Skip to main content

Why Everybody Can't Hate "Chris"

Out of this current season's pilots, one of the shows I was most impressed with was Everybody Hates Chris, which nailed the tone and feel of the show in its first five minutes. Set in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn in the early 1980s, it tells the story of 13-year-old Chris, an intelligent but unlucky kid who finds himself the only African-American in an Italian-American high school, and is narrated by Chris Rock, on whose life this is (loosely) based.

Reminiscent of the early episodes of FOX single-camera sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, the show has a smart-alecky humor and tough-love heart that are missing from most laugh-track "traditional" sitcoms. While each episode's title begins with "Everyone Hates..." it's hard not to love a show that features a red-haired Italian teenage bully, non-verbal (and subtitled) confrontations between the parents who can communicate whole paragraphs with a single look, and thieves who live on the block and steal from residents by asking, "Can I hold your five dollars?"

While the main story often revolves around Chris, one of the most rewarding elements of the show is how Chris' story contrasts or highlights the subplots with his family: dad Julius, who is able to calculate the cost of any item, even spilled milk; mom Rochelle, a "ghetto snob" who shudders at the thought of anyone thinking they use food stamps or need handouts; younger brother Drew, a kung-fu obsessed ladykiller who--while younger than Chris--is actually taller than him; and little sister Tanya, a spoiled brat who has their father wrapped around her little finger.

While the entire cast is exceptional, I have to single out Tichina Arnold, who plays Rochelle as a momma tiger of a woman willing to sacrifice everything for her beloved kids--except her $12/week chocolate turtle habit--who quits her lousy temp jobs with the memorable catchphrase, "I don't need this. My man has two jobs!" She's also the only actor that could threaten a teenage babysitter by telling her husband, "I'm gonna kick her ass. Hold my wig," and still manage to come off as totally loveable and completely loopy at the same time.

Of course, the show would not be possible without the considerable charm and exceptional skill of the show's lead, Tyler James Williams. His performance is so smooth and so natural that it's hard to believe that he didn't actually live through all of this. (I guess Sesame Street is sort of a summer stock-like training ground for young, talented actors.)

In fact, the kid is so cool and awkward and self-aware that you just want to believe that somehow there's some way that he does grow up to become Chris Rock.

"Everybody Hates Chris" airs Thursdays at 8 pm on UPN (for now).


Anonymous said…
I think your review is dead on. I love this show. :)

Popular posts from this blog

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

BuzzFeed: Meet The TV Successor To "Serial"

HBO's stranger-than-fiction true crime documentary The Jinx   — about real estate heir Robert Durst — brings the chills and thrills missing since Serial   wrapped up its first season. Serial   obsessives: HBO's latest documentary series is exactly what you've been waiting for.   The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst , like Sarah Koenig's beloved podcast, sifts through old documents, finds new leads from fresh interviews, and seeks to determine just what happened on a fateful day in which the most foul murder was committed. And, also like  Serial  before it,  The Jinx may also hold no ultimate answer to innocence or guilt. But that seems almost beside the point; such investigations often remain murky and unclear, and guilt is not so easy a thing to be judged. Instead, this upcoming six-part tantalizing murder mystery, from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), is a gripping true crime story that unfolds with all of the speed of a page-turner; it

BBC Culture: Matthew Weiner: Mad Men’s creator on its final episodes

The creative force behind the period drama talks about where his characters are as his show begins its final episodes. “We left off with everyone’s material needs being met in an extreme way,” says Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner of where we last saw the characters on his critically acclaimed period drama when the show went on hiatus 10 months ago. “Then the issue is, what else is there?” That is the central question with the return to US TV of the AMC hit, one demanding to be answered by both the show’s characters, and its creator whose success is the envy of the television industry. Mad Men has been a defining part of Weiner’s life for the last 15 years. He wrote the pilot script on spec while he was a staff writer on CBS’ Ted Danson sitcom Becker in 1999, using it to land a writing gig on HBO’s The Sopranos in 2002. It would take another five years, filled with multiple rejections, before the first episode of Mad Men would make it on the air. Someone with less determination or vision