ABC Chief defends not running ‘Black-ish’ kneeling episode and supports ‘Roseanne’ return


Just a couple months ago, ABC permanently shelved an already-shot episode of Black-ish called “Please, Baby, Please,” in which the Johnson family addresses the controversy with Colin Kaepernick, the NFL, and the national anthem. Show creator Kenya Barris released a statement saying that he and the network both opted not to air the show, but rumors abound that the network had its foot on Barris’ neck regarding the episode’s controversial topic.

During a call with reporters to discuss ABC’s new season, network chief Channing Dungey addressed the topic head on:

“As you know, we’ve long been supportive of Kenya and his team tackling challenging and controversial issues in the show; and we’ve always, traditionally, been able to come to a place creatively where we felt good about the story that he was telling even if it felt like it was pushing some hot buttons, and he felt that he was getting to share the story in the way it should be shared,” she said.

“With this particular episode, there were a number of different elements to the episode that we had a hard time coming to terms on. Much has been made about the kneeling part of it, which was not even really the issue, but I don’t want to get into that. At the end of the day, this was a mutual decision between Kenya and the network to not put the episode out.”

Dungey also said she was a “a little bit surprised” when people were offended by the Roseanne show discussing two shows with minority-centered comedies, Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat.

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During the episode in question Dan Conner referenced fellow ABC sitcoms Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat and said: “We missed all the shows about black and Asian families,” Dan said. Roseanne responded dismissively: “They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.”

That wisecrack, many said, was making light of the multicultural shows and the issues that are unique to minorities. Roseanne’s dig at the shows didn’t sit well with many, but Dungey maintains that its intent wasn’t to offend.

“We thought that the writers were simply tipping their hat to those shows,” Dungey said to reporters. “That said, I do stand by the Roseanne writers in terms of the decision to include that line. They felt that they were expressing the point of view of the Conners in what they would actually have said.” When a reporter asked if she had any concerns about how Barr’s own personal politics color the way the comedy is perceived, she responded: “I do think that there’s a little bit of that, yes.”

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