It looks like things are about to get less diverse over on the ABC network, and what’s ABC’s loss may be Netflix’s gain. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kenya Barris, creator of Black-ish, is plotting his exit from the network largely in part to a recent a clash he had with ABC over an episode that was pulled earlier this year. In the episode titled “Please Baby Please”, main character “Dre” expresses some controversial opinions about athletes kneeling before the flag. Although the network initially expressed the decision to pull the episode was mutual, THR sources says that wasn’t quite the case. At the time, however, Barris did comment that there were creative differences.
“Given our creative differences, neither ABC nor I were happy with the direction of the episode and mutually agreed not to air it.”
“Black-ish is a show that has spoken to all different types of people and brought them closer as a community and I’m so proud of the series.”
But it appears the rift was enough to make Barris entertain leaving the network he’s been with since 2015. Sources say streaming-giant Netflix has been courting Barris, who has grown to be the top comedy writer-producer at the network. Barris’s departure would be the latest in a series of blows to television networks with Shonda Rhimes (Greys Anatomy, Scandal) leaving ABC for Netflix and Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story) saying farewell to FOX to take shows like American Crime Story to Netflix. Rhimes and Murphy both went on to land nine-figure mega-deals with the streaming service.
Besides Black-ish, Barris has developed many other projects for the network in 2017 alone including the spin-off Grown-ish starring Yara Shahidi which the network deemed “too young” for audiences before finding it a home on sister-network, Freeform. ABC passed on a politically-themed family comedy called Libby and Malcolm starring Felicity Huffman and Courtney B. Vance. The network piloted the CIA drama Unit Zero starring Toni Colette, a passion project for Barris who described it as the “type of drama television I love doing. It pulls back the curtain on what it’s like to be a woman in a historically male-dominated field and it shows underrepresented voices.” It was not picked up for series. But always one to find success after setback, Barris’s Bright Futures, a comedy pilot about twenty-somethings, found a home at NBC.
Meanwhile, Barris is already getting himself familiar with the folks over at Netflix where he’ll be writing a script for a feature film reboot of Shaft starring Samuel L. Jackson. He’s also attached to a script for the second coming of the Eddie Murphy favorite Coming To America.
Something tells us with or without ABC, Barris won’t be missing any meals. Barris has three-years left on a lucrative four-year contract he signed with the network, but ABC also let Rhimes out of her contract a whole year early when she signed with Netflix, so perhaps Barris’s departure will come sooner than we think. ABC might win some, but will they lose this one? If Netflix’s chief content producer Ted Sarandos, has a say in it, Netflix is the perfect home for Barris whom he describes as a “rare class of creator” who can deliver hits that are both critically and commercially successful. Only time will tell if ABC will lose their last remaining top comedy producer.