Fans of ABC's hit family sitcom black-ish were shocked in November 2017 when word got out that the network had decided to shelve an episode. At the time, no real details about what the episode could have contained were revealed, but the series had long been known to blend social and political issues with its humor, so the decision to keep one 30-minute installment away from audiences seemed baffling. Show creator Kenya Barris was able to convince the network to finally make "Please, Baby, Please" available since earlier this week, though, and audiences have been loving it.
But, as was seen across social media after people began watching the formerly long-lost black-ish episode, many were angered that it was withheld, or just plain confused about how it was supposed to be so controversial that it needed to be put on the shelf nearly three years ago. Kenya Barris appeared on The Daily Show recently, and when asked by host Trevor Noah why "Please, Baby, Please" came so close to never seeing the light of day, responded by saying "creative differences" led to the episode being set aside. But, he went on to elaborate, noting:
"I think that it was a really interesting time in Disney's growth, and at the same time it was an interesting time in our country's growth. It was the most blatantly partisan episode of black-ish we've ever done. That's a hard place to be for America's Broadcasting Corporation. They had already let us do a lot of things, and I felt like some of the things that we could not agree upon on, about what should be there or shouldn't be there, at the time I did not want to compromise on. And, from the highest levels, Bob Iger understood and really supported where I was coming from but, at the same time, was running a publicly traded company during a merger and things like that. We came to a really, at the time unfortunate, but really respectful, understanding that I did not want to put it out with changing it and they didn't want to put it out without changing it."
While Kenya Barris didn't sound as though he's even remotely annoyed by what happened at this point, there's little doubt that it must have stung mightily at the time. As he noted in his interview, by the time "Please, Baby, Please" was set to air, black-ish was already in its fourth season and had had a lot of episodes that talked about race, politics and other hot button issues. But, this particular episode was, as Barris admitted, a completely unflinching look at people's fears about the future, a year into the current presidential administration.
Without saying it directly, Barris seems to be confirming that Bob Iger was afraid of the potential blowback should the network air something which would have directly put the president, his administration and supporters on blast, especially at a time when there was already so much strife and when Iger was trying to keep things as minimally controversial as possible for Big Business reasons.
While it sounds like Iger and other executives at ABC understood, and even agreed with where Barris was coming from with the content of the episode, they did want changes. Barris didn't say what those changes would have been, but he wasn't willing to make any of the compromises suggested, so they landed at a "respectful" impasse, and "Please, Baby, Please" was locked away. But, Barris does seem to believe that things have now ended in the right way, and appreciated what Iger had to say about the episode (and the controversy) before allowing it to stream on Hulu:
"I actually spoke to Iger, who re-aired "Hope" and "Juneteenth" and...we had a real honest conversation about this episode. He was like 'I love the episode and I think the time is there. I think there's a lot of curiosity as to why it was actually shelved, so instead of us trying to answer it or us trying to talk about it, I think the time is now to put it out and let people, on their own, find their answer.' I've been really happy with what people have been saying. One of the highlights of my writing career is to be able to have something that you felt like was gone that you're really proud of, to be able to come back and, during a time when we're actually in all this stuff, speak to people and start a conversation."
If you haven't seen the black-ish episode "Please, Baby, Please" yet, it's streaming on Hulu (along with the rest of the popular comedy) and is well worth a watch.