By Karen Valby
Updated September 08, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

In this absorbing but ultimately maddening FX reality series, a black family and a white family swap races — via the magic of extreme makeup — and live together for six weeks. It sounds like an icky, gimmicky premise, but producers Ice Cube and The War Room‘s R.J. Cutler clearly had good intentions. Maybe it’s not surprising that the two teenagers come off better than their parents, but I found myself empathizing with the black Sparks family over the well-meaning but tiresomely woo-woo Carmen and her husband Bruno, who refuses to allow that racism exists in the modern world and, if it does, insists that one should simply rise above it and move along without absorbing its blows. His blunt ethos of denial, which he proudly maintains throughout Black. White.‘s six episodes, deadlocks the show but is instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever engaged in bash-your-head-into-a-mirror discussions about race. And for that, he’s a rare whiff of TV honesty. I hoped that when Bruno watched the footage of the Sparkses infiltrating the casually racist conversations that go on in every bar and workplace today, he was struck in the face by his naïveté. Alas, judging from his banal commentary, no such luck.