ABC’s Risk on Blackish Appears to be Paying Off

When I first heard about the premise of the show “Blackish,” I had a lukewarm feeling. It wasn’t that the show would be featuring a black family, or that it was airing on a channel that I admittedly did not watch often, but that race would be such a central part of the show.

For as much some in 2014 like to pretend that we are a post-racial society, film and media would not indicate as much. Black writers, directors and producers are still an underrepresented entity behind the lens, just as black actors and actresses are in front of it. Many TV shows and programs might deal with race and ethnicity in subtle and nuanced ways, but never really head on. “Blackish” was staking new ground on that territory.

After watching the first episode a bout a week before it’s network premiere, I was a member of the wait-and-see camp. In the 4 following episodes, I think the series has really come into its own.

Where I think the show excels is not only bringing a humorous tilt to things such as mastering the head nod, but also resolutions to problems seen through the perspective of the protagonist Andre (played by Anthony Anderson). Last week’s episode about spanking was pretty funny as was the previous episode where Andre tries to find some black friends for his unpopular son. Definitely like Tracee Ellis-Ross as Rainbow and Lawrence Fishburne practically steals the show as the cantankerous old man “Pops.” I’ll definitely be tuning in for the rest of the season.

Melissa Harris-Perry and Co. Speak on "Scandal"

So I caught the Melissa Harris-Perry show last week on MSNBC and really enjoyed many of the segments that were featured. She and her panelists spoke on voter disfranchisement in North Carolina, the women’s NCAA Tournament, and the use of language in regards to the immigration debate here in the U.S, among other things.

It was the discussion on the ABC hit show “Scandal” that really caught my attention. Not so much that I’m a regular viewer (I haven’t watched “Scandal” in more than a year) but the makeup of MHP’s panel was striking in that it was entirely made up of black women. The panel consisted of Janet Mock, Andrea Plaid, Heather McGhee, and Joy-Ann Reid. In more than 20 years of watching TV on a fairly regular basis, I don’t ever recall seeing a panel featuring just black women on a major news network. Hat tip to Melissa Harris-Perry and MSNBC.

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Telling It Like It Is for More Than 40 Years

It was very sad news to hear last week that the man of the only afro-centric news show on network television, had passed away. Gil Noble had died of a stoke. He was 80-years-old.

Gil Noble is perhaps most well known for his 1-hour long television show “Like It Is,” which aired locally on channel ABC 7 here in the New York area.

Noble was one the first of what would be a new wave of black journalists hired by major news organizations when he was hired by ABC in 1967. It was a tenuous time in America. Malcolm X had been killed just two years earlier, the Vietnam War was in full swing, riots were breaking out across the country and in just a matter of months, Martin Luther King would be assassinated on a balcony in Memphis. Times were changing, and so to were newsrooms.

Up until the mid 60s, many newsrooms (and TV studios) were essentially lilly white institutions. Few people of color were covering these rapidly changing times of the late 60s and that was a problem. Credit Ed Silverman, who was the director of public affairs at Ch. 7 and who eventually hired Gil Noble, for saying as much in this excerpt to the Daily News:

“We decided to get off our assess and hire some African-Americans. TV news was lily white then. There were no black faces.”

Soon after, Noble was hired and by 1968 had his own show, “Like It Is.” Noble interviewed diplomats, world leaders, religious figures, civil rights leaders, as well as those in and around the NY area who were prominent people in the news at that time, such as the wife of Sean Bell in 2007.

How rare was the position that Gil Noble held? I can’t think of another person of color who wrote, produced and headlined their own news show on network television. Not one. Considering blacks make up just under 5% of all employees in newsrooms in America, that is a stunning development.

In the late 80s when my mother was pregnant with me and still living in Brooklyn, she ran into Gil Noble on the street. Mr. Noble asked the name of her son to be. She remarked, “Warin. Warin for warrior.” He replied, “Make sure he lives up to such a name.” Rest In Peace, brother Gil.