On Monday, Hulu amended its season 4 catalog of the ABC sitcom Black-ish by adding an unaired episode from 2018 which reflected on America’s sociopolitical climate in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Due to unresolved “creative differences”, the episode was pulled from ABC’s lineup days before its set release on February 27, 2018 during the show’s fourth season, via The Hollywood Reporter.
Kenya Barris (Black-ish, #BlackAF), creator of the popular ABC sitcom, directed the unaired episode titled “Please, Baby, Please”, citing a post-election article “about how Americans hadn’t been this anxious since the Vietnam War” as his inspiration, via The Hollywood Reporter. The episode’s use of licensed music, archival footage, animation and voice-over by acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, BlacKkKlansman) cost the network nearly $3 million dollars, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Although ABC approved this larger budget, a tense debate over the finished product ensued.
Both Barris and ABC summarized their stalemate on the episode as a “mutual decision” brought about by “creative differences”, according to The Hollywood Reporter at the time. The vague nature of this answer combined with the sudden decision by the network to pull the episode led to speculation. Though much of the episode’s content remained unknown, one established detail was that it contained a discussion about athletes taking a knee during the national anthem as a protest against police brutality. Some concluded that this conversation, inspired by San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick, was why the episode was pulled, but a source at Variety asserted that “ABC’s concerns over the episode were related to comments that characters made about President Donald Trump, not to the football storyline.”
“Please, Baby, Please”, which takes its title from a 2002 Spike and Tonya Lewis Lee children’s book featured in the episode, is undoubtedly focused on Donald Trump, referred to as “The Shady King” by Anthony Anderson’s (Black-ish) character, Dre Johnson. According to NBC News, Barris attempted to incorporate the network’s notes regarding the Trump comments, but the result was that “[the episode] was not a true representation of what we intended to do, because if it was, we would’ve shown it.”
The decision to pull the Barris-directed episode was far from the first reported clash between the Black-ish creator and ABC. Season 4, the season in which “Please, Baby, Please” was meant to air, featured an episode called “Juneteenth” where the Johnson family celebrated the holiday in which enslaved Texans learned of their freedom. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network “expressed concerns about [Barris’] “Juneteenth” episode making the series’ sizable white audience uncomfortable.” Ultimately, the limitations put onto Barris within the network system led him to leave ABC and pen an overall deal with Netflix.
The Hollywood Reporter article, that ran in 2018 and chronicled Kenya Barris’ journey from ABC to Netflix, reported on Barris’ insistence that the Black-ish episode “Please, Baby, Please” would likely never resurface. Black-ish’s Emmy nominated star, Anthony Anderson, was perhaps the most disappointed by this resignation, remarking that Barris had “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,” via THR. The Hollywood Reporter continued: “Anderson says he’s desperate for it to get out, if for no other reason than he believes it’s a powerful 22 minutes of television, but Barris insists it never will.”
Anderson’s 2018 plea to unbury the episode came to fruition on Monday, when Barris took to Instagram with the announcement that “Please, Baby, Please” is now available to stream on Hulu. In light of a refocused national conversation about race, Barris returned to Walt Disney Television, ABC’s parent company, with a request to make the episode available. Nearly two years after the network’s decision to scrap the episode, Barris was finally able to share his vision. This announcement came just after Barris’ 46th birthday on August 9th.
An overjoyed Anthony Anderson linked to Barris’ Instagram announcement in a tweet on Monday proclaiming “Soooo soooo soooooo happy to finally be able to share this episode of television with you”.
From the brilliant mind of my partner @funnyblackdude1 who created our show
・・・#BLACKISH Lost Episode Alert!!! #413. Soooo soooo soooooo happy to finally be able to share this episode of television with you at this… https://t.co/CpNKHzrmPV
— Anthony Anderson (@anthonyanderson) August 10, 2020
“Please, Baby, Please” is now available on Hulu, where it can be found listed as “new” under the fourth season of Black-ish. The family sitcom, which has received four Emmy nominations in 2020 and has spurred two spin-offs in Grown-ish and Mixed-ish, returns for its seventh season on ABC in the fall.