Showrunner Kenya Barris explores the complexities of the Black experience in his popular ABC sitcom black-ish, using the highs and lows of the Johnson family to showcase the multi-faceted nature Blackness. Since its 2014 debut, the series has covered a wide spectrum of topics, touching on everything from first crushes to colorism and capitalism, the one subject matter that was off-limits for black-ish being the current state of the world courtesy of President Donald Trump — until now, that is.
In 2017, news broke that a new episode of black-ish had been canned because it was too political in nature. Originally set to air in late February of that year, "Please, Baby, Please" was removed from the lineup and set aside due to "creative differences" between Barris and the network; the showrunner and ABC simply could not agree on the way that the episode panned out and ultimately decided to keep it in the vault.
"One of the things that has always made black-ish so special is how it deftly examines delicate social issues in a way that simultaneously entertains and educates,” an ABC spokesperson told Variety of the decision. “However, on this episode, there were creative differences we were unable to resolve.”
Years later, "Please, Baby, Please" has been released to the public because of its disturbing relevance to the times that we're living in. In the episode, Andre (Anthony Anderson) takes it upon himself to read his young son a bedtime story, adding a startling sociopolitical twist that takes his narrative from fairytale to living nightmare. Dre's tale begins with the takeover of a shady king who rises to power by fueling people's deepest fears following the reign of a prince who established significant change throughout the land. Arrogant and uncouth, the Shady King's ruling splits the province in two, leaving the land in a state of chaos.
In case you didn't get that the episode is a pointed reference to the past eight years in this country, black-ish threw in direct images and clips making its point. The episode showed President Trump making a number of incendiary statements as well as images of his fanatic followers and the movement rising against them. For all intents and purposes, Trump was the shady king leading the land to its demise, and ABC was not putting itself in his line of fire by releasing the episode.
However, given the way things have played out since "Please, Baby, Please" was initially shelved, the network is now singing a different tune. Barris revealed via Twitter statement that the lost episode would be available for streaming on Hulu because ABC executives recognized just how important its message was as well as how pertinent its plot still is today.
If you really think about it, 2017 was just the pre-game for the actual apocalypse that has been 2020 thus far. In the four years of the Trump presidency, the United States has been thrown into literal distress. We've seen a failed impeachment trial, sexual assault allegations, and widespread initiatives to scale back everything from reproductive rights to legal immigration — not to mention the egregious mishandling of a global pandemic and continued police brutality against the Black community. Life in the U.S. is this close to becoming the plot of a young adult dystopian novel.
Given the tumultuous state of the country, ABC really didn't have another choice but to release "Please, Baby, Please" to the public. While activists on the ground push for tangible social change, much of Hollywood is engaging in increased social commentary; the network's shelving of the black-ish episode could very well be perceived as complicity in the very problems it fleshes out, and ABC couldn't have that.
Every episode of black-ish, including the controversial "Please, Baby, Please," is now available for streaming on Hulu.