*Kenya Barris has been part of some of the longest-running African American-themed sitcoms on network television, so it’s really no surprise that ABC’s “Black-ish,” loosely based on the L.A. native’s life, was last season’s top comedy.
Since that show’s success, which returns for its second season premiere Wednesday (Sept. 23) at 9:30, Barris has seen his opportunities expand significantly. He recently inked an overall deal with ABC, is penning the script for “Barbershop 3” and will write and produce a remake of “Good Times,” the popular Norman Lear sitcom from the 70s that made stars out of Esther Rolle, John Amos and Jimmie Walker.
Will the good times continue to roll. Yes and maybe.
Last summer, however, when Norman Lear was asked to share his thoughts on the upcoming feature film based on his series with the nation’s TV critics, he declined to comment. When asked for his reaction to that snub at an ABC party for the nation’s television critics, Barris took the high road said he had nothing but admiration for the legendary TV producer.
“I love Norman Lear and the movie is going really, really well,” said Barris, who admitted he was inspired by the show and its characters when he was a kid.
Apparently, the names of those who will play these iconic characters in the Screen Gems-produced flick haven’t been publicly released but Barris said that they were in talks with some big names. Scott Rudin, whose emails to former Sony chief Amy Pascal regarding Angelina Jolie were an epic part of that studio’s hacking scandal last year, is set to produce. “He’s the one of the best producers ever and one of the best I’ve ever worked with in my life,” Barris said. “We are going to make a movie. The draft is in and I’m really, really proud of it.”
When last we saw the Evans family, J.J. had gotten his dream job, Michael’s in college, Thelma’s husband Keith gets another shot at an NFL team, Willona gets a great new job and apartment; and Florida moves in with Thelma who is about to make her a grandmother.
“It takes place now and Michael is grown up and looking back on his life,” Barris said. “He’s a politician. It’s not a spoof, we’re not doing a send-up of Good Times. It’s about family and in some aspects is about what’s happening in Chicago now. I told Scott, and he was very supportive, that I wouldn’t have done it if it was something spoofy. It had to be good. That show meant too much to my life.”
So, how about the wish list?
“I love Denzel, I love Will Smith, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis…”
That could work. But in the meantime, Barris is focused on “Black-ish.”
The show, which stars Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross and features Laurence Fishburne in a recurring role, tackled a number of issues last season, but will go even deeper on Wednesday.
“We’re going to do a story about black people and guns and we’re going to an N-word story,” Barris said. “I wrote it and I’m scared as hell about it but I tried to be honest and talk about it from this family’s perspective. Hopefully it resonates.”
It will likely stir some conversation. Andre (Anderson) faces a moral dilemma when his youngest son performs Kanye West’s and Jamie Foxx’s hit Gold Digger at the school talent show. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the radio-edit version and Jack (Miles Brown) blurts at the N-word and ends up getting suspended from school. Andre, contrary to his wife’s (Ellis Ross) convictions, thinks that’s it OK to use the word among people with pigmented skin and uses that argument to try and get his son back in school.
So, do you think it’s OK for black folks to use the word among themselves? Or should it just be avoided altogether? And are you looking forward to a Good Times movie or should that just be left alone, too? Leave us a comment!
Below, a promo of the episode and clips: