Kenya Barris made a major career move recently when the Black-ish creator left his four-year contract with ABC to join the Netflix family in a multimillion-dollar deal. Behind the scenes, that decision apparently had a lot to do with the infamous “Please, Baby, Please” episode of his sitcom that the network pulled.
“There’s this P.C. culture that’s been created where people feel like not talking about things makes it better,” Barris, opening up on the episode in a new Hollywood Reporter profile, said, “but I think it makes it worse and that’s why I wanted to talk about the last year.”
The episode reportedly involved the subject of the NFL kneeling protests during the National Anthem, though ABC Entertainment Group president Channing Dungey later told press that “was not even really the issue.” According to THR, the treatment also would have included news footage of President Donald Trump and the Charlottesville attacks, framed around Anthony Anderson’s Dre telling his infant son Devante a bedtime story about recent events.
“When you’re putting a baby to sleep, you’re trying to soothe whatever anxieties they’re having,” Barris explained. “So, this was about me trying to pat the butt of the country and soothe people.”
The trade reports the network’s decision to ultimately pull the episode involved a fear that ABC would “be alienating” the red-state viewership, which they’ve been courting since Trump entered the White House, as well as a fear of provoking Trump himself during Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets.
A rep for ABC did not respond to EW’s request for comment, but Barris confirmed, “I know there was some concern about partisanship and the way the episode was angled and the balance in terms of some of the stories. On network TV, one of the things I’ve learned is that you have to talk about things from both sides.”
In the end, “Please, Baby, Please” went through so much editing that it was no longer “a true representation of what we intended to do,” Barris said. “Because if it was, we would’ve shown it.”
ABC previously released a statement to Variety, stating, “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. However, on this episode, there were creative differences we were unable to resolve.”
Cast members Tracee Ellis Ross and Anderson have both spoken out about ABC’s decision to pull the episode with concern over its larger implications.
“To a certain extent, I have purposefully stayed out of those conversations because I have had no power to do something beyond that,” Ross told THR in June. “So, I have asked for the information and pushed for the information that I felt would be helpful to me and constructive in what I can do with it, because I find it frightening.”
“He’d given his blood, sweat and tears to [the episode], which they had signed off on every step of the way — from the outline, to the script, to the table read, to the point where they actually spent the money and made the episode,” Anderson commented for Barris’ profile. “And I don’t know what those conversations were, but we entered into this partnership with the understanding that we would be able to tell the stories that we wanted to tell.”
Black-ish returns to ABC for its season 5 premiere on Tues., Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. ET.
Read THR‘s full profile with Barris here.