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Lisa Ling Steps in the Ring, 'Black-ish' Visits House of Mouse

A new season of Lisa Ling’s docu-series This Is Life is afoot on CNN, with Ling undertaking characteristically daunting assignments to shed light on the darker corners of our nation’s character. That includes a visit to the Los Angeles County Jail (“overwhelmingly terrifying,” she says) and a close-up of the legal brothels of Nevada (“a fascinating experience,” with surprisingly rigorous background checks for the women.) Never afraid to get her hands dirty, Ling even finds herself in the ring with some feisty female MMA combatants. 

“I’m the kind of person who abhors violence,” says Ling, who cohosted The View years ago. “I wondered what would provoke a woman to get in the ring.” 

She learned quickly that, as Warren Zevon once warbled about the sweet science in “Boom Boom Mancini”: “The name of the game is be hit and hit back.” 

“An animalistic thing happens when you have to fight,” says Ling. “It’s a very primal feeling.” 

Season three of Ling’s eight-part series kicked off Sept. 25. 

And speaking of strapping on the gloves, what was up with ABC’s Black-ish last Thursday? The Johnson family went to Disney World, where one scene saw Rainbow eating Disney’s trademark turkey leg with giant Mickey hands, while rocking a Minnie Mouse bow in her hair. Funny as it was—and Black-ish is almost always funny—we don’t know if the episode could’ve been a bigger infomercial for ABC parent Disney. 

In the season 3 premiere, Dre takes the kids in one direction at Disney World, while Bow, Ruby and Pops try to exit the park because they are, respectively, pregnant, elderly and cranky. Yet they are unable to leave, as Disney World’s considerable charms continue to draw the trio to the next awesome attraction. Reconnecting with Dre later, Bow gushes about having “the best day ever!” 

The episode ends with the clan at Magic Kingdom, fireworks going off, Tinkerbell floating overhead and “When You Wish Upon a Star” playing. The Johnsons look like their turkey legs were dipped in molly; even Pops is grinning ear to ear. “Wow.…Beautiful, huh?” says Dre. 

We saw it differently in the Watchman abode. “Black-ish has jumped the shark!” said The Watchman’s missus. 

Jumping sharks… Hmm—perhaps a future episode will see the Johnsons go to Sea World? 

When the episode ended, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom logo popped up, a mirror image of the show’s final frame. 

We weren’t the only one who felt the whole thing smacked a wee bit of corporate synergy. Tweeted Ellen Gray, TV critic at the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer: “#Blackish doing its best with obligatory DisneyWorld episode/infomercial, but it’s still disturbing.” 

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.