Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Pedigree: The show was written and created by Kenya Barris (America’s Next Top Model, The Game), who executive produces with star Anthony Anderson, Helen Sugland (Akeelah and the Bee), and Paul Young (Married), among others. The pilot was directed by James Griffiths (Up All Night, Episodes).
The Cast & How You Know Them: Along with Anderson (Law & Order), the show stars Tracee Ellis Ross (Girlfriends), Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal), Yara Shahidi (Scandal), Marcus Scribner (New Girl), Miles Brown (Shameless), and newcomer Marsai Martin.
The Premise: Dre Johnson has found success in a mostly-white advertising company, and he and his doctor wife are raising their kids in a big house in the suburbs and sending them to fancy private school. But Dre starts feeling like they’re too assimilated and decides to make sure they stay connected to black culture.
What Works: It’s sad that this needs to be called out as a feature in 2014, but there are very few shows on network TV that focus on characters of color, and I don’t think there are any other comedies about black families right now, so this would be worth a look simply for that fact. Luckily, the show is also interesting, with a great cast and an interesting point of view and filming style. It seems like the family relationships will be refreshingly realistic – there are tensions and issues but everyone clearly loves each other. The pilot focused mostly on the father and oldest son, but there was enough of the mother and other children to make me interested in all of them and eager to see more.
What Doesn’t: The pilot has a lot of voiceover, which is a common pilot issue, and sometimes does a little too much to hammer its point home – again, not uncommon. I’m a little concerned that the “lesson” of the pilot — that Dre should concentrate on being genuine with his family rather than on external images of culture — was a little too complete, and if he relearns this every week, that will get repetitive quickly. But as long as the show relaxes a little and lets things develop naturally, it looks like it’ll be a solid, interesting family comedy, and I’m always in favor of more of those.
Our Favorite Line: “I think it says I’m edgy but approachable.” “I think it says ‘I hate my father and I play field hockey.'”
You Might Like This if you’re looking for a new family comedy with broad appeal and likeable characters but also a distinct point of view that’s different from pretty much everything on network TV right now.
(Photo courtesy of ABC.)