A deceptively simple episode of Black-ish changes everything (Bette Midler was a sub-plot)

A.V. Club
A deceptively simple episode of Black-ish changes everything
By LaToya Ferguson@lafergs
May 12, 2016 1:31 AM



Until Dre goes full “Dr. Mom”/“Dr. Dre” in “Daddy Dre-Care,” the episode is almost shockingly–and kind of frustratingly–simplistic for Black-ish. Everyone in the house gets sick with the flu, and Dre doesn’t want them to take him down. There. That’s it.

It then begs the question of exactly why the show would bring out the big guns for this particular episode: Showrunner Kenya Barris pens “Daddy Dre-Care,” with executive producer Jonathan Groff in the director’s chair, after all. Plus, with Dre’s opening voice-over, it almost feels like Black-ish missed the bus on Mother’s Day for ABC, especially since it already covered “Daddy’s Day.” The episode is almost a fever dream itself, as Dre is the only one at 100% while every other available (no Pops this week) member of the Johnson clan is down for the count and, in the kids’ case, reduced to loud voices. Basically, Dre doesn’t know how to take care of his kids–and he really doesn’t need to take much care of his wife and mother–and the kids refuse to be anything other than spoiled brats about that. It’s arguably not the best use of the actors’ and the show’s strengths.

Then “Dr. Dre” (get it?) enters the picture, and the bumpy episode kicks into a much-needed second gear. And it’s not just needed because of how simple the plot is but because of how obnoxious the children are in the flu state. Yes, Black-ishhasn’t shied away from showing the Johnson kids in unflattering and even spoiled states, but the cartoonish screeching and complaining pre-“Dr. Dre” mode removes any real characterization that typically goes with that. I”˜ll be honest: Unlike Kenya Barris and a plenty of Black-ish viewers, my perspective for this episode and series as whole is one of a non-parent. Sure, the kid version of me completely feels Dre when he voice-overs that moms don’t get sick, because they totally don’t, but the “charm” or memories of taking care of flu-riddled kids is completely lost on me. And it loses the characters themselves in this case, with the exception of Zoey’s very in-character complaint during in the children’s initial screams:


So the “Dr. Dre” shift solves this not just by placating the kids and appeasing to their love (and Dre’s skill) of flash (a flu fort, liquid medicine shooters, fried chicken noodle soup, but NO Wolf Of Wall Street moment) but by turning “Daddy Dre-Care” into an episode about the very concept of adults being adults. In Dre’s case, that’s just being a present father in a way he hasn’t gotten to because of work. In Ruby and Rainbow’s case, that’s actually seeing each other as two mothers and even two women instead of just natural mother-in-law/daughter-in-law enemies. All that one takes is some intense nausea and Bette “Beth” Midler discussion, the latter based on Jenifer Lewis’ real life history as a Bette Midler back-up singer. As funny as the Ruby/Bow antagonistic relationship can be, it can also get very old, very fast on Ruby’s side of things. So the two of them actually getting to know each other outside of the context of Dre (because of course Ruby had a life before Dre) is just what the doctor ordered. As is a little awareness, really:

Bow: “We were doing so good.”
Ruby: “I now see that I may be the root of our problems.”

That’s already a big twist as it is, and it’s not even the big twist of the episode.

The twist about Bow’s pregnancy is something the episode earns, and it then makes the reason for the behind-the-scenes team up of Barris and Groff completely clear. The Beaches scene begins the teasing with Bow’s “I wonder what our next chapter’s gonna be,” a line that Tracee Ellis Ross nails but also feels especially suspect in any standard episode of Black-ish. But the keys to the reveal are Bow’s nausea even though Ruby (her symptom-mate) hasn’t vomited him three days and the even more obvious moment of her looking through a family photo album, right before she tells Dre. The episode actually lays the groundwork even earlier on by making it clear (with the kids) that Bow is probably more precise than actual medical equipment: She would have hada feeling something besides the flu was up with her body before she even took the pregnancy test. So now, five children–that’s what’s on the horizon for the Dre and Bow. Six, even, if twins run in their family.

Basically, Dre and Bow should be happy they have Black Nanny around. And Ruby, of course.

Stray observations

  • Early in the episode, as Dre is freaking out about possibly missing work (even before the work scene), I found myself thinking that Dre might just actually lose his job in the season finale–especially remembering that the finale is aGood Times-themed episode. Obviously, the introduction of a pregnancy makes that the worst timing ever, but I actually think the show could and would go there.
  • Speaking of work, I’ve realized I’m extremely attached to the name “Lido’s Place.” I wish it would stick, though I also think the work scene in this episode was pretty unnecessary overall. On the plus side, Charlie and the reminder that things are still up in the air about lay-offs.
  • Macaroni, spam, and grape jelly, Ruby? The first two would’ve been fine together. Alone. Also, I’m traumatized by Ruby “suck[ing] junk” out of baby Dre’s snotty nose.
  • As much as Dre is in full-on Dre Mode in this episode, I found his “bleachy water” spray and “I GOTTA LIVE” to go with it way too funny each time it showed up. The same goes for my feelings about Jack eating all of Ruby’s leftovers–including trash hot dogs and trash butter–which benefited greatly from Jonathan Groff’s directing. As did the Ruby/Bow scenes in general and the Dr. Dre montage. Like I said: This episode brought out the big guns.
  • Dre drank bleach, you guys. You can say he gargled and spit, but you know some bleach went down his throat.
  • Bow: “I think we should quarantine her. Oh, I know where! At her own house, where’s supposed to live.” Before Bow said this line, I was honestly wondering if Ruby had moved in and I missed something.
  • Bow: “It’s flu season, and you decided to hit up a trifecta of communal hand-eating gatherings?”
    Ruby: “Rainbow, whatchu got against the church raising money for the pastor’s legal defense fund?”
  • Sick Josh looks like Vincent D’onofrio in Men In Black.
  • Bow: “Medicine. Food. Comfort. M.F.B. Magenta. Filing. Cabinet. ”¦ It’s an old ad man memory trick. ”¦ Stong visual images. Magenta. Filing. Cabinet.”
    Bow: “What does that stand for, Dre?”
    Dre: “…”
  • While it’s still just whining, the kids worrying that Dre couldn’t get the medicine doses right is a lot easier to take (especially given Bow’s noted medical precision) than the idea he’d mess up soup. Which comes from a can.
  • As someone who considers MTV’s The Challenge one of her great loves, Ruby’s reveal that “Syrus from The Real World” was one of her lovers meant so much to me. Even more than “wrestling legend Junkyard Dog.” I’m going to rewatchThe Gauntlet 2 now.
  • I feel like this episode would pair well with The Bernie Mac Show’s “Pink Gold.”
  • Fun fact I learned because I could’ve sworn Anthony Anderson was actually inDaddy Day Care: Daddy Day Camp (the sequel) was Fred Savage’s directorial debut. This is as good a reason as any for Fox to renew The Grinder.
  • Also: The movie Anthony Anderson was actually in was My Baby’s Daddy, a movie I have not seen and cannot believe was reviewed on this site.
Share A little Divinity

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.