In helping fashion this so-so comedy based on his real life, stand-up comic D.L. Hughley (pronounced Hugh-glee) hopes to make a point about what it’s like to be black and successful while struggling to resist the temptation to become an Uncle Tom sellout. But if the pilot is any indication, one stereotype has been merely substituted for another.
Instead of Darryl Hughley (Hughley) attracting “there goes the neighborhood” whispers from the white folks when he and his family move into an upscale ‘burb, it’s the black man who is leery of the seemingly accepting Caucasians in his midst. The premiere plays off that paranoia and Darryl’s fear that he’s becoming a white man trapped in a darker body. A talented cast and some clever writing (from Hughley and D.L. Wickline) give the show potential, but it leans too heavily at the outset on trite racist themes for its fuel.
An ABC spokeswoman says that with subsequent episodes, the racial component will be minimized. But that’s difficult to imagine, given that the only reason for “The Hughleys” to exist is Hughley’s discomfort with making more of himself than his heritage wants him to — or so he fears.
Chris Rock is among the executive producers of the comedy that casts Hughley and Elise Neal as Darryl and Yvonne. Darryl’s made a killing in vending machines. She’s his razor-sharp, loving wife. Together they have two kids: Sydney (Ashley Monique Clark), who shows signs of emerging color-blindness by insisting her dad buy her a white doll; and Michael (Dee Jay Daniels), who is already rejecting Marvin Gaye for (gasp) Hanson!
Then there is Darryl’s best friend Milsap (John Henton), who takes one look at the family’s new two-story piece of heaven and warns Darryl that he’s on “the slippery slope to losing your blackness.” For one, Darryl pays his bills on time. What’s next? Driving with insurance?
Darryl’s fears mount in the uneven premiere when he meets his new across-the-street neighbors, Dave and Sally Rogers (terrific work by Eric Allan Kramer and Marietta DePrima). Not only are they white, they’re also blonde. The fact they are nice to him makes Darryl instantly wary, then hostile, then downright unstable.If “The Hughleys” isn’t likely to break new ground in TV’s depiction of racial assimilation, it can grow into an entertaining family comedy if, and when, it chills out. Hughley and Neal make a believable couple, and Hughley knows how to make the camera love him. He’ll need to make white auds love him, too, since the show has been slotted for success inside ABC’s Tuesday lineup (albeit following the fading “Home Improvement”). Tech credits are first-rate.