tackles race relations in a perilously cosmetic way: A white family and a black family are made up as the opposite race, then have to live together to discuss and argue about their experiences. But though the show can hardly be called a rigorous analysis, it's striking how complicated even a skin-deep treatment of race becomes. Bruno, father of the white Wurgel family, is deeply entrenched in his belief that racism can be countered by any individual who approaches people with respect and openness; Brian, head of the black Sparks family, grows increasingly committed to opening Bruno's eyes to the racism that, when people think that Brian is white, becomes all the more naked. Carmen, overcompensating in her desire to join the black world, calls Renee an offensive name, thinking that it's a friendly African-American term. The kids--white Rose and black Nick--dive into deeper waters: Rose, whose makeup is perhaps the most convincing, joins an all-black slam poetry class, while Nick (who resists taking part in the exercise at all) takes an etiquette class for wealthy white teens. Many of the efforts to partake of the opposite culture are cliche (Renee, seeking whiteness, joins knitting and scrapbook classes), while others are laughable (Bruno makes a mid-life rap video). But even these demonstrate the interpersonal complexity of race and culture; as Renee tries to speak the same language as the knitters, the gap seems almost insurmountable--until Renee hits it off with the woman who runs the scrapbooking class and genuine communication starts to arise. Black. White.
would be particularly appropriate for starting conversations with teenagers, as Rose and Nick are the most engaging "characters"--Rose is articulate about what she's going through, particularly when she decides to reveal her true race to the rest of her poetry class. --Bret Fetzer
What's it like to live in someone else's skin? Find out by watching this fascinating documentary series in which the African-American Sparks family (Brian, Renee and 16-year-old Nick) trades places with the Caucasian Wurgel family (Bruno, Carmen and 17-year-old Rose) thanks to an incredible visual transformation created by Hollywood make-up artists. The two families agree to share a home for the duration of a six-week social experiment that will challenge their beliefs and core values in ways they could have never imagined. Their unscripted experiences are often explosive, always intriguing and ultimately insightful...resulting in a totally unique cultural perspective that's anything but black-and-white!