The Upshaws—Top 4 Best/Worst

The Upshaws, Netflix

The Upshaws is a sitcom that centres the titular family as they struggle with money, relationships, and betrayal. The patriarch Bennie (Mike Epps) gets caught up in a web of bad decisions and relies on his wife Regina (Kim Fields), sister-in-law Lucretia (Wanda Sykes), and children to patch everything up.

I just want to say off the bat that I love this show. I watched it all on the day it came out (sorry this post took so long). When I list the top 4 worst things about the show, I kind of list them out of love and half of them aren’t even downfalls of the show, they’re more just a personal “ugh, why?”

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Top 4 Best Things

4. Duck

Played by Page Kennedy, Duck is one of Benny’s oldest friends who works at Benny’s garage upon being released from prison. During his sentence, he became a born-again-Christian so he spends the season comically delivering saved one-liners (he’s practicing so not all of his biblical rhapsodies are accurate).

Also, this thing they have going where they ignore the fact that he’s in [unrequited] love with Regina is hilarious. It’s a weirdly played-out trope that we’ve seen in many comedies (for example Moe’s feelings for Marge in The Simpsons) but it’s actually hilarious in The Upshaws.

3. Tasha

Tasha (Gabrielle Dennis), mother of Benny’s illegitimate son Kelvin (Diamond Lyons) is hilarious and gorgeous. I’m not sure if the writers intended to make her unlikeable but I think she’s a top-tier character. I’m hoping to see a bit more of her in the next season.

2. Inoffensive

So in general, the new Black sitcoms shows aren’t as offensive as the old ones because we’re living in progressive times (thank God) but they’re also not very funny. The Upshaws is genuinely funny and inoffensive. I probably cringed once at a bad joke but I don’t remember it (surely if it was really bad, I would’ve remembered?)

1. The story

As mentioned above, the storylines are mature and well-written. With themes of cheating, extramarital children, queerness, turbulent parental relationships, money issues, and financial betrayal. There’s that bit more nuance to the stories and the characters.

Probably an unpopular opinion, but Benny and Regina need to get divorced. They clearly love each other but there’s a wound that’s not healing. I’m looking forward to seeing either the breakdown or the strengthening of their marriage in the upcoming seasons.

I also love that they all swear because it’s the most basic element of realism that can be employed in TV. (This doesn’t mean I think Thomas the Locomotive and his bredins should drive around telling people to go fuck themselves—although that would probably get a view or two from me.)

Top 4 Worst Things

4. Benny’s a Bad Father

So this isn’t something that ruins the show, but I do wish Benny was a better father. He has good intentions for the most part, but he doesn’t work hard enough to have Kelvin in his other children’s lives; I generally just think he doesn’t work very hard with Kelvin. He clearly didn’t do any kind of job with Bernard Jr. (Jermelle Simon) and it doesn’t seem like he pays much attention to his eldest daughter Aaliyah (Khali Spraggins).

3. Lucretia and Benny

Again, this isn’t that deep, but their relationship is annoying. The whole in-law rivalry trope is overdone. Now, believe me, I have friends and siblings who’ve had dickhead partners that I absolutely couldn’t stand, but an onslaught of insults or petty back and forths was never a thing. I feel like it’s a bit unrealistic.

Even in Marlon, when the titular character (Marlon Wayans) and Yvette (Bresha Webb) frequently had their little roast-squabbles (in true Martin and Pam fashion), it got repetitive and tiresome.

2. Tasha

Yes, I love Tasha, but I do feel like there’s a hint of misogynoir in the portrayal of her. In the first episode, she’s depicted as an irresponsible mother who allows her 13-year-old son’s birthday party to be marred with alcohol, gambling, and inappropriate figures. I get it’s funny, but I’m also cognisant of how dark-skinned Black women (or the darkest in the cast, if there are no dark-skinned women) are used as the butt of jokes to drive the comedy.

Additionally, we don’t get the full backstory behind Benny and Tasha’s relationship, only that Benny thought he and Regina were on a break so he got together with Tasha during that time. We don’t know if Tasha chose to ignore the fact that Benny was married, or if he fed her lies about separation and a potential divorce. Regardless, I’m not a fan of the vim being held against the other person (usually a woman) in an “affair” as if the cheater wasn’t the one who caused the most betrayal?

Tasha’s not shitty towards Regina, but Regina is shitty towards her, hence why I questioned if viewers are supposed to side/empathise with Regina. Again, this does show how Regina is nuanced and flawed but it also suggests we shouldn’t respect Tasha.

1. Laugh Track/Live Studio Audience

The Upshaws has so much potential, I just wish it didn’t have the laughter. As funny as it is, it would’ve been even funnier if the actors didn’t have to wait for the laughing to stop before they said their lines.

Recently I’ve rewatched All of Us, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Girlfriends, Living Single, Moesha, My Wife and Kids, Sister Sister, and so many more classic Black sitcoms (including Everybody Hates Chris). Their humour—when not being problematic—still holds up. They have a certain Zhané-say-Quan that the new live studio Black shows don’t have.

It’s obvious the whole studio audience/canned laughter thing needs to be retired because let’s be real, studio audiences in sitcoms from the 2010s onwards = cheap. I often think about how nowadays, we get so many Black sitcoms that are potentially great but they have studio audiences, so they end up being subpar, and only last 1–2 seasons. Then I think about Black sitcoms like Black-ish* and Everybody Hates Chris (probably the only popular family-friendly sitcoms without a live studio audience); great shows that would’ve been tarnished if there was a laugh track.

Although I find it annoying on The Upshaws, it doesn’t take too much away from the viewing experience; it’s still a really fun show so check it out.

The Upshaws is available to stream now on Netflix.

*I stopped supporting Black-ish seasons ago because the creator is a colourist villain (whose other shows suck) and the main actor (who’s also an executive producer and director on the show) has multiple sexual harassment allegations against him.

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Game-movie/TV (incl. animation & anime)-book-comic book-basketball-music-history-skate-durag enthusiast. Professional wasteman. She/her. ALL Black lives matter!

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Nee

Game-movie/TV (incl. animation & anime)-book-comic book-basketball-music-history-skate-durag enthusiast. Professional wasteman. She/her. ALL Black lives matter!

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