Emmy episode analysis: Tracee Ellis Ross (‘Black-ish’) gets real about being a working mother in ‘Kid Life Crisis’

Tracee Ellis Ross is an Emmy nominee for Best Comedy Actress for the sixth season of “Black-ish,” in which she plays Dr. Rainbow Johnson. She has now earned four nominations from the TV academy, previously landing in this category three years in a row from 2016-2018. This time around, she submitted the episode “Kid Life Crisis,” where the Johnson family goes on a vacation to Mexico.

In “Kid Life Crisis,” Bow and Dre (Anthony Anderson) resolve to have some alone time away from the kids and bond with a childless married couple. After later rejecting Dre’s idea to take a trip without the kids to Paris, Bow explains how difficult it is as a working mother to think about spending even more time away from her children. She tries to make Dre understand that when she is at work it feels like “me time” and that the idea of even having alone time with her husband feels selfish.

Will Ross be able to win her first Emmy with this submission? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.


Ross is reaching a new peak in her career between launching “Mixed-ish,” a spinoff about Bow’s childhood, and the spring release of “The High Note,” in which she stars as a famous singer. This season on “Black-ish” she also got to reunite with the cast of her previous show “Girlfriends,” which just so happens to be coming to Netflix this month. All of this extra visibility could help Ross more than in past races.

The episode also finds Ross in two of her strongest modes: being goofy and playing around with different voices, and also being heartfelt and raw in her big monologue. If voters are diligently watching the episodes, they could be impressed by her range and even relate to Bow’s feelings about balancing work with family. It is also possible that voters will feel she’s overdue, considering she has more nominations for “Black-ish” than anyone else in this year’s Comedy Actress lineup has for their current roles.


If “Black-ish” were nominated for Best Comedy Series, like it was when Ross picked up her first three bids, she might have a better chance; the last time someone won this category without a corresponding nom in the top program race was Melissa McCarthy for “Mike and Molly” back in 2011. The other five Best Comedy Actress nominees this year are all on shows up for Best Comedy, so Ross has a lot to overcome against the stars of “Dead to Me” (Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini) “Insecure” (Issa Rae), “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Rachel Brosnahan) and “Schitt’s Creek” (Catherine O’Hara).

Ross doesn’t exactly dominate “Kid Life Crisis.” There is equal focus in the episode on Dre and a subplot involving the kids, so while she has standout moments, she has had bigger showcases in the past.

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