The CBS sitcom The Neighborhood intends to use its platform to address systemic racism and police misconduct this fall.
TVLine can confirm exclusively that the Cedric the Entertainer-led comedy will open Season 3 with an episode focused on racial unrest and the Black Lives Matter movement. In the premiere, a recurring character becomes the victim of police brutality, which ignites a conversation among members of the Butler family.
“Like most Black families, when it’s close enough to home, it’s enough to get you nervous,” series star and executive producer Cedric the Entertainer tells TVLine. “You realize, ‘Oh, I was on that street,’ or ‘I know that guy’s family’ or whatever. It’s enough to make you really identify [with] it.”
From there, the Butlers and the Johnsons set out to help the victim, at which point the situation places Calvin and Tina’s son Malcolm (played by Sheaun McKinney) in jeopardy.
“We felt that our show is… uniquely positioned to address the Black Lives Matter movement and the call for social justice,” showrunner Jim Reynolds says. “Being a show that addresses issues of race, we really have a responsibility to use our platform to say something — both to validate and honor the experiences of some of our audience, while also trying to give insight to and enlighten other parts of our audience.”
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One real-world situation that the sitcom won’t be incorporating into its third season is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “I felt strongly that we should not set the show in a COVID world,” Reynolds explains. “Initially we were wondering if we could figure out a way that we could kind of address it without featuring COVID, through some sort of analog experience that the community would go through together. However, when the Black Lives Matter movement really took off, we knew that that was the issue that would be a more appropriate one for us to deal with.”
Cedric the Entertainer confirms that the focus shifted once the murder of George Floyd begat a nationwide discussion. “At the time, it was ‘Do we address the pandemic? Do we talk about what everybody’s going through in quarantine?’ And then George Floyd happened, and it just felt like a more important [conversation],” he says. “Our show is… about white neighbors moving into a Black neighborhood, and how we have to learn and grow and come to understand each other. We felt like it was far more interesting to talk about systemic racism and policing.”
CBS has not yet announced a return date for The Neighborhood. In the meantime, hit the comments and tell us if you’re looking forward to seeing how the sitcom addresses BLM this season.