A white family and a black family find out what it's like to switch lives.
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1  
2006  
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Series cast summary:
Rose Bloomfield ...
 Herself (5 episodes, 2006)
...
 Himself (5 episodes, 2006)
Poetri ...
 Himself (5 episodes, 2006)
Brian Sparks ...
 Himself (5 episodes, 2006)
Nicholas Sparks ...
 Himself (5 episodes, 2006)
Renee Sparks ...
 Herself (5 episodes, 2006)
Carmen Wurgel ...
 Herself (5 episodes, 2006)
Faith Cheltenham ...
 Slam Poet (4 episodes, 2006)
...
 Slam Poet / ... (4 episodes, 2006)
Chapter Jackson ...
 Poet (4 episodes, 2006)
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Storyline

A white family and a black family find out what it's like to switch lives.

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Genres:

Drama | Reality-TV

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Details

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Release Date:

8 March 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Black.White.  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$750,000 (estimated)
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Did You Know?

Trivia

A part of this experiment, was for the two families to live together in the same house. With their false identities, they found jobs, enrolled their kids in schools and at the end of each day shared their interactions amongst each other. See more »

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User Reviews

Cutler and Cube's reality series is a unique social experiment that goes horribly awry
21 April 2006 | by (www.liquidcelluloid.blog.com) – See all my reviews

Network: FX; Genre: Reality, Documentary; Content Rating: TV-MA (strong language); Perspective: Contemporary (star range: 1 - 4);

Seasons Reviewed: Complete Series (1 season)

I love FX. Even when their shows aren't very good, they are still so bold and unique that they thrash about making a formidable fight. "Black. White." is a 1-shot, 6 episode series developed by R. J. Cutler and Ice Cube - lending his celebrity name and a halfway decent theme song to "the project" - about two families who employ an elaborate Hollywood make-up regimen to "trade races", making the white family (Bruno, Carmen and daughter Rose) appear black and the black family (Brian, Renee, and son Nick) appear white. Creepy? Maybe a little, but we've never seen this before, which is always a find in the creatively dead and socially irresponsible reality genre.

It starts out fun enough. It's fascinating watching the family members react to each other's new appearance. The opportunity they are given to walk around looking like someone other than themselves, is a cathartic human curiosity that goes beyond race and ethnicity. Brian gets his white make-over and goes straight to the driving range, then gets treatment from a shoe salesman I've never heard of life-long white men getting. Bruno, on the other hand, relishes what he will do when first called the N-word while in black make-up. But after the first episode, which also includes a test group where the two races hear what others think of them (the show's provocative high point), the fun is pretty much gives way to standard reality series impulses.

From there, you can take "Black. White." one of two ways: as a reality series or as a social experiment. Taken simply as a reality show it is decidedly above the rest, and both families have enough emotional baggage to pass the mustard for simple, interesting TV. End of that review.

But like Actual Reality's other FX series, the entertaining "30 Days", Cutler and Cube want "Black. White." to be more. They want to make us think. They want to break down the wall of self-segregation that these two races erect for themselves. For the duration of the project the families are made to live together so that they will share their experiences, and, hopefully, have intellectual discussions on the state of race relations in America. Because talking is the first step toward fixing the problem - right? But it isn't long before the women are at each others throats just like in any other reality show.

For all of its good intentions, in choosing these particular people as its participants they force us to debate a false reality. Instead of showing the national battle between black and white, "Black" actually ends up showing the battle between blacks and liberals, with Carmen as the prototype for someone who thinks that because her parents where involved with the civil rights movement, that she's got the right idea about race, all the while not realize that every "tolerant", "open-minded" idea she has toward black people is rooted in a weird core belief that they are SO different that they need to be understood like "creatures" – as she puts it – and coddled in society. Renee notes that Carmen treats her like an alien.

The subjects quickly prove themselves to be too kooky; saying things and making social mistakes that the average person really wouldn't say or do. We constantly feel like we are smarter than they are and as a result, can't learn anything from them. Is it all about skin color? Is racism perceived or indoctrinated? Any message the show was going for in the first place gets muddled, falling back on the old "there are no easy answers" line and refusing to pose any theories. Any hope of getting people to talk about race evaporates the moment Bruno showcases his own (hold on…) rap video.

The guys are pretty cool, but as guinea pigs, both Bruno and Brian are so hell bent on proving their take on racism they, frustratingly, won't even consider another view. Bruno (a pompous ass who views the world through the prism of himself), to prove that people see racism because they are looking for it, and Brian who takes the traditional line that black people are immersed in white culture and are constantly being sized up every where they go (like teenagers) by whites. When racist things don't happen, Brian and Renee assume that it would have happened had they not been in white make-up. For her part, Renee befriends a white women outside the project, deciding that she can be friends with her - not because she has learned anything about "the white experience", but because of the understanding way the women treats her. It is still all about her.

The show completely falls apart as an experiment when it starts to obviously take Brian's side. The last half of the series is less about two different ethnicities learning about each other and becomes a cliché, sanctimonious sermon, the yardstick for success of which is how well it can beat into Bruno, Carmen and us how victimized black America is. "Black" has a view of race no deeper than surface-level stereotypes.

What does work about "Black.White" are the kids. Rose, the overly emotional daughter, is ripped apart having to lie to her new friends in a black poetry group. A bond forms between her, Brian and Renee and the series rightly climaxes at Rose's poetry showcase.

Nick, who in white face looks like Michael Jackson but hilariously won't change the way he speaks, is equally hell bent, but on learning absolutely nothing. The most fascinating storyline in the show involves Nick's disrespect for money, his ignorance over the use of the N-word and the fact that he doesn't see things in terms of race until his parents train him to see it.

* * / 4


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