Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: #BLACKAF (Netflix)

#BLACKAF is basically just a combination of Modern Family’s format combined with Curb Your Enthusiasm’s premise of a middle aged man complaining about almost everything anyone does…but focusing on a black family instead of white, and unfortunately nowhere near as funny as the other two, and also nowhere near as smartly executed as the other two shows. Not to say that’s its bad or terrible, I just don’t think the execution of it lived up to its concept. Instead it feels like it is kind of cheaply ripping off the other two shows at times and just putting a spin on story lines that have been done plenty of times beforehand. It all feels just a little stale. But again, it isn’t awful, but as I’m trying to keep television only having between 10 to 15 shows I watch that are still new on the air total, I don’t think #blackAFd is going to make the cut, and I’m just going to say this is the end of my journey, no season 2 for me. But instead of this being the only paragraph on my review of this, instead of me kindly saying, “I get it, but no thank you, not for me,” I do want to say I appreciate what writer/creator Kenya Barris is trying to do. I haven’t watched any of it, but I heard Black-ish is excellent and that I might want to give that a try if I didn’t care for this show too much. But looking at the man’s career, it is pretty impressive, even though there are a couple of speed bumps along the way, including that new Shaft movie disaster that came out last year (didn’t see it) and yeah, this show was kind of another speed bump. The man is unarguably a very unique talent with a lot of things to say. #blackAF is a noble way to try and say these things, but since the show’s formula copies too much of other shows’ past, and with only a handful of really good one liners but conversations that go on wayyy too long, this was just not the best medium for those messages.

IMDB.com and Wikipedia describes #blackAF as: “A father takes an irreverent and honest approach to parenting and relationships” and “the series stars Barris as a fictionalized version of himself and uncovers the messy, unfiltered, and often hilarious world of what it means to be a ‘new money’ black family trying to ‘get it right’ in a modern world where ‘right’ is no longer a fixed concept.” To add to these descriptions, this whole situational comedy is presented in documentary form, created by her daughter, who is trying to make this documentary of her family to get into college. It’s a noble format to be sure, it just feels too much like Modern Family, and Barris’ constant complaining and just not getting it feels too much like Larry David’s complaints. Listen, I’m a white guy, I know it, and anyone reading this should just write this off as me not being the target audience for this show. But I think I know a little bit about the ways jokes, stories and screenplays are written, so I feel like I have something to say in that area. There is one fantastic, excellent, excellent episode in this series, and it is episode 5, and the episode has Barris and his family going to a sneak preview movie screening of a movie, and everyone in the audience is eating it up except for Barris and his documentary filmmaking daughter. But they are afraid to let anyone know that they didn’t care for the movie, because the filmmaker was black and they wanted didn’t want to disrespect the cause. Fantastic episode, and it happened to be the longest of the eight. But listen closely to the conversations and jokes in that episode, they are ridiculously paid off well while also getting the point across without any filler whatsoever. I just wished the rest of the episode were as well developed, because the rest just float, have too much filler, and to me didn’t have a general purpose.

I wanted to watch this series mainly for one reason from the get go: Rashida Jones. Just like I think she’s an excellent actress in whatever she does, here is no different, in fact, I say she even gets to cut loose a little bit because it seems like, again using Curb Your Enthusiasm’s format, there is a lot of improve. I’ve always liked Rashida Jones, from her early days on Chappelle’s Show, to The Office, to especially Parks and Rec, to the dozen or so movies she’s done, I’ve always enjoyed watching her work. If I were to check out a possible season 2, it would only be to watch her work some more. Everybody here is actually quite decent, with Barris himself eventually coming into his own by the 8th episode, but then again, it’s all forgivable since Larry David took several seasons to not act like he was in a television show. But Rashida Jones is the true star here, and even though I didn’t laugh much at the jokes or cared for the story (family squabbles) I’ve seen a billion times before, she kept my eyes glued to the screen when she was on. Take her character Joya here, and put her in any other, better written show, and she would easily have her Emmy that she deserves. Basically, to sum everything up, I just didn’t care for the show, because to me, it brought nothing new. I’ve seen all the family squabble bits before, I’ve seen all their resolutions, there really are no more ways for shows to put a twist on the same thing, without copycatting and putting together different formats from other shows. This show just wasn’t for me, pure and simple. It might be for you, so don’t take my word #seriousAF.

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