Emmys 2016: Can ABC’s ‘Black-ish’ make it into the Comedy Series race?

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While delivering a strong first season last year, no one was quite ready for how simultaneously hilarious and relevant Black-ish would become in its second season. The ABC sitcom is a spin on the traditional family sitcom. Dre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) is a successful marketing executive whose family lives in a nice suburb and has a great deal of wealth and privilege. However, Dre feels his family is out of touch from his roots, as he grew up in a poorer neighborhood in Los Angeles. With the help of his crotchety father, Earl “Pops” Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) and evangelical mother, Ruby Johnson (Jenifer Lewis), Dre tries to bring his culture back to his home. On the other side of the equation is his mixed-race anesthesiologist wife, Rainbow “Bow” Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross), whose hippie upbringing has led her to instill their children with other values.

Last year, Black-ish walked away with only one nomination – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Anthony Anderson. It’s clear to assume he will be back on the ballot after this outstanding second season, which has garnered critical praise. However, will this be the year that Black-ish breaks through in some of the other categories, including Best Comedy Series?

24-blackish.w750.h560.2xWith the second season, Black-ish has tackled some tough topics through comedy, including the n-word, gay marriage and family finances. However, the show truly struck a nerve during the sixteenth episode of the season, entitled “Hope,” which saw the Johnson family discuss police brutality against African Americans after the youngest twins see reports of a police shooting on TV and their oldest son, Andre Johnson Jr. (Marcus Scribner) wants to join in protest. At the very least, that episode can be in conversation for Best Directing and Writing for a Comedy Series due to its poignancy, claustrophobic direction and complex and humorous handling of a very serious subject.

Sometimes it takes the Emmys a few years to give a network comedy a slot in the top category. Take for example Parks and Recreation (first Comedy Series nomination in season 3), The Big Bang Theory (first Comedy Series nomination in season 4), How I Met Your Mother (first Comedy Series nomination in season 4) and The Office (first Comedy Series nomination and win in season 2). Anthony Anderson’s acting nomination proves it is on the Emmy radar. Is it possible they wowed voters enough to make it in to the top category? Of the seven nominees from last year, both Louie and Parks and Recreation are ineligible this year since no new episodes of the show aired. One of those slots could go to Black-ish.

20-blackish.w750.h560.2xOutside of these main categories, the category that Black-ish is most likely to break into would be Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Tracee Ellis Ross. The category has three slots that will be opened this year, as Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Lisa Kudrow (The Comeback) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) no longer are on display. Rainbow Johnson is one of the most interesting and unique characters on TV. Rather than be a nag or a foil for the more eccentric Dre, Rainbow is kooky in and of herself, and gets to be part of the run rather than the fun-stopper. She has her own distinct point of view informed by her unconventional upbringing and much of the conflict comes from the ways her life experience differs from those of her husband. One particular episode Ross would be wise to submit, if nominated, is “Johnson & Johnson,” where Rainbow explains to Dre that she never took his last name.

Much more of a longshot are the supporting players, who all add quite a bit of color and fun to the show. Marcus Scribner as Andre Johnson Jr. is wonderfully goofy and his ability to deliver killer one-liners has improved tremendously. However, the two biggest scene stealers are at opposite ends of the age spectrum. As the youngest twin daughter, Diane, Marsai Martin is a revelation of raw talent. The level of muted sass and small reaction shots truly make Diane the highlight of the talented Johnson children bunch. Lastly, no one can steal a scene more than Jenifer Lewis as Ruby Johnson, Dre’s mother. A staunch Christian, but also dating a much younger, hunkier man, Ruby is a true class act. The greatest running gag of the season has been the names Ruby uses to express her disdain for Rainbow, her daughter in law. The presence of legends such as Laurence Fishbone and Wanda Sykes could also help populate the guest acting categories.

In a year following the return of #OscarsSoWhite, the need for diverse voices has never been stronger. Black-ish stands out because it is not afraid to project the voice of a modern African American family and because it does not shy away from the tough topics of race in our current society. Hopefully the added poignancy of the show will help it succeed at the Emmys this year.

Check out the latest Emmy Predictions and see where “Black-ish” ranks!

Possible Nominations (In Comedy Series) include:

  • Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Lead Actor: Anthony Anderson
  • Outstanding Lead Actress: Tracee Ellis Ross
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor: Marcus Scribner
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress: Marsai Martin
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress: Jenifer Lewis
  • Outstanding Guest Actor: Laurence Fishburne
  • Outstanding Guest Actress: Wanda Sykes
  • Outstanding Directing: Beth McCarthy-Miller
  • Outstanding Writing: Kenya Barris
  • Outstanding Casting