That a show like this can even be made.
I am not sure that this show really does anything. Some of the make-up doesn't work for me.
Black. White. is a show that is going to bother some people, make others laugh and leave some with their jaws hanging on the floor. The setup is simple... sort of. The Wurgel and the Sparks families share a home for six weeks. The Wurgel's are White and the Sparks are Black. However, we don't just get to see these participants alone in a house for 6 weeks. The families switch races (in so far as people can switch races), to create a show that raises a lot of issues and points, I'm just not sure they get anywhere with them.
First off, Brian and Renee Sparks don't look white and Bruno Wurgel as a Black man looks odd. Secondly, we see poetry slams, etiquette classes, mock rap videos and other things that I am not sure really work to this show's advantage. Thirdly, there's scenes like members of the Wurgel family, walking down the street in their Black make-up. A hidden camera catches pictures of them saying "Hi" to people and then thinking it's due to racism that people aren't responding. Personally, I think we just live in a world where someone randomly saying "Hi" to us is a bit out of place now.
Aside from some of the problems I feel this show has (I just wish the circumstances we saw these characters in were different), I am very happy that somebody had the courage to make a show like Black. White.. While not as biting as Bamboozled, this show does get it's point across.
Rose's Poetry Slam
I am not a fan of poetry slams. I find them to be uncomfortable, too revealing and everyone seems to speak in the same pretentious cadence. We get to see this piece from many different angles, with shots cutting back and forth to Rose and her parents. While I might not care for the poem, the message is one of pure emotion.
Makeup Application Slide Show
Shown to us in pictures, we get to see the make-up process applied to cast members of this show. Having seen this before in the first episode, I sort of feel that this section of the featurette was redundant. Still, if you are a make-up or effects person, you will probably very much appreciate seeing the process broken down in an almost step by step fashion.
In all honesty, the best way I can describe this part of the DVD is that they are clips from the most racially sensitive moments of the show. For example, we see a scene with Nick Sparks around his white friends (who know that he's white), talking about using the "N-word." Nick says it doesn't bother him, depending on the situation, but one can see that it does (especially since he's the only Black person in the room). In conjunction with this are some DVD-Rom offerings which I sadly did not get into before writing this review.
Commentary Tracks are provided for all six episodes that make up this set. They are also done by such people as members of the cast, producers and make-up and effects people. I chose to listen to the commentary on Episode Four which features Executive Producer R.J. Cutler, Producer/Makeup Effects Creator Keith Vanderlaan and Special Effects Makeup designer Brian Sipe. I wanted to hear how the cast members got transformed, and these folks more than provided that. They talked about the very idea of the show (would it be possible?), other projects they'd worked on that employed similar effects, and just about anything else you could want to know from a makeup standpoint.
Shot on video, these tapes show us the families as they talk about why they wanted to do this show. It even gets kind of emotional as the characters talk about their personal lives. I had always wondered how a reality show gets cast, long believing that the people behind them like to have cast members that are going to create fireworks amongst everyone else. As you can probably guess, Black. White. has plenty of them.
Ice Cube Music Video
An interesting music video that features Ice Cube rapping with a TV in front of him, clips from Black. White., mixed with images of thuggish looking people. The camera sort of lingers on these types and then a caption will come up saying, "Is going to Harvard" or "Works With Kids." Although I think some of this is a bit heavy handed, I give Ice Cube credit for starting a new discussion.
Full Frame - 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio. Shot on video, what most impressed me about this show was how they were able to get into all the locations they got into. Also, I kept waiting for the make-up to fall off, or for Bruno to start sweating and then suddenly the game would be up in regards to all the people he was fooling. None of that ever happened however. My biggest complaint is that I think these episodes could have been edited in a little tighter fashion.
Dolby Digital. Subtitled in English and Spanish. Close Captioned. I was very impressed with the sound (which made me wonder how much of this show was staged). I feel this way way because they were able to always get great sound. Even walking around the streets of LA, everything sounded terrific. I know that video technology is pretty good nowadays, I was just a bit leery.
The front cover features both the Wurgels and the Sparks in their regular race. You then turn the cover upside down and we see them in switched. This isn't the greatest cover I have ever seen, but it gets the point across. Also, all the colors on this packaging are in black and white. The back cover offers up six, small images from the show, a well written description of what Black. White. is about, a Special Features listing and some technical specs. Two discs comprise this set and they are housed in two trays inside this amaray case.
At the end of the day, I wish that more TV shows, or I should say Reality TV shows would be as daring asBlack. White.. Everything about this show has a certain feel to it. As if we are stepping into unchartered waters at the exact same time as the people capturing this show. There is a great deal to admire about Black. White. without getting caught up in some of it's glaring shortcomings. Still, I have faith in TV. One day, we are going to get a show that manages to examine race in a way that is a bit fuller and richer.
However, for right now, Black. White. is the show we can look to that kicked that door open.
Black. White. was released .