|Everybody Hates Chris: Season One (2005)
Starring: Tyler James Williams, Terry Crews, Tichina Arnold, Tequan Richmond, Imani Hakim, Vincert Martella, Chris Rock
Chris Rock (in voiceover): 1982. That was the year I turned 13. Before I was a comedian, I thought the coolest thing that would happen to me was being a teenager. I was gonna have women, money, stay out late…I thought it was gonna be the bomb! Boy, was I wrong!
Chris’s Mom: CHRIS! Get in the bathroom and wipe the pee off the toilet seat!
Man, it’s a damned shame Chris Rock hasn’t made a movie that’s as consistently funny as the TV series he spearheaded.
To sum up “Everybody Hates Chris” as “The Wonder Years” as done by Chris Rock isn’t too far off the mark; Rock doesn’t appear onscreen, but he does provide the narration for each episode, a la Daniel Stern. The series is set in Brooklyn in 1982, with Chris – played by Tyler James Williams – dealing with a life that involves a mother who works sporadically, a father who’s rarely working less than two jobs (which means that money is always pretty hard to come by), a tattletale little sister, and a younger brother who’s taller and more popular than he is. He’s also the only black kid at his school, which means he’s regularly dealing with teachers who don’t know what to make of him and bullies who hurl racial epithets at every turn.
Okay, let’s take a step back for a second, because at this point, you might be thinking, “You know, I never thought ‘Good Times’ was funny, so I’m pretty sure I’m not the target audience for this show.” Setting aside the fact that “Everybody Hates Chris” does spend a fair amount of time on the black lifestyle (and that Jimmie “J.J.” Walker guest-stars on one episode), ultimately, the real heart of the show is what it’s like to be a kid…in particular, to be a kid during the ‘80s. One episode revolves around Chris battling another kid at the video game Asteroids, while another finds Chris speechless at the news that a friend of his who already has an Atari is also getting a Colecovision. (Trust me, you had to have been a kid during the ‘80s to even know what Colecovision is.)
Chris’s parents – played by Terry Crews and Tichina Arnold (Pam, from “Martin”) – get a fair amount of screen time. His dad’s major traits are that he’s incredibly tight with money (you would be too, if you worked two jobs), he’s usually kept out of the loop when one of the kids is in trouble lest he blow a gasket, and that his speeches tend to go on a little too long.
Chris’s Dad: What if Jackie Robinson quit? What if George Washington Carver quit? What if Martin Luther King, Jr. quit?
Chris Rock (in voiceover): When my father had a point to make, he always started off strong, but he never ended that way.
Chris’s Dad: What if Colonel Sanders quit? What if Apollo Creed quit? What if Katherine Jackson quit makin' kids?
Chris Rock (in voiceover): Ain't she a woman?
Chris’s Dad: They might be the Jackson 3! What if Kool from Kool and the Gang quit? You think they would've gotten a record contract if they were just called the Gang?
Chris’s mom, however, is forever yelling at him...unless, of course, she’s busy trying to sell food stamps or find (and subsequently quit) a new job. Both parents play their parts to perfection; Arnold is a great comedienne, while Crews is great at reacting to the insanity around him. The only key player in the series that isn’t a member of Chris’s family is his buddy, Greg (Vincent Martella), otherwise known as “Chris’s white friend.” There’s reason to believe Greg started hanging out with Chris because, in their school, the only way someone could be less popular than Greg was to be black…but, hey, call it a case of kindred spirits bonding. In addition to the regular cast, the series is filled with guest appearances, like Clarence Williams III (Linc from “The Mod Squad”), Antonio Fargas (Huggy Bear from “Starsky & Hutch”), Ernest Thomas (Raj from “What’s Happening?”), Tim Meadows (“Saturday Night Live”), and rapper Kool Moe Dee.
A lot of white folks tend to dismiss sitcoms with a predominantly black cast, but it’s not a race thing; honestly, a lot of the so-called “black sitcoms” – don’t look at me, man; it’s an actual entry on Wikipedia – that have shown up on the WB and UPN over the last several years have just been terribly, terribly unfunny. “Everybody Hates Chris” is definitely an exception.
The regular cast does most of the commentaries included on the set, but Chris Rock does show up to do a commentary for the pilot. There are deleted scenes scattered throughout the four discs, but they’re only accessible if you watch the episodes individually; if you use the “Play All” feature, you won’t be able to find them. It’s a bit of a drag, frankly. Most of the features are relegated to the fourth disc: a making-of featurette, blooper and audition reels, and a few segments on the show’s music, from the theme song (recorded by Tichina Arnold and her friends) to its funky score by Marcus Miller. It’s that making-of featurette, however, that’s the most enjoyable to watch, since there are interviews with many of the show’s guest stars, including Jimmie Walker and standup comedian Earthquake. (The latter admits that he made the mistake of saying “Dy-no-MITE!” to the former, adding, “He almost killed my ass.”)