“Black-ish,” the popular comedic ABC Network show, aired its eighth and final season on Jan. 11. The show premiered in 2014 and often pushed boundaries as it followed the lives of the Johnsons, an upper class Black American family navigating stereotypes and generational conflicts as they attempted to fit in and establish their identities in suburban Los Angeles.
Since the premiere of the show, it has become a fan-favorite with the inclusion of spinoffs such as “Grown-ish” that follows the college life of the eldest Johnson daughter Zoey, played by Yara Shahidi, and “Mixed-ish” which tells the story of the family’s mother Rainbow Johnson, played by Tracee Ellis Ross. Both shows gained approval from fans with “Grown-ish” airing on Freeform, a teen and young adult centered network owned by ABC, allowing it to gain a younger audience. “Mixed-ish” was short-run with two seasons, and “Grown-ish” has had three seasons with fans hoping it will be renewed for a fourth.
While the end of season seven saw Andre Johnson, the patriarch of the family played by Anthony Anderson, questioning his career path, the first episode of the new season titled “That’s What Friends Are For” took on a lighter note. This episode stood out as being one that didn’t attempt to make a statement or tackle controversial issues, as the main topic dealt with Rainbow and Andre struggling to make friends as an adult married couple.
The guest star, Michelle Obama, seemed to be who the writers focused the episode around. Rainbow invites Andre to a charity benefit event wanting a night out to socialize. Andre is displeased with the idea of having to mingle with boring husbands. He argues that while Rainbow may connect with the women that attend these events, he can never connect with their husbands. The couple agrees to attend the event, however, noting that there will be a celebrity appearance, who the two joke to be John Legend because “it’s always John Legend.”
Toward the end of the benefit, to their surprise, Michelle Obama arrives as the celebrity guest. The two flock to her, being the only Black people at the event, and instantly connect. In an interview Anderson had with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show,” he stated that the Obamas admitted to being fans of the show when he met them at a White House event. This, in turn, is why they reached out to Michelle to star in the final first episode.
Although we do not see Andre’s work colleagues in this episode, there are appearances made by every member of the family. Zoey, who is away at college, stops by although she is no longer a main part of the cast, and we even see an appearance from the youngest Johnson child, DeVante, who is a toddler and is often forgotten or rarely included in the plot.
While this era is ending for the cast, many of them have already become involved in alternative projects and can be expected to come across television or big screens again. Anderson is currently the host of ABC’s “To Tell the Truth,” a game show renewal of one from the 1950s with the same name, that also stars his mother, Doris Hancox. “Black-ish” is hilarious and binge-worthy for those who have never seen an episode or fully followed the show.
Verdict: The episode is light hearted and displays the family dynamic of the Johnsons as they prepare to wrap up their stories. The center of attention is put on Michelle, who the family looks up to and aspires to be like. Overall, viewers should be prepared for more serious undertones as the season progresses.