A young Rainbow Johnson recounts her experience growing up in a mixed-race family in the ‘80s, and the dilemmas they face to acclimate in the suburbs while staying true to themselves. Bow’s parents, Paul and Alicia, decide to move from a hippie commune to the suburbs to better provide for their family. Their experiences illuminate the challenges of finding one’s own identity when the rest of the world can’t decide where you belong. (Disney ABC Press).
Out of all the television promos that aired this past summer, I must admit I was most excited for the premiere of Mixed-ish. And what makes this interesting is that I’ve never seen an episode of Black-ish. I was familiar with the characters on Black-ish from reading about the show, particularly Tracee Ellis Ross’ character of Bow, who serves as the focal point of Mixed-ish. Created by Kenya Barris, Peter Saji and Tracee Ellis Ross, Mixed-ish is Bow’s story of growing up as a mixed child in the 80s whose life changes when her family moves from their home on a commune to the suburbs. We get to see how she became the woman she is today on Black-ish and how her family copes with their new lifestyle.
This comedy is expertly cast with each actor hitting their mark brilliantly. You don’t have to be a Black-ish viewer to enjoy Mixed-ish as this is one spin-off that stands on its own.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tika Sumpter play parents Paul and Alicia Jackson. We learned they met while in law school during a time when protesting to change the world was the rage. Although Paul never finished school, Alicia did receive her law degree. But instead of practicing her profession, she chose to raise her children in the carefree lifestyle of the commune, until it was raided by the government and the family forced to leave. So it’s off to the suburbs. Fortunately thanks to Paul’s personal injury attorney father Harrison (Gary Cole), the family has a home in the cul de sac to move into. The Jackson children have to adjust to living in a community where unlike the commune being mixed was never an issue. Tracee Ross Ellis’ narration says it perfectly “Today’s mixed kids can look up to rappers, ballerinas, athletes, a president, a princess. The only heroes we had were DeBarge.”
I give props to casting for choosing the perfect actors to play the Jackson kids. Arica Himmel is Bow, Ethan William Childress is younger brother Johan and Mykal-Michelle Harris is younger sister Santamonica. I had to take a quick look at Black-ish in order to ascertain the similarities between the child actors and their adult counterparts. After reviewing scenes of Tracee Ross Ellis, Daveed Diggs and Rashida Jones as Bow, Johan and Santamonica respectfully, I’m in awe at the spot on selection of Himmel, Childress and Harris. Arica Himmel looks like a young Ross Ellis and it’s easy to imagine her as Bow experiencing growing pains. Childress has adult Johan’s personality quirks and Harris is full of Jones’ sass.
In fact, it was Mykal-Michelle Harris that sold me on watching Mixed-ish. Her “I want to be an idiot so bad” line had me in stitches every time I saw the promo and made me eager to see more. This little lady may only be six years old but she has the comedic timing of a longtime pro.
The children aren’t the only ones adjusting to the difference from living on the commune. Alicia must navigate what this change means to her own identity. In the pilot, she tries to fit into the law firm’s culture by donning a conservative business suit but later tells her husband Paul “You don’t have to change. You can be how you are anywhere in the world. It’s different for me, and it’s different for our kids.”
Thank goodness the Jackson family has Denise (Christina Anthony) to keep it all in perspective by telling it like it is. “World smacked you in the face today didn’t it?” Aunt Dee Dee is determined to help her nieces and nephew (and sister Alicia) with their new surroundings. She wants them to be true to who they are even if the world has a problem with it. I like Dee Dee, she doesn’t mince words. She wants her babies to know she’s there for them if they need her.
With great writing and a great cast, Mixed-ish has the potential to be a hit.
Mixed-ish airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC.
Photo Courtesy of ABC
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