Last summer, Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle’s long-form sketch comedy series Sherman’s Showcase premiered on IFC, and ever since, the major question surrounding the series has been if it would come back for a second season. This January, at the 2020 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour, there was finally news about the future of the series, though not in the form of an official announcement of a second season: instead we learned of the one-off Sherman’s Showcase “Black History Month Spectacular”... airing in June.
“Initially, we were told that we would be able to do a special at some point during the year, and we asked for the month of February so we could do a Black History Month special. They said sounds great, but then at some point, they came back and said well we don’t have any slots available in February…how do you feel about June? We were like, it’s a Black History Month special, and that’s in February—but then we actually realized we can use this to our advantage, let’s just call it ‘The Black History Month Spectacular….in June.’”
Naturally, the Sherman’s Showcase “Black History Month Spectacular” airing in a month that is not, in fact, Black History Month is a joke that kind of writes itself. For example, there’s a big banner at the beginning of the special where “February” is crossed out in favor of “Summer.” Then a lot of what follows is a collection of all those things and names that public schools teach in February during Black History Month—even down to the typical mashed up regurgitation of all those points—combined with what the character Sherman McDaniels believes counts as Black History—Black vampires, The Last Dragon, New Jack City, and proper dap etiquette.* There’s also the unexpected—at least, this soon—explanation of Dutch’s mysterious eyepatch, a bit that reinforces both Sherman’s narcissism (as do all of his independent productions, which are also featured here) and Dutch’s blind (no pun intended) dedication to the man.
*IFC has released quite a few of the sketches from the special, but while certainly funny on their own, Sherman’s Showcase is a sketch show that truly excels and delivers on the laughs once you can see it all put together.
However, while the joke of a “Black History Month Spectacular” in June obviously works, the special’s delayed scheduling ends up making a lot more sense than expected when it was first announced. First of all, there’s the fact that its airdate is June 19, or Juneteenth, the day that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. According to Riddle, that also wasn’t planned, even when they knew the special would air in June. On top of that, with the current racial climate and discussions in the States—and also on an international level—a “Black History Month Spectacular” becomes an impressively prescient piece of work (the musical number “Add Some Kente,” especially), a much-needed bit of levity, and just a coincidentally well-timed example of Black excellence.
As I mentioned in my piece about the series when it first premiered, Sherman’s Showcase has a lot in common with Childrens Hospital, specifically in the sense of having both intricate continuity and no continuity at all. That remains in this special, which—in addition to the new bits it introduces—features returns from and callbacks to Season One characters and bits like Charade and the Mardi Gras, RWSKY (with an amazing sequel song to “Drop It Low For Jesus”), Morris Day, and an impression from the incomparable Bresha Webb. (The otherwise lack of Webb in this special is perhaps its greatest weakness, considering just how great she was in the first season. Either that or the weirdness that now stems from Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz being part of the special, in the wake of all the recent controversy with racism stemming from Vanderpump Rules.)
What also remains in this special is Sherman’s Showcase introducing bits and jokes that may seem inconsequential and unconnected, only to reveal them as part of the larger story and interconnected to get to the big finish. Without spoiling the fun, there is one recurring bit throughout that is already so funny on its own (introduced in a sketch that features a screencap of Morgan Freeman from Lean On Me) that it becomes progressively more brilliant every time the special finds a (somehow, logical) way to return to it.
Like its first season, the experience of watching the Sherman’s Showcase “Black History Month Spectacular” somewhat creates that feeling that if this is all there is of the show, it will be great but kind of disappointing. But luckily, just this Wednesday, the official announcement came in: Sherman’s Showcase will be returning for a second season, set to air in 2021. The announcement also came with the news that the season, like the “Black History Month Spectacular,” would air on both AMC and IFC, allowing the series to reach an even wider audience. So with that, we now head into the Sherman’s Showcase special on Juneteeth with the knowledge that its network has a much-deserved faith and investment in this hilarious, intricate sketch series.
Despite her mother’s wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB’s image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya’s your girl. Her writing has been featured in The A.V. Club, Indiewire, Entertainment Weekly, Complex, Consequence of Sound, and Flavorwire, among other publications. You can find her tweets about TV shows, movies, and music you completely forgot about @lafergs.