ABC is looking to spin off its acclaimed family comedy Black-ish. I’ve learned that the network is working with series creator/executive producer Kenya Barris and ABC Studios on the project, which would be toplined by Black-ish co-star Yara Shahidi and focus on her character Zoey Johnson in college. I hear the idea is for the potential new comedy series, created by Barris and former Black-ish showrunner Larry Wilmore, to be introduced as a backdoor pilot episode on Black-ish this spring. Sources stress that talks for the spinoff are still in very early stages, with no script and deals in place. Wilmore, who was executive producer/showrunner on Black-ish for the show’s first 13 episodes before leaving to topline his Comedy Central late-night show, recently returned to ABC Studios with an overall deal. I hear he had an original idea for a college comedy, which was melded with the plan for a Zoey Black-ish spinoff.
Zoey — Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow’s (Tracee Ellis Ross) popular, entitled, stylish and socially active 17-year-old daughter — is a natural focal point for a new series as she is college-bound. This season, to bolster her applications, her dad got her an internship at Teen Vogue where she has excelled.
Dealing with children transitioning to adulthood on family comedy series has always been tricky. Hit 1980s NBC family sitcom, The Cosby Show, similarly spun off the Huxtables’ daughter Denise, played by Lisa Bonet, into her own series, A Different World, when she went to college. Meanwhile, ABC’s Modern Family has been keeping both of the grown-up Dunphy daughters in the fold, including Alex (Ariel Winter) who stayed in town to go to Caltech and subsequently took a break from school.
A possible Black-ish spinoff, if it comes to fruition, would be Black-ish creator Kenya Barris’ second new comedy in contention at ABC for next season. Barris, the top comedy writer-producer on ABC Studios’ roster, also co-wrote and executive produces with Vijal Patel hot comedy pilot Libby & Malcolm starring Felicity Huffman and Courtney B. Vance.
Black-ish, now in its third season, is coming off a Golden Globe win for Ross and also has landed a slew of Emmy nominations, including for best comedy series. The series, executive produced by Barris, Jonathan Groff, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, E. Brian Dobbins and Corey Nickerson, is an important asset for ABC Studios, recently landing an SVOD deal with Hulu.