The ABC comedy “black-ish” and the 1960s science-fiction anthology series “The Twilight Zone” may not have many surface similarities, but they both tackle serious social issues through the lenses of their respective genres.
That parallel has become clearer with the news that “black-ish” creator and show-runner Kenya Barris will receive the 2016 Rod Serling Award for Advancing Social Justice Through Popular Media on Nov. 16 at the Paley Center for Media.
Established by Ithaca College, where Serling taught from 1967 to 1975, the annual Serling Award is given to a media professional “whose work raises awareness of prejudice, inequality and society’s changing social norms.”
Serling created the landmark TV series “The Twilight Zone,” in which he used science fiction and fantasy to discuss and confront that era’s most-pressing social issues. The series “black-ish,” which stars Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi and Laurence Fishburne, frequently confronts topical and controversial subject matters, with recent episodes focusing on such issues as police brutality, voter suppression and the N-word.
“Like Serling’s work on ‘The Twilight Zone,’ Barris’ work focuses on social flaws like prejudice, greed, cowardice, abuse of power and narrow-mindedness,” said Diane Gayeski, dean of Ithaca’s Roy H. Park School of Communications, in a statement. “Through creative devices — in Rod’s case it was typically science fiction and in Kenya’s case it’s often humor — the popular media they create provide a platform for personal reflection and public discussion.”
Previously working on CBS’s “Listen Up!” Fox’s “I Hate My Teenage Daughter” and CW’s “The Game” and “Girlfriends,” Barris is also the cocreator and executive producer of the upcoming ABC series “Unit Zero,” starring Toni Collette.