television if it would release the episode “Please, Baby, Please,” which had been intended to air during season four of the show in the spring of 2018.
The episode was gutlessly shelved by ABC then because the network was afraid it might offend some viewers with its take on politics, race and especially its treatment of President Donald Trump. The company decided to release the episode on Monday on the streaming service Hulu and I’m thrilled it’s finally seeing the light of day.
Barris said in his statement: “[In late 2017] we were one year post-election and coming to the end of a year that left us, like many Americans, grappling with the state of our country and anxious about its future. Those feelings poured onto the page, becoming 22 minutes of television that I was, and still am, incredibly proud of.”
He added: “I cannot wait for everyone to finally see the episode for themselves and, as was the case nearly three years ago, we hope it inspires some much-needed conversation – not only about what we were grappling with then or how it led to where we are now, but conversations about where we want our country to go moving forward and, most importantly, how we get there together.”
The greatest of “black-ish” episodes over the show’s six year run thus far have been the ones that are conversation starters and truly teach the viewers of a perspective in life that they may not be used to, like the recently re-aired “Juneteenth” and “Hope,” have for viewers like me who are white.
“Please, Baby, Please” proved to be a riveting 22 minutes of television that Barris certainly should be proud of and I believe to be among the five greatest episodes of the series to date – it’s truly a shame that ABC felt viewers couldn’t handle such programming two and a half years ago.
Yes, “Please, Baby, Please” is political. The episode sees Dre (Anthony Anderson) awoken one night during a storm by baby Davante’s crying and sets out to tell him a story of our Shady King, a clear take on President Trump and the troubles our country was going through nearly three years ago when the episode was written, and unfortunately is still going through to this day. The show doesn’t pull any punches, but it should be noted that it’s not the job of a scripted, fictional television series to be impartial about anything, even on a broadcast network like ABC. If viewers don’t like what they’re seeing they can simply turn the channel and never watch the show again. Also, who was ABC really trying to hide this particular episode from anyway? “black-ish” seems like a show that would have an almost exclusively liberal-leaning audience anyway.
This is almost completely Dre’s episode as he’s trying to calm his baby son throughout the storm and it may well be the greatest performance of Anderson’s multiple time Emmy-nominated work on the show. If you can’t feel the trials and tribulations that he’s talking to his son, but mostly to us as an audience because the baby doesn’t know what’s being said simply being soothed by his father’s voice, than you really must be one unfeeling bastard.
One of my favorite scenes from the episode is when Dre’s eldest son Junior (Marcus Scribner) is awoken by the storm and talks about his school trying to punish student-athletes who kneel during the National Anthem and even though Junior doesn’t agree with kneeling during the anthem he is prepared to side with his fellow students as part of the student council due to believing they have the right to peacefully protest. You can just see the pride in his father’s eyes and any viewer of the show knows that Dre is often extremely hard on his oldest son.
There’s also another exquisite seen about halfway through the episode where Dre takes Davante to the kitchen for some milk and finds his father (Laurence Fishburne) having a late night drink. Fishburne gives a terrific bit of dialogue that helps explain why “I’m black and I’m proud” is different than someone saying, “white pride.” It’s a moment that really makes you think as a viewer.
I’ve found over the show’s run that the best episodes of “black-ish” often have few laughs because it’s hard to take things that are so important and serious and joke about them, but the show does it in a way that just feels completely real and like the characters of the show are talking right to our hearts and brains.
It’s a damn shame the Walt Disney Company felt we weren’t ready for “Please, Baby, Please” in early 2018, but getting to see it now in the hellscape that has been 2020 is certainly better than nothing. It’s fantastic television and I hope you go to Hulu right now to watch it (by the way it’s kind of hard to find – scroll to the end of season four and you’ll find it.)