Every once in a while, a sitcom will attempt to make a relevant statement about people, about society. And every once in a while, that sitcom will succeed: Black-ish‘s second season opener, for example, was a funny and thoughtful exploration on the N-word and who should and shouldn’t say it. NBC’s Truth Be Told also tackles who should and shouldn’t say the N-word, along with a bevy of other modern-day conundrums; unlike Black-ish though, it merely brushes the surface without actually making any meaningful headway.
The show does occasionally have its bright spots: Stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tone Bell, Bresha Webb, and Vanessa Lachey all have an easy chemistry — it’s just that the things they’re saying are neither amusing nor insightful. Truth Be Told operates on the premise that it’s covering topics that are hard to talk about, a worthwhile goal that sadly doesn’t pay off. Each mention of something being offensive, each reference to Russell being Mitch’s only black friend, each mix-up of the Orthodox Jewish neighbors’ last names, come off as forced and trying entirely too hard to be relevant.
Part of this forced feeling comes from the fact that the show never elaborates on, well, anything. Russell reprimands Mitch for almost singing along to the N-word in a Jay Z song, but doesn’t actually explain why he doesn’t think Mitch should sing along to the N-word. A valet mistakenly gives Mitch the car keys to Russell’s Porsche, a slip that happened simply because a John Mayer was playing in the car and the valet assumed it had to belong to a white guy. Successful television certainly doesn’t have to spell everything out for its viewers, but if it wants to have an impact — which Truth Be Told seems to, solely judging by its choice of subject matter — it needs to involve actual conversations, not just one-sided scoldings or throwaway lines about a such-and-such phrase being offensive.
So truth be told? Truth Be Told needs quite a bit — er, a lot — of help before it can become the socially conscious, of the moment sitcom it aims to be.
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