Thursday, 2 January 2014

Review: Nickleodeon's Instant Mom Just What Black Sitcoms Need

So just when I thought I'd never see another good African-American sitcom on TV any more, I stumbled upon episodes of a show titled, 'Instant Mom' on YouTube. 

Instant Mom stars former child star-turned-adult actor, Tia Mowry-Hardrict (one half of the Mowry sister siblings and of Sister Sister fame), who plays a single 25- year- old party-loving woman, Stephanie whose life changes when she marries an older man, Charlie, played by Spin City's Michael Boatman & gets acquainted with his 3 children; Gabby, Aaron and James. Interestingly, James is played by Tylen Jacob Williams; who in real life, is the younger brother of Tyler James Williams from Everybody Hates Chris. Stephanie's mother-in-law, Maggie (Sheryl Lee Ralph of Moesha) drops by and visits the family. 

As of note, I did notice that the daughter Gabby, played by Sydney Park is half-Asian (according to IMDb, she was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a Korean American-born mother and African-American father), which is pretty cool, because I am Asian and it's good to see more positive Asian characters on screen, just as much as I do of Black and African-American characters and actors. 

During the show, Stephanie who trades in her hectic party lifestyle in favour of 3 children, tries to adjust to her life, as a stepmum whilst at the same time, still trying to be cool, hip and fun-loving. By being there and looking after the kids, she learns more about herself, what being a mother is all about, but also doing things her own way and being responsible. 

Interestingly, Duane Martin-Campbell (of All of Us) was initially casted as the role of Charlie, up until the role was offered to Michael Boatman. It would've been interesting to see Duane play that character, and in a way, I actually think the idea of Tia and Duane together, sounds more plausible than Tia and Michael. Nonetheless, Michael Boatman's performances so far, have been good. 

With Instant Mom, there is proof that there is still life yet in the African-American sitcom, particularly the Black family sitcom.

It seems that unlike BET, NBC, Fox, CBS and ABC, a network such as Nickelodeon is willing to take a gamble with the Black sitcom genre (and good on Nickelodeon by the way), and it has successfully paid off.

In stark contrast to many of the Black sitcoms that aired on BET, from what I've seen of Instant Mom, it is 10 times better than any of those shows, not to mention the other Cable-based & nationally-networked sitcoms.   

The casting is terrific and spot-on. Tylen comes across as if he was acting for the past 30 years, it's incredible how exceedingly good he is at such a young age. He has charisma, personality, and I can actually see him doing comedy on a full-time basis, after Instant Mom ends. Arguably, he is also funnier than his older brother, Tyler, who is great as well. 

The writing is great, judging by the first season, and I just feel it is one of those shows that deserve to do really well and last for more than 4 seasons. 

I've read a few comments from people saying they are not taking a liking to Sheryl Lee Ralph's character, but I quite liked her. I found her spontaneity quirky and sure, she can be a bit wacky, but she's amusing and very funny. 

Instant Mom is The Cosby Show/Family Matters of the modern African-American sitcom era, and I do sense that this show has a lot more going for it than ABC's My Wife and Kids & BET's Reed Between The Lines. The latter sitcom fared well for the first 2, 3 episodes, but in the end, The Cosby Show comparisons, as well as the fact it didn't live up to its potential led to its demise. Instant Mom, on the other hand, is a sitcom where its premise and plot hasn't been touched upon before. That, and the main cast, especially the child actors including Tyler James Williams younger brother, Tylen have such a great chemistry and on-screen interaction.  

U.S TV today needs another hit African-American sitcom, and whilst us Black sitcom fans might as well give up of ever seeing these shows dominating the TV schedules like they did during the 1990s on mainstream networks, we should at least support shows - good sitcom shows that is- that have the potential to be great and to be better in the next few years. 

This latest effort from Nickleodeon is what African-American sitcoms deserve, and what Black television needs right now. Far better than the stereotypical negative images of Blacks on reality TV shows, and a huge welcome from all the depressing dramas featuring fictional Black characters doing bad things (yeah, I'm looking at you, ABC & shows such as Grey's Anatomy), such as having affairs, and real-life Black personalities being angry all the time, publicly demeaning themselves. Of course, the media in part is to blame for forcing those images onto people; however, if the perpetrator of those acts is in the public eye and they behave inappropriately and foolishly, then their actions come into question, as well as they will be condemned for it too. 

But going back to 'Instant Mom', this is one of those sitcoms that deserves a good run on air - it deserves support, and sitcom fans need to do so by watching it. So far, people are watching it, which is a good sign. But this needs to continue, but also, the writing has to stay consistent and not fall off. It can be difficult to do, yet Instant Mom has done well at the moment; the quality in season 1, has been exemplary.  

This is such a feel-good show. 

To Nickelodeon: thank you for putting Black sitcoms back on the map, I duly hope Instant Mom lasts a couple of more years, because it is such a quality show, and a wholesome family show for everyone to enjoy. You have taught the major networks, as well as BET a thing about airing quality African- American scripted comedies, as well as put them to shame. 

*image courtesy of NickMom/Viacom International 2014 

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