by Tonja Renée Stidhum —
2020 is unprecedented-ish.
Remember back in 2017, a mysterious “Black-ish” episode titled “Please, Baby, Please” (based on the Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee children’s book of the same name) became wrapped in some controversy because of its reported politically-charged themes? It caused such a ruckus, and I pretty much figured the episode would never see the light of day.
Well, fast forward about three years later in a world where corporations are burying themselves in black boxes in a performative display of Black Lives Matter solidarity and you’ve got yourself a plot twist! The previously shelved episode is now available to air on Hulu.
“We were one-year post-election and coming to the end of a year that left us, like many Americans, grappling with the state of our country and anxious about its future,” Barris wrote in a reflective statement on Twitter, following the announcement. “Those feelings poured onto the page, becoming 22 minutes of television that I was, and still am, incredibly proud of. ‘Please, Baby, Please’ didn’t make it to air that season and, while much has been speculated about its contents, the episode has never been seen publicly…until now.”
That “speculation” Barris refers to reminds me of the discourse surrounding network censorship, especially as early reports claimed that the episode was focused on the kneeling protests in the NFL, spearheaded by Colin Kaepernick. That gesture wasn’t so popular back then. Look at us now.
Point is, the fact that ABC decided not to air it at the time made us want to see it even more. Hell, Michael Harriot even wrote an open letter to the show creator on The Root urging him to leak the damn episode. That’s how deep the anticipation went.
On Monday, Barris confirmed that after the re-airings of the “Juneteenth” and “Hope” episodes, he asked Walt Disney Television to reconsider airing the previously shelved episode and they agreed, given today’s times.
“I cannot wait for everyone to finally see the episode for themselves and, as was the case nearly three years ago, we hope it inspires some much-needed conversation—not only about what we were grappling with then or how it led to where we are now, but conversations about where were want our country to go moving forward, and most importantly, how we get there together.”
ABC News reports on the episode’s content:
The episode revolves around a sleepless night in the household of Dre and Rainbow Johnson (Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross). To calm his infant son during a storm, Dre begins by reading a children’s book – the Spike Lee-Tonya Lewis Lee work of the episode’s title – then shares his own anxieties.
As Dre offers up an improvised fable, it’s the actions of the then-fledgling Trump administration that are identified as part of his unease. His monologue includes a thinly veiled reference to “the shady king.”
The episode widens out to look at deep social divisions that Dre says followed the election of America’s first Black president, Barack Obama, and the eye-opening revelation that “not everyone’s a fan” of change, as the character puts it.
“Daddy’s scared too. … Everything’s so crazy now,” Dre says softly to his son at one point.
Through imagery and concerns expressed by other family members, the episode touches on issues besides racism, including mass shootings, climate change and gay rights.
Regardless, you’ll be able to see for yourself! The “Please, Baby, Please” episode of “Black-ish” is now available (along with other past episodes) on Hulu.