Saturday, January 30, 2016

Blackish 2x13 "Keeping Up With the Johnsons" (Mo' Money, Mo' Problems) [Contributor: Jen W.]


"Keeping Up With the Johnsons"
Original Airdate: January 20, 2016

The Johnsons are in a bit of pickle financially.

This glorious episode starts out with Dre and Bow opening their credit card statement and balking at the amount of money they’ve spent over the course of a month. They’re confused as to where the money has gone, but then we’re treated to a very telling example of Dre’s sneaker addiction (his latest pair was overnighted from Japan, and have ostrich on them), his (hideous) new reading glasses, and Bow’s exquisite love for her subzero refrigerator and organic hair products.

This episode is a mixture between the absurd and the serious, marrying the two very well as we watch an anxious Bow come to grips with learning how to deal with money, and Dre realizing the limits of his 819 credit score.

Neither Dre nor Bow grew up with money lessons, having to come into on their own which is really exemplary of a particular generation of black folks growing up in this country. I appreciate the fact that it’s touched upon and referenced without being the main focus of the episode.

Dre and Bow challenge one another to let go of the more extravagant parts of their lifestyle, which leaves Bow shopping for hair products at the Dollar Store and Dre shopping for clothes and shoes at a bargain basement store.

In the end, both Dre and Bow come to realize that they need to work together on their money issues and start talking about it rather than ignoring them. There’s a sweet moment at the end of the episode where Dre talks about why he’s so entranced with new shoes and the big house — because it’s what he could never have a child.

And while this episode does a good job of being teachy without being preachy, it’s not Dre and Bow’s story that pull you in — it’s the kids. Zoey, Junior, Jack, and Diane remain the MVPs of every single episode of Black-ish. In this episode, while Dre and Bow are dealing with their financial dilemma, Diane (have I mentioned how much I adore Diane?), announces to her siblings that the family is in fact broke (“I knew this was too much house”) after she and Jack eavesdropped on their parents.

Zoey declares that since she’s going to college soon it’s more of a “you problem than a we problem.” So the always prepared Junior pulls up on of his many disaster preparedness plans, and he just so happens to have one for financial ruin. And it’s written in Dothraki. I’m telling you, these kids are everything. This plan instructs him, in Dothraki, to start day trading. Yes. Exactly.

His foray into day trading goes about as well as you’d imagine it would go. Junior gets advice from Pops: “Day trading ain’t nothing but gambling. You gotta find yourself an ‘inside guy.’” Junior then takes this advice very literally and starts to call companies like Apple and asks for the insider trading information. Yeah, Junior’s not even close to being a slick operator. Diane even comments, “I love how to change your personality wildly from week to week and expect a different outcome.” She’s my favorite.

Junior, however, does manage to find his “inside guy” in his older, much cooler sister Zoey. Zoey has told us many times before how cool and popular she is, and Junior and Jack decide to start following her around. And it works! Junior and Jack start making money off the various things that Zoey utilizes, like the best and latest apps, the places she shops, and her assorted accessories. When Zoey finds out her brothers have been making money off of her, she asks for a cut, once Diane points out how Junior and Jack are following her around “like pimps.”

Junior refuses to let Zoey have a cut, so Zoey resorts to doing the only thing she knows to do: cut them off at the source. Instead of using her cell phone or hitting up the latest store, Zoey reads the newspaper and calls 411 to find the number to Dress Barn.

Desperate, the boys resort to mining Zoey’s garbage for the latest and greatest to continue to make money off of their sister. Finding an empty X-Gen lipgloss box, Junior and Jack think they have it made, but end up losing their shirts — literally. Even though the kids weren’t the major focus of the episode, they brought the exquisite funny to the very uncomfortable conversation of money. Dre says in the beginning of the episode “we all like to have money, but we don’t like to talk about it,” and that theme really rings true throughout the entire episode...especially as Junior and Jack sit shirtless on the couch at the end of the episode.

Moments of Hilarity:
  • Pop’s “inside guy” at the track is a hot dog vendor. Pops declares he knows everything about every race and every horse, to which Diane replies, “Then why is he still the hot dog guy?”
  • Bow and Dre’s profuse sweating upon talking about uncomfortable things. For Bow, it’s the subject of money. For Dre, it’s the subject of being the main kid wrangler.
  • Dre hired an accountant whose name is James Brown. And he’s the hardest working man in accounting.
  • Dre and James Brown have financial meetings in a diner that doubles at JB’s office.
  • Junior speaking Dothraki
  • One of Junior’s disaster plans is surviving the Zombie Apocalypse and he made a video congratulating himself on surviving. 
  • James Brown to Pops: “You can sew all the pockets of your clothes shut and write off your clothes as a costume.”

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