Everybody hates Judge David Johnson.
That's $30 worth of DVD!
The C-Dub's family-friendly hit returns for its sophomore outing, featuring 22 more exaggerated retellings of superstar comedian Chris Rock's life as a young boy growing up with loving parents and annoying siblings in the rough part of Brooklyn in the early '80s.
Facts of the Case
Tyler James Williams (Unaccompanied Minors) stars as the young Chris Rock, a gangly, sort of geeky, hapless junior high student who endures bully taunts, passive-aggressive street crime and supreme awkwardness around girls almost daily. Thankfully, he's got a loving family supporting him. His frugal father Julius (Terry Crews), his prone-to-go-nuclear-at-any-second mother Rochelle (Tichina Arnold) his cooler little brother Drew (Tequan Richmond) and tattletale sister Tanya (Imani Hakim).
This season follows the same game plan as the successful first season, but places our hapless hero into even more embarrassing situations.
Here's a show I strongly endorse for good-time, appropriate-for-all-ages, family viewing. Everybody Hates Chris is one of the most inoffensive, yet charming and chock-full-o'-heart half-hours to be had on network TV and would encourage viewers who fall within the demographic (moms, dads, kids) to give it a spin.
There is much appealing about this series, but what stands out for me is the solid, loving family dynamic that is the centerpiece. Sure the parents quibble but it's not like Julius was caught cheating in his wife or involved in a pornography ring. The domestic problems are of the harmless kind, like Julius putting money down one basketball game ("Everybody Hates Gambling") or Rochelle gets irked when she finds out her husband has kept a secret credit card hidden form her for years ("Everybody Hates Chain Snatching"). The kids' issues are even more sedate. Tonya tattles, Drew refuses to teach her how to dance, Tonya tries to beat Drew at checkers, Drew wants someone to take him to a magic show and so on and so forth. Obviously, this isn't deep, multi-layered storytelling, but it's not supposed to be.
Everybody Hates Chris exists a) to give families a conscience-soothing way to spend a half an hour with their kids in front of the boob tube, and—I think—b) to portray a wholesome, healthy family against the backdrop of a shifty neighborhood and, well, to be honest, non-healthy families. Rock and company poke much fun at the stereotypical ghetto culture (no fathers to be seen, etc.), and the strong family is juxtaposed with these surroundings and, really, held up as an ideal. This set-up emanates from Rock's stand-up comedy (which likely emanates from his childhood anyway), i.e. from his Bigger and Blacker routine:
"A bunch of girls say 'you don't need no man to help you raise no child'…shut the f—-- up with the bull—-. Yeah, you could do it without a man, but that don't mean it's to be done. S—-, you can drive a car with your feet if you want to, that don't make it a good f—--—-- idea!"
While stripped of the profanity and screaming, Everybody Hates Chris certainly reflects this concept and becomes a surprising bastion of traditional family values. Likewise, Rock's trademark racial humor is seen here, though tamed down for all audiences of course. Also, if you are a Chris Rock fan, as I am, you'll recognize more than few of his bits make their way into the show's writing.
This season expands on what was done in the debut, and the template largely stays the same, with new stories plugged in. Chris is the center, but each family member receives a side story for the episode. Again, we're not talking narrative wizardry here, but simple, one-gag comic writing which, as Rock notes in the bonus features, is appropriate because this is a "kids show." And that's the approach that should be taken when settling in for an evening with the Rocks.
All 22 episodes benefit from a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround. On the technical side it's a fine looking presentation, looking sharp and sounding robust. Eight featurettes are the highlight of the bonus materials, focusing on cast interviews, a day in the life of Tyler James Williams, the character of the lecherous funeral director Mr. Omar, a tour of the actors' on-set school, stand-ins, Chris's arch-enemy Caruso and his witticisms, Mrs. Morello's inadvertent racism and the wardrobe. A profanity-free gag reel and deleted scenes cap the offering.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As much as I appreciate the show, the simplified kiddie humor can be overlong and grating at times.
Lots of charm and strewn with good intentions, this is a show by design for families, but fans of Rock's stuff will find value here as well. The DVD set is nice.
The accused in no longer hated.
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