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 ...
...
Poetri ...
Brian Sparks ...
Nicholas Sparks ...
Renee Sparks ...
Carmen Wurgel ...
Faith Cheltenham ...
 Slam Poet 4 episodes, 2006
Bree Elise ...
 Slam 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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Release Date:

8 March 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Black.White.  »

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Budget:

$750,000 (estimated)
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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

 
21st Century Minstrel Show?
21 February 2007 | by See all my reviews

FX's "Black. White." was a curious concept. This was a limited run series (6 episodes) that promised some kind of earth-shattering revelations about the state of race in America today.

The premise: Two families, lined up as a Mother, a Father figure and teen, are there to learn about what sort of racism exists in what could otherwise be called "mainstream" America. The Caucasian Tribe are The Wurgel family (Carmen, Bruno and Rose). The African-Americans are The Sparks family (Rene, Brian and Nick). They trade places and take on the race of the other group, through the magic of makeup.

Now, I don't want to say this isn't an original idea, but Eddie Murphy did exactly this as a filmed segment on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" some 20 years before. It never claimed to give any "real" insights about people, but, it actually did suggest some thoughts about the differences in how whites get treated better than the darker skinned individuals in our society. Of course, the SNL segment was completely controlled, using actors in the parts of the people Murphy's straight-laced "White Guy" interacted with, and played strictly for laughs. Brilliantly.

In "Black. White." we're told we have a great experiment going on here, a real sociological examination of culture clash. Will people who cross the paths of these cosmetically enhanced performers be able to know that they are talking to people who are not what they appear to be?

At any rate, the two families lived under the same roof of a large house in a Los Angeles suburb, where they observed one another, shared information about their "different camps" and used what they learned in their guises to understand more about what it is to be the other.

The only one of the six participants who is *completely* convincing as their opposite is Rose, the white daughter turned black poetess. Her look, style and mannerisms seemed most true and she had a clear vision of the program's intentions, or really, what she hoped to gain from this project. Rose is also the only one who seemed to be "learning" anything about racism, culture, class, and ultimately, herself.

Conversely, the "adults" were all concerned with proving their pre-conceived notions about what racism is and what people had to say to them about it. And Rose's teen counterpart, Nick, admitted that he was only doing this for the fun of it. With that sort of attitude, "Black. White." really dissolves into a 21st Century Minstrel Show, with people getting made up and acting in the "stereotypical" manner to "fit in" with societal norms and provide entertainment for the viewing audience. There's not a lot of substantive learning going on here.

Also, the program was heavily edited, the stars spent hours in their makeup chairs and were subsequently placed in situations that were, at times, laughably unrealistic, and occasionally seemed more an exercise in tricking people, a la Ashton Kutcher's "Punk'd" than anything.

To the good, Rose is the saving grace of the program. Her sense of this being an opportunity to understand these issues, the trust and the truth that she has for her interactions and the honesty of her heart in wanting to grasp what's going on shines brightly. She is the only reason to watch.

The rest of it, we can all do without. The name calling, the misunderstandings turned into arguments, the tunnel vision, the wanting to use certain epithets, and the lack of intention and interest that the other participants had, brought the show way down.

Famed rapper Ice Cube is one of the executive producers of the program, and he performs the show's theme song ("Race Card") as well.

There are some worthwhile moments, so I don't want to knock this completely. It is an interesting idea, but it fails in the execution. If all six people involved had the same open-mindedness and same attitude about the concept as Rose clearly did, this could have been what it claims to be. Then again, were the participants all "open minded," they wouldn't have needed to have this experience.


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