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ABC Shelved ‘Black-ish’ Political Episode Over ‘Creative Differences’ (EXCLUSIVE)

ABC has indefinitely shelved a politically and socially themed episode of “Black-ish” as a result of creative differences with showrunner Kenya Barris. The network has no plan at this time to air the episode or make it available through other forms of distribution.

Titled “Please, Baby, Please,” the episode was originally set to air Feb. 27. ABC revealed in a scheduling announcement on Feb. 22 that the episode would be replaced with a rerun of the single-camera family comedy, but did not provide any additional detail at that time about why the change had been made or when “Please, Baby, Please” would air.

“One of the things that has always made ‘Black-ish’ so special is how it deftly examines delicate social issues in a way that simultaneously entertains and educates,” an ABC spokesperson told Variety on Friday. “However, on this episode, there were creative differences we were unable to resolve.”

Shot in November and directed by Barris, “Please, Baby, Please” features Anthony Anderson’s patriarch Dre caring for his infant son on the night of an intense thunderstorm that keeps the whole household awake. Dre attempts to read the baby a bedtime story, but abandons that plan when the child continues to cry. He instead improvises a bedtime story that, over the course of the episode, conveys many of Dre’s concerns about the current state of the country.

The episode covers multiple political and social issues. In one scene, Dre and oldest son Junior (Marcus Scribner) argue over the rights of athletes to kneel during the performance of the national anthem at football games.

“Given our creative differences, neither ABC nor I were happy with the direction of the episode and mutually agreed not to air it,” Barris, the show’s creator, told Variety. “‘Black-ish’ is a show that has spoken to all different types of people and brought them closer as a community and I’m so proud of the series.”

Currently in its fourth season, “Black-ish” has received critical praise for episodes addressing a broad range of political and social topics rarely discussed in the context of a broadcast sitcom — including Donald Trump’s election, the N-word, postpartum depression, and police brutality. It is one of the few primetime broadcast series to grab the attention of awards voters in recent years, earning a Golden Globe for actress Tracee Ellis Ross and multiple Emmy nominations. In 2016 and 2017, it was the only broadcast show besides “Modern Family” to be nominated for outstanding comedy series at the Emmys.

The show has also been a solid ratings draw for ABC, which moved it to Tuesday evenings this season in the hopes that it could serve as the anchor for a two-hour comedy block on a night that has troubled the network for years. This season, it has averaged a 1.1 rating in the 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen live-plus-same-day numbers, and 4 million viewers. It has been a strong performer in delayed viewing, typically growing more than 60% in the demo and more than 40% in total viewers over seven days.

A spinoff series, “Grown-ish,” premiered in January on Disney-owned ABC’s corporate sibling, cable channel Freeform. Both shows are executive produced by Barris and produced by ABC Studios, where Barris is based. An untitled multi-camera comedy from Barris and Julie Bean was given a series order last fall by ABC, but was downgraded to a pilot order after star Alec Baldwin dropped out. NBC last month ordered a pilot for “Bright Futures,” an ABC Studios project from Barris, Hale Rothstein, Danny Segal, and Isaac Schamis.

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