Chris Rock is a funny man, but as tends to happen with funny people, if you peel back their onstage exterior, you find pain underneath. In Everybody Hates Chris, Rock’s teenage years end up played out through the lens of a CBS sitcom that touches on moments from Rock’s past, his experience, and the funny moments in between.
For four seasons, the camera follows Chris (Tyler James Williams), a good kid who is often misunderstood and categorically considered to be average in every way. There is nothing remarkable about him that would make anyone like him, notice him, or worse, stand up for him. He is mistreated and left out within his own family, and in the torture chamber known as school. This will ultimately result in him dropping out of school in the tenth grade and pursuing stand-up. Just like Rock.
Chris’ parents, Rochelle (Tichina Arnold) and Julius (Terry Crews), serve as the generational view for folks their age, protective and challenging, providing love yet never quite understanding him. Drew (Tequan Richmond) is the younger brother Chris always longs to be: athletic, popular, a lady’s man, smart. [He’s the source of much of Chris’ angst at home.] Tonya (Imani Hakim) is the boys’ younger sister, who regularly gets them in trouble for things they didn’t do! She’s doted on by Julius, but Rochelle constantly fears her unwed pregnancy. The voice of Phineas (Ferb’s brother), Vincent Martella is Chris’ one friend, Greg Wuliger. He’s Chris’ wingman – as long as there are no bullies in sight! All of this is narrated, a la How I Met Your Mother, by the real-life older Chris playing a version of himself vocally.
Navigating early crushes, family squabbles, school issues, racism, change, and more, Everybody Hates Chris is a coming-of-age dramedy but it’s also a snapshot into the black experience of the 1980s. This is funny stuff – but it’s also still a solid educational means in a world that is all too out of touch with itself, as people ‘hate’ each other when they should learn to love and respect their differences. Ultimately, it’s about Chris finding himself – and not settling for what everyone else thinks he could be.
Now, fans of the show can own all four seasons, in this sixteen-disc pack from CBS/Paramount. Chalk full of special features, there’s more to glean here than you could get watching it episode-by-episode on TV, with extras like:
-the ‘making of’ featurette about season one, along with a look at the music, the bloopers, the auditions, and the set.
-a behind-the-scenes with Williams after season two, a look at Omar’s (the funeral director who lives upstairs) women, a tour of the school with Vincent, and the racism of Chris’ teacher, Mrs. Morello.
-“Off the Cuff” cast interviews and Rock himself after season three in “V.O. Session Unplugged,” and more on Morello.
-a “Candid with the Cast” feature after the fourth and final season, “Juste Poure Rire” (just for laughs), and a few more season four extras.