The jury’s still out on whether ABC sitcom Black-ish has what it takes to ultimately break into the pantheon of all-time-great black televison shows. I love the show, but I’m not sure it’ll be able to keep up the pace it’s on now over multiple seasons.
And while Wednesday night’s episode about the parental dilemma around spanking kids might never achieve the status of The Cosby Show’s pilot—with its classic “regular people” scene between Cliff and Theo—my hat’s off to Black-ish’s creators for threading the needle and finding a way to deal with corporal punishment in a way that was balanced, culturally relevant and funny and ultimately came down with the right answer: that there are far better ways to discipline kids than by whupping them.
How do I know? Because studies show that physically disciplining kids yields short-run compliance but doesn’t serve much purpose for kids’ long-term development. And lest you think that I’m speaking from some lack of experience with the subject matter, please rest assured that I caught the occasional “strapping” back in my day.
Which is the point—and that’s what made this Black-ish episode so outstanding. The multigenerational cast made it possible to acknowledge that getting whupped was a completely normal occurrence for a previous generation (and we turned out OK), but it’s a tradition whose time has come and gone.
Here’s what happened (spoiler alert): The youngest son, Jack (Miles Brown), thinks he’s hilarious, hiding from Mom (Tracee Ellis Ross) in a department store until she loses her composure out of sheer panic and terror. Time for Jack to get spanked—but Mom wants Dad (Anthony Anderson) to do the deed. Then, in true television-comedy fashion, madcap family high jinks ensue.