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This Week in Black Television - Babies, Babies and the BBC

Shadow and Act By Curtis Caesar John | Shadow and Act May 3, 2012 at 2:14PM

This Week in Black Television - Babies, Babies and the BBC
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(l to r) Don Gilet, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Columbus Short
(l to r) Don Gilet, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Columbus Short

This week I return to reviewing the increasingly-good Scandal, begin highlighting Black-starring cast shows from the BBC, and get a little political with Black child adoptions on television dramas.

The Game had a pretty poignant episode this week.  Weeks ago Tasha (Wendy Raquel Robinson), while on a sabbatical from men after one failed relationship after another, agreed to become the surrogate for Melanie and Derwin’s baby.  Well Melanie (Tia Mowry) finally decides that she’s ready for Tasha to become that, though unaware that Tasha has just rekindled her relationship with Pookie (Rockmond Dunbar).  Although torn, she agrees to keep her commitment to them and lets Pookie go, letting him believe an old beau came back into her life.  While laid up in stirrups and ready to do the in vitro process, Tasha decides that she has to put herself first and rushes out of the doctor’s office, leaving Melanie and Derwin (Pooch Hall) with no trusting options for a surrogate.  Meanwhile, Jason (Coby Bell) learns to start accepting Chardonnay’s (Brandy) meager lifestyle, even though it reflects badly on him, and at the end admitting that he loves her.   Back at home, a crestfallen Melanie feels defeated. He tries to tell her it’s not a permanent feeling and that they can try adopting, but she finally admits that she’s felt ‘empty’ since turning down a residence opportunity at Johns Hopkins and that managing his career and wanting a baby were all just fillers for the personal success she’s avoiding, leaving the couple in an odd space until next week. I clown on this show sometimes, but this was a great episode with well done emotional beats as well as humorous ones.  Great writing by Erica Montolfo-Bura (who also serves as co-Executive Producer) and direction by a director you all know, Billie Woodruff (Honey, Beauty Shop).

New Girl didn’t bring up anything new with my man Winston (Lamorne Morris) except for silly sight gags with him finally getting his ear pierced and then embracing it by wearing a bunch of silly earrings, leading to various Mr. T and Aladdin barbs thrown at him. Ho hum. Otherwise, this episode was spot on.  Still, executive producer Elizabeth Meriwether…do something with this brother!!!  They really are wasting his talent, much like how the other FOX series with the only one brother in it (can I coin that phrase – OOB – we can call it 'Only One Black' as well) Breaking In did with funnyman Alphonso McCauley (from the defunct David Allen Grier news spoof show Chocolate News and b-ball movie Glory Road). Speaking of FOX, I don’t even want to get into their mistreatment of placing In Living Color dead last on their 25th Anniversary Show two Sunday’s ago, though they teased it from the beginning of the show.  That was sickening. 

Meanwhile Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal has been heating up.  With the revelation that White House intern/presidential jump-off Amanda Tanner is pregnant, fixer Olivia Pope, played even more outwardly confident and inwardly basket case over the past four episodes by the increasingly wonderful Kerry Washington, has more on her hands than she bargained for.  I was a bit afraid that Washington couldn't pull this show off, but I love being wrong about this type of thing.  While the main story of the kidnapping of an unnamed Latin American country dictator’s family shed some light on the politics of loudmouth staff member Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield from Mad Men), as well as on her history (more of that to come) this wasn’t the best part of this episode.

The coolest reveals this week come through White House chief-of-staff Cyrus Beene’s hiring of an investigator (played by fantastic character actor Leland Orser) to look into Pope’s staff that finally shed some light on just who these folks are including facts like:  (1) Harrison Wright (Columbus Short) is a local (which explains why he’s so connected) and was a luxury car salesman before working for what sounds like a Middle-Eastern entrepreneur who eventually got convicted for insider trading. Harrison only served 6-months in prison (of course the brother is a jailbird) and was defended at the trial by Pope, (2) No one knows the real name of computer genius Huck (Guillermo Diaz from Half Baked and Fresh) and he probably worked for the CIA but otherwise he’s a mystery, (3) Abby joined with Pope after she saved Abby from a rich and connected and abusive husband – apparently Pope took a tire iron to his knees, (4) Irish-born, Yale law school grad Stephen (Henry Ian Cusick) was a top litigator who had a nervous breakdown (see: conscience) while defending a chemical manufacturer that poisoned kids in West Virginia, (5) Attorney & new girl Quinn NEVER existed until 2008. Big stuff, and great device to reveal a lot about the main cast without devoting whole episodes to them – after all, it is Kerry Washington’s show.  I’m enjoying the soapiness and intrigue of Scandal, and ABC is really showing its muscle with this genre that now also includes Revenge, which co-stars Ashley Mandekwe who I’ve profiled on S&A beforeand GCB with Latina actress Marisol Nichols in a supporting role.

As usual, a Scandal mention means I have to mention other Shonda Rhimes shows, but this week the emphasis is on all the Black babies with white parents popping up on the show.  On Grey’s Anatomy the title character Dr. Meredith Grey and her hubby Dr. McDreamy (does anyone still call him that?) adopted a Black child, and now on Private Practice, Addison (show star Kate Walsh) gets chosen to adopt a Black baby boy just a few weeks ago.  Personally, I don’t have an issue with any abandoned Black child having a presumably good and safe home, but while it happening on these shows explores relevant occurrences in American culture there is concern from different communities about this. Sadly, the main reason that Black babies are easiet to attain seems to be cost.  For various reasons, though dependent on what state law dictates, it is considerably cheaper to adopt a Black child. 

As shown in an ABCnews.com article by Dean Schabner, Rev. Ken Hutcherson from Washington state is lobbying to get adoption laws changed as, “He said that besides putting a price on children, the practice discriminates against white babies and people who seek to adopt them — an issue he said has been overlooked because white people, particularly those who can afford the high adoption fees charged, are not used to considering themselves victims of discrimination. "I know about discrimination," said Hutcherson, who is black. "I don't care who it's against, it's wrong. Tell me that if it was black babies that cost $50,000 and white babies that cost $4,000, people would be screaming their heads off." Very telling, though just one side of the debate.  Though there is a socioeconomic disparity to cultural and familial beliefs, which cause most Black people to adopt mainly within their families or extended families, the article, like others, goes onto say that the disparity in legal and medical fees (minority mothers often qualify for Medicaid or other financial support that pays their pre-natal & delivery expenses whereas white mothers often do not), make the difference as well, "Obviously, any time that somebody brings up the word discrimination, everybody's going to take notice and draw attention to the issue, whether or not there's an issue there," said Sean Lance, the director of American Adoptions, which has a fee structure that results in prospective parents paying more to adopt white babies than to adopt black babies. "It's not set up as discriminatory. The difference is in the cost of the process — living expenses, medical expenses. Our agency fee for all adoptions is identical." Man, this ain’t your momma’s Diff’rent Strokes. I’ll end it there, but the debate on the right or wrong of this practice will go on for some time now.  Has either of these shows addressed the politics of Black baby/chile adoption?  If you’re a regular watcher please let me know.  For more on this topic, 60 Minutes did a great story on this debate a few years ago as well that if you’ve never seen is worth investigating. 

In a new segment for this column, I’ll be focusing on BBC/BBC America shows that most American audiences have little idea about but star Black talent.  The premiere one is the first one I’ve ever seen, Night Detective. Starring Don Gilet, it’s the story of Dominic 'Nicky' Cole who has a reputation as an ambitious and diligent detective sergeant in London. But when he reports on police corruption, DS Cole promptly transferred to a new station far away in Newcastle - effectively in disgrace. Nicky takes his uncle and his abandoned nephew with him, but finds himself working on the difficult night duty stretch. Often, he finds himself looking after cases that his day colleagues have left unsolved - and that brings him risk, dilemma and danger.  Because of his ‘turncoat’ status, at first Nicky isn’t trusted, but he eventually finds allies in the department including prosecutor lawyer, Claire Maxwell (Dervla Kirwan) with whom Nicky quickly develops a complicated yet ambiguous relationship.  So why do I recommend this show?  Well it doesn’t shy away from the Nicky being a honest, though not entirely straight-laced guy or from the discrimination in the department, which exists regardless of him being an informant.  It also has a nice warmness to it, as well as charm not only from Gilet, but many of his fellow officers, and most especially from his uncle Errol, played by George Harris who despite being an actor for decades in such movies as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Black Hawk Down and now is mostly known as Kingsley Shacklebolt, an Auror (and eventual head) of the Ministry of Magic from the Harry Potter film series.  Night Detective, despite the title, isn’t dark like Luther, which is what makes it appealing. I love dark dramas, but entertaining yet still thought provoking fare like Night Detective are attractive to watch as well.  Though recently successful as Lucas Johnson in EastEnders, and still working steadily, I’m pretty surprised that Don Gilet hasn’t gotten more work across the pond in the USA.  If you’re looking for this show, it’s called 55 Degrees North oversees and in DVD, but unfortunately is not available on Netflix, Hulu, or the like. 

That’s it for this week. Next week I examine more about new Black television network BOUNCE and if anyone is even watching it, I’ll FINALLY devote time to the Joe Morton and Salli Richardson-Whitfield SyFy series Eureka, currently in its final season, get caught up with Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown on Community, and more!

This article is related to: Don Gilet, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Columbus Short


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