One year later, everybody loves ‘Chris’

By Jae-Ha Kim
Media Life Magazine
May 11, 2006

At last year’s upfront presentations, media buyers praised “Everybody Hates Chris” as the show that would revive the stagnating sitcom genre. But then again, many also were touting Martha Stewart’s version of the “Apprentice” as a sure thing.

Flash forward a year later. While Stewart and Donald Trump were busy blaming each other for their failed series, Chris Rock’s sitcom has actually lived up to much of the hype. It’s the No. 3 show on UPN, averaging 4.3 million total viewers season to date, more than Foxs Arrested Development averaged before it was axed.

Extremely popular in black households, where it’s often a top 10 show, “Chris” is certain to be a cornerstone in the new CW’s lineup, likely anchoring a sitcom lineup on Monday nights.

What differentiates “Chris” from most sitcoms is its smart writing and ability to reach across racial lines through humor to in the way “The Cosby Show” did two decades ago.

The Rocks are real people, like the Huxtables, but they are not the Huxtables, who were affluent achievers. The Rocks are a working-class family trying to lead a better life.

They’re also not like any other family on TV actually. Unlike sitcoms with uncharacteristically hot moms married to so-so dads, these parents are well matched in looks and in their approach to dealing with their children.

When Chris’s determined mom has him bused to an all-white school to get a better education, she inadvertently sets him up to be bullied by bigger students and, to a lesser extent, pitied by teachers whose empathy is a product of their own latent prejudice against blacks.

In one scene, a teacher, assuming the Rocks must be needy because they’re black, sends Chris home with bags of food. Even though their budget is tight and they could use the canned goods, his mother reacts by sending all the food back plus additional brand-name packages to prove they don’t need anyone’s charity.

As the comedy’s debut season concludes at 8 tonight, kid Rock and his siblings search for the perfect Father’s Day gift for their hardworking dad. Of course the gift their father wants most would’ve cost them nothing, a day of peace and quiet to himself.

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