Mixed-ish is the latest spin-off from the hugely popular Black-ish comedy series, which stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross. Set a few decades before Black-ish, Mixed-ish portrays the growing pains of Rainbow “Bow” Johnson’s teenage years, who eventually goes on to become the “mom” in Black-ish.

The quirky depiction of life growing up in a blended family in the mid-1980s in America with a white dad and a black mom will be striking, poignant and extremely funny television, especially if you’re a kid of that decade, grew up in or are part of an interracial family, or just appreciate wonderfully written comedy with a subtle message about race, life and everything else.

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True-tone comedy

Tracee Ellis Ross is the adult narrator, following the format of similar shows like The Wonder Years and Everybody Hates Chris, where the older Bow reflects on how her life with her family, parents and siblings was when she grew up in 1985. The true-tone comedy feels incredibly real and resonates so strongly in its characters and their circumstances, and there’s a very good reason: It’s loosely based on the early life of Dr Rania “Rainbow” Barris, the co-creator Kenya Barris’ ex-wife.

While the young Bow (Arica Himmel), her precocious young sister Santamonica Johnson (Mykal-Michelle Harris) and her ever-exploring and experimenting brother Johan (Ethan William Childress) lived a carefree life in the safe space of their commune – which the American government saw as a cult and decided to break up – it’s mainstream America that turns out to be judgemental and full of prejudices. It throws out a myriad of daily challenges – big and small – that the biracial family has to confront together.

The family deals with America going through technological, political and social changes as their – for the time “unique” – family also went through changes and challenges. Should lawyer mom Alicia (Tika Sumpter) and stay-at-home dad Paul (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) try to assimilate into America’s general, or a so-called “white” or a so-called “black” culture? Or should they stay true to just themselves when they move from a hippie commune to the suburbs?


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80s tone with modern relevance

Mixed-ish is lovely to look at. There’s the great music of the era, the detail and care the producers take with every episode in depicting the 80s with clearly beloved nostalgia, as well as terrific acting from the young and talented cast. And while 2020 is decades removed from 1985 (it was 35 years ago, wow!), every episode from Mixed-ish contains little revelations for this time – about love, acceptance, sticking together, figuring out the world and yourself one day at a time, and what the values are that you believe in and why it matters.

About the advice that Arica got from her “older self”, Tracee, the young actress says that it was “to just be yourself – which could just be the key message of this show”.

Watch the first season of Mixed-ish on Thursdays on 1Magic (103) at 19:00


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