Why I Love Everybody Hates Chris

I have an advanced degree in media theory, but I have never thought to write film or television reviews. As a famous post-modern philosopher says “Doh.” My sister and I have a standing appointment every other Sunday. She comes to my place and we watch movies or fool around on the internet trying to find artifacts from our English-Canandian-Bronx, NY-Caribbean youth. Some of our finds include the schoolhouse rock video clips, the theme to Wonderama, TV commercials from Carvel (Fudgey the whale and Cookiepus), Crazy Eddie’s doomed audio appliance store chain, Goya food products (go Goya). One hit wonders, low rated black TV comedies and English, Canadian and local New York television gems  are especially treasured finds. A few weeks ago, my sister came over with the first two seasons of Everybody Hates Chris.

I had enjoyed the show the few times I had seen it, but it is ghettoized on the Sunday black comedy block on the CW. Since my sister and grew up in so many cultures, there are very few media products that reflect our lives. The closest we came was a English about a Caribbean-British import called Desmond’s that aired in the early days BET. That has all changed with Everybody Hates Chris. Chris Rock’s show may detail his childhood in Bed-Sty, but it is not too far away for how two sisters grew up in the Boogie Down Bronx. Most commercial media products aimed at black community are inane, banal, trite, stereotypical or in just plain English …….SUCK. Black comedies have been used to attract viewers until so that enough capital can be raised to launch programs that will attract a more lucrative, white audience. NBC’s Cosby Show was the first African American situation comedy since the ghetto fabulous days of Sanford and Son, Good Times and The Jeffersons. The Cosby Show continues to make money today and gone are the criticisms that the Huxtables did not represent the experience of Reagan era African Americans. The Cosby Show is now and American classic.

Fox, UPN and the WB/CW all started with a slate of black comedies and moved way from them when more appealing to the general (read white) audience. The only slate of new black situation comedies is the CW. These show are relegated to Sunday night block of programming. As the black situation comedy became standard for the new broadcast channels, the quality went down. Since torturing prisoners of war is a condoned practice in this country, I think watching Homeboyz from Outta of Space on a loop would make any hardened terrorist confess.

I have been a Chris Rock fan for years, the man is funny as hell. Despite the mild tone of he-man woman-hating-club in some of his stand up he never disappoints. A few years ago Entertainment Weekly named him the funniest man in America. Of course people wrote in and called him racist. How is talking about America from a black perspective racist? I propose that the facets of the African American experience are so contrary to mainstream ideology that labeling a person of color racist has become a magic totem to ward off discussion of the inequities inherent in the country. A few years ago Chris Rock gave Howard University fund to start a humor magazine. I am glad that Chris has acted on the African American cultural value of giving back to his community. His generosity has paid off. The Everybody Hates Chris truly reflects the joys and sorrows of black working class. Chris Rock’s television family is the best representation of black working class life since the first season of Good Times. The fictional Rock family is multifaceted, quirky and lovable, far from characters like The Wayans Brothers or The Parkers whose humor comes from their incompetence. For the first time Terry Crews is not playing a big black brute, but a caring father with a strong work ethic. Who knew that Tichina Arnold was such a talented physical comedian? She takes the stereotype of he angry black woman and showed the frustration, joys and pride of being a working class black wife and mother. Martin Lawrence bipolar ass did not use her talents on his television show, thank you Chris for hiring her after she survived the hell of being on stage with a man who cannot accept his own mental breakdown. It is also delight to watch Tyler James Williams who plays the young Chris Rock grow as an actor.

The is also the joy of seeing actors from when Mr. Rock (and myself) loved as kids and teenagers and Ernest Thomas “Roj” from What’s Happening, Todd Brides from Different Stokes, and 1970’s pimp daddy extraordinare, Antonio”Huggy Bear” Fargas from Starsky and Hutch, 227 and Sister Sister’s Jackie Harry and  Jimmy “Dynomite” Walker from Good Times have all been featured on the show. Television shows that show the diversity of working class black America are rare indeed and Mr. Rock has succeeded in creating a Bed-Sty “Wonder Years”. The best aspect of Everybody Hates Chris is the fact it shows that the African American family has struggles and triumphs just like any other in this country. I hope the CW does not find a mega-hit and cancels all their black shows in the next few years because I want to see little Chris graduate from high school!

P.S. Everybody Hates Chris was not renewed for the fall ’09. I did get to see Chris go to high school but not graduate. Thank you Chris Rock for four years of trips down memory lane.

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