TV Article

Trading Races

''Black.White.'' wasn't the first show to have people changing races -- We rate the cringe factor of other shows that have used blackface

''Black.White.'' wasn't the first show to have people changing races

Television history is stained with examples of odd judgment by network execs (''Say, let's get Tara Reid to host a travel show on E!''), but none so confounding as the continued use of blackface/whiteface. EW rates some past and present examples — including FX's new social experiment/reality show Black.White., which premieres March 8 at 10 p.m. — that are particularly race-y.

BLACK.WHITE., Pilot (FX, 2006)
The Setup
A black family and a white family swap places, with both groups transformed (via makeup) into the other race. The families also live together for six weeks as a study in racial differences and tolerance.
Cringe Factor
Please don't let the white father use the N-word while made up as an African American...please, noooo!
Ouch-o-Meter 5 (out of 10)

GIMME A BREAK!, ''Baby of the Family'' (NBC, 1984)
The Setup
Nell (Nell Carter) is furious when little Joey (Joey Lawrence) — after being egged on by his mischievous sitcom sister — does his best Jazz Singer impersonation at a church musical.
Cringe Factor
Tiny Joey prancing around with white gloves and a big white ring around his mouth is almost as disturbing as adult Joey's 1993 self-titled pop album.
Ouch-o-Meter 10

DESIGNING WOMEN, ''The Rowdy Girls'' (CBS, 1989)
The Setup
When the Sugarbaker design ladies decide to perform as the Supremes at a community talent show, lovable bigot Suzanne (Delta Burke) shows up with brown makeup covering her face.
Cringe Factor
Later Suzanne takes the stage with Anthony (Meshach Taylor) singing ''Love Is Strange'' by Mickey & Sylvia, a black duo from the 1950s.
Ouch-o-Meter 8

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, ''White Like Me'' (NBC, 1984)
The Setup
Eddie Murphy goes undercover as a white man and experiences life with a different skin color.
Cringe Factor
After the sole black commuter on a city bus gets off, the white riders all begin celebrating with music and cocktails while Eddie looks as uncomfortable as we were during The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Still, color us very amused.
Ouch-o-Meter 1

Originally posted Mar 03, 2006 Published in issue #867 Mar 10, 2006 Order article reprints
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