TV has had approximately three zillion comedy episodes, some of them topical and timely.
Few, however, have dealt with the common situation of being bi-racial.
“For me, (it) is to be comfortable everywhere and to be at home nowhere,” said Peter Saji, a producer of ABC’s new “Mixed-ish” series (shown here).
Tracee Ellis Ross, the show’s narrator and producer, agreed. “We have a contradiction of these two heritages,” she said.
The daughter of singer Diana Ross and manager Robert Ellis Silberstein, she grew up in “a protected, safe environment (where) my mixed-ness didn’t necessarily come up in a big way.” But then she plunged into the rest of the world, “where that sort of gets ignited.”
That also happens in “Mixed-ish.” We visit the 1980s childhood of Rainbow – the character Ross plays in “Black-ish.” In a cozy commune, she has never faced issues of race, class and image. Then the commune is closed and she’s thrust into a judgmental suburban world.
That happens in a busy first episode that even includes a theme song by Mariah Carey. “She has expressed an interest in wanting to (act in) an episode,” said producer Karen Gist.
Carey is one of many people who have mixed roots and star status. It’s a list that includes Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, Meghan Markle, Misty Copeland, Drake and many more … including Halle Berry, who has recalled watching “Roots” in horror and asking her white mother to explain slavery.
In some cases, the mixed roots weren’t apparent. That includes Jennifer Beals, Halsey and “Florida Girls” star Laura Chinn, who as a teen heard racial slurs used casually in front of her. And it includes Carey, who was praised in a 1990 Playboy review as “a white girl who can sing.”
Carey tactfully explained to the reviewer that her father is black and Venezuelan. “It seems that most people don’t know much about inter-racial children,” she told an interviewer back then.
They still don’t, 29 years later. The subject was approached on “The Jeffersons,” but was generally ignored. “It certainly hasn’t been explored in a sitcom,” Ross said. “I remember when I first got ‘Black-ish,’ I was so excited because it was truly my first time playing a mixed woman on television.”
That has sometimes been dangerous turf. Trevor Noah, the “Daily Show” host, titled his book “Born a Crime”; his mother was jailed because South Africa banned inter-racial marriages or sexual relations.
Such laws also lingered in the U.S., until the Supreme Court banned them. At the time, 16 states made it illegal for whites to marry blacks; some also banned marriage to Asians and Native Americans.
The court ruling didn’t come until 1967. A couple decades later, Rainbow – fictional and carefree – would be plunged into a new world.
— “Mixed-ish,” 9 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC; debuts Sept. 24