Will ABC's 'Black-ish,' praised for tackling topical issues, get a spin-off starring Yara Shahidi?

The network is reportedly considering creating a new program that is set in the world of its acclaimed sitcom 'Black-ish,' which stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross.

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
'Black-ish' stars Yara Shahidi.

ABC is reportedly considering a spin-off for its acclaimed program “Black-ish,” which has attracted praise for episodes that discussed such topics as police brutality and the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election.

The network is reportedly considering a show that would be about “Black-ish” character Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi), one of the daughters of the family, and would center on Zoey’s experiences in college. 

“Black-ish” is currently airing its third season. Tracee Ellis Ross won the award for best actress in a TV series, comedy or musical at this year's Golden Globes.

Will viewers follow “Black-ish” character Zoey to a new show? Spin-offs are always of course an uncertain prospect. Some, like NBC’s “Frasier” (based off the network’s show “Cheers”) and spin-offs of CBS’s “All in the Family” like “The Jeffersons” and “Maude,” become hits on their own after taking inspiration from established characters.

Some, like “A Different World,” a spin-off of NBC’s “The Cosby Show,” take time to establish themselves creatively. Darnell Hunt of the Museum of Broadcast Communications writes that “A Different World,” which initially centered on Huxtable daughter Denise attending historically black college Hillman College, received “dismal initial reviews” but that the quality of the show improved after actress Debbie Allen became producer-director after the first season aired. “ 'A Different World' is also notable for its attempts to explore a range of social and political issues rarely addressed on television – let alone in situation comedies,” Mr. Hunt wrote. “Featured characters regularly confronted such controversial topics as unplanned pregnancy, date rape, racial discrimination, AIDS, and the 1992 Los Angeles uprisings. Many observers also commended the series for extolling the virtues of higher education for African American youth at a time when many black communities were in crisis.” 

And of course some spin-offs fail to take off altogether, even if the programs are based off one of the most successful TV shows of all time, as seen with NBC's “Joey,” a spin-off of the network's show “Friends.”

“Black-ish” itself has been praised by critics in general, with the program receiving such awards season attention as an Emmy nomination last year for best comedy series. And it has received particular attention for episodes that discussed police brutality and the atmosphere following the 2016 presidential election, respectively, with Vulture writer Nichole Perkins writing that the recent episode about the aftermath of the election “captures a particularly charged moment in American history in an honest, thought-provoking, and accessible way.”

If there is a “Black-ish” spin-off and it continues this tradition of tackling topical topics, the show could find viewers – when the “Black-ish” episode discussing police brutality aired, the show brought in the most viewers in the age group 18-49 of the shows on at that time.

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