Comedian Chris Rock brings the trials and tribulations of his childhood to life in “Everybody Hates Chris,” the new UPN sitcom based on his family and teenage years. The show, which premiered September 22, was a hit with viewers.
It garnered over 7.8 million viewers for its premier episode and Thursday night 5.65 million viewers tuned in to watch the second episode.
Rock narrates the sitcom, which loosely chronicles his experiences during his high school years growing up in a working class family in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and being bussed to an all-white school in another part of town. Some details of his life have been changed for the sitcom. For example, Rock is actually the eldest of seven children, whereas in “Everybody,” he has only two younger siblings.
The show had been heavily hyped all summer long, making the show’s star, newcomer Tyler Williams (who plays 13-year-old Rock), a sensation before the show’s premier. “Everybody’s” cast of quirky but realistic characters,-the strict but loving mother, the cheapskate father, and young Chris- had all become known to potential viewers since the end of UPN’s spring season.
However, UPN’s enthusiastic marketing of the sitcom showed viewers the entire pilot episode. For those tuning in, there were not many surprises.
”You pretty much knew what was going to happen before it came on,” said Davon McMullen a senior political science major at HowardUniversity. “I didn’t really feel a need to watch it the first night. There are several other shows I was more enthusiastic about seeing the premier for this season.” McMullen says she will likely tune in the coming weeks to see what the show is like.
The show is one of the only depictions of a complete black family (both natural parents present) on network television today. While most shows featuring white characters feature nuclear families, shows with African American casts often depict mixed families or single-parent homes. With “Everybody,” Chris Rock has not only brought his personal story to the forefront, but he has shed light on a nearly forgotten sector of America: the black nuclear family.
Rock plans for the show to depict the love he felt in his family growing up. “I grew up in a very loving, two-parent household in the middle of one of the worst ghettos in New York City, Bedford-Stuyvesant,” he told Mediaweek. “I was bused to school like the kid in the show, but I had so much love in my household. I didn’t know I lived in the ghetto until I was like 20.”
”I think it’s good to see a complete black family on television,” said Toya Tonpea, a senior international business major at HowardUniversity. “Most shows with black characters on TV are silly, and mainly show broken homes. This one shows a different side, and I think that’s good.”
Though millions tuned in for the show’s premier, the true test of the sitcom’s staying power will come during the upcoming weeks. The next episodes will either hook viewers, or lose their interest.