That the new Fox series “In the Flow With Affion Crockett” didn’t exactly burst out of the gate Sunday with its premiere episode should not come as any surprise. With some animated reruns as a lead-in and seemingly zero marketing, “Flow” was lucky to get just 2.5 million total viewers. Dumped by Fox in the netherworld that primetime becomes in late August, the scheduling of “Flow” tells you all you need to know about the faith the network has in the series (none).
Maybe Fox was trying something counterintuitive here. Typically, a network hires a brand-name performer to lure audiences in. But as someone who is largely an Internet sensation to date, Crockett may prompt curiosity as to how a relatively unknown comedian manages to get his own sketch-comedy show on a broadcast network.
But the conceptual strategy behind “Flow” makes sense. In a world of increasing ratings parity between a broadcast and cable series, why not try to rip off a series that worked exceedingly well for Comedy Central–“Chappelle’s Show”–and put it on a network that made urban comedy work back in the 1990s, with “In Living Colour.”
This would be a good time to level charges of reductive racism–oh, just because Crockett is black, he should be compared with “Chappelle’s” and “Colour?” Well, yes. It’s abundantly clear that “Flow” was modeled on the “Chappelle” format, with pretaped sketches introduced by Crockett in front of a studio audience, and A-list cameos from the hip-hop world including Russell Simmons and Snoop Dogg. Crockett has the same amiable charm as Chappelle, and the same taste in comedic targets.
That said, Crockett smartly addresses the elephant in the room in the second episode of “Flow” by lampooning Chappelle himself. The sketch has Crockett pretending he reached out to Chappelle for his blessing to do his own show, only to encounter the former Comedy Central star smoking amid a field of marijuana plants, offering paranoid warnings like, “Have fun making shows with the white devil!”
Even with the content restrictions that come with being on Fox, “Flow” doesn’t have that confined vibe so many broadcast shows give off when they try to be racy. Imagine what Chappelle would have been like were he on Fox.
Of course, that inevitable comparison becomes the problem. Crockett is not the second coming of Chappelle. But Crockett is talented enough that had Fox bother to promote and schedule “Flow” as if they gave a damn, this series could have had a chance.