Like Crash, the spectacularly misguided reality show Black. White. buys into the skewed notion that the best way to counter pop culture's longstanding reluctance to address race in an adult manner is to create melodramatic projects where no one talks about anything else. The Ice Cube-produced program puts a reality-show spin on John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me by having a "typical" white family posing as African-American through blackface, and a "typical" black family masquerading as Caucasian through Emmy-winning makeup, all while sharing the same roof.
Unfortunately, the white couple (Bruno Marcotulli and Carmen Wurgel) combines the racial intelligence of Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G character with the sensitivity of Steve Carell in The Office. Even in semi-convincing blackface, Marcotulli still qualifies as the whitest man this side of Pat Sajak. And Wurgel is so clueless about African-American culture that when a black woman at a salon says she loves 50 [Cent]'s stuff, Wurgel guilelessly assumes she's talking about classic rock. Black. White. lurches into unintentional self-parody so often that it frequently feels like a marathon Chappelle's Show sketch, particularly during Marcotulli's borderline-racist "mid-life rap" music video, which horrifies even his own family. To Marcotulli and Wurgel, blackness is seemingly all about wearing dashikis, talking jive, and hooting and hollering during church. Touchy-feely space cadet Wurgel is a fascinating study in good intentions gone horribly awry; for his part, Marcotulli seems intent on proving that racism is no big deal, yet he yearns to be deluged with racial epithets so he can turn the other cheek and prove what a noble pretend-black-person he can be.
Unsurprisingly, the prickly, no-nonsense black couple spends much of the show angrily responding to their white counterparts' buffoonery. What should have been an intriguing social experiment instead becomes an epic attempt to convince one ignorant, bull-headed white man that racism didn't magically disappear with the end of legal segregation.
Key features: Casting videos, audio commentaries by the producers and cast, and an Ice Cube music video.