The episode “Please, Baby, Please,” was originally scheduled to air Feb. 27, but was removed from the broadcast schedule just days before airing.
The reason? “Creative differences” between Barris and the network.
Although the episode touched on Donald Trump, the Charlottesville attacks and the NFL kneeling protests, Barris said he meant the episode to be positive.
“When you’re putting a baby to sleep, you’re trying to soothe whatever anxieties they’re having,” Barris said. “So, this was about me trying to pat the butt of the country and soothe people.”
Barris said he let the network know from the start that it wasn’t a typical “Black-ish” episode.
“We approached it with the network and the studio as, ‘This is different,’” the 44-year-old showrunner said. “We certainly knew people would talk about it.”
But despite network and studio approval on every aspect, the show was shelved days before its air date and will probably never see the light of day.
Barris had numerous meetings with Disney executives, such as CEO Bob Iger, about the current “political sensitivities” ― especially when ABC is looking for more shows that appeal to people in red states.
“I know there was some concern about partisanship, and the way the episode was angled and the balance in terms of some of the stories,” he said. “On network TV, one of the things I’ve learned is that you have to talk about things from both sides.”
Barris had his editor test a few of ABC’s suggested cuts, but quickly discovered there was so much material critical of Trump in the script that even trying to make it more balanced was futile.
“What it ended up being, and I think the network would agree, was not a true representation of what we intended to do,” he said. “Because if it was, we would’ve shown it.”