(Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) Inspired by Christian Cultural Center
Being black is cool once again!
There is a new movement in the television world, one that is (finally) adding a lot more color to their primetime lineups for the first time in over 25 years. It’s a brand new age in television.
Looking back at the 1980’s, the staple of all black sitcoms, The Cosby Show set the bar for what became a boom in black television in the early 1990’s. It’s spinoff A Different World, was originally supposed to follow Denise Huxtable’s journey through college. Instead it helped shape the thoughts of many young kids growing up during the height of its popularity of what college would be like in a few years – especially, if you were thinking of going to an HBCU.
No matter how you currently feel about Bill Cosby and his situation, the show helped open up the doors into what became a brand new movement in the 1990’s. Television shows with a primarily black cast was cool again.
Take a look at some of the classic shows that were born during that era: Martin, Family Matters, In Living Single, Steve Harvey Show, Jamie Foxx Show, Sister, Sister, Smart Guy, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, The Wayans Bros., The Parent Hood, Moesha, New York Undercover and of course arguably the most popular of them all The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire.
It was an era like no other, and the biggest in black television since the era of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Good Times, What’s Happening, Different Strokes, The Jeffersons and more took over the television in the mid-to-late 1970’s.
With the rise and popularity in the early 1990’s it all just seemed to fade away as the turn of the millennium approached. Sure we got shows like Girlfriends, The Wire, Everybody Hates Chris, One on One, The Hughley’s, Moesha spinoff The Parkers and The Bernie Mac Show, but you didn’t see the same black television as you once did.
So what happened?
According to the book in The Sitcom Reader, by the time it hit the mid-to-late 1990’s Fox began focusing its audience to young male viewers – something that was mirrored by both WB and UPN at the time.
The purge was not limited to FOX, as broadcast networks canceled thirteen dramas and sitcoms featuring Black casts at the end of the 1997-98 season, with only one new comed added the next fall (What’s Back).
In the past three years we have seen the trend change once again. With black being “cool” again when it comes to television. Black men and women are getting lead roles during primetime. The greatest part, is the diversity within the different types of programming too.
Shonda Rhimes began this new movement with hit shows such as Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, following the success of another drama Grey’s Anatomy. The first two shows mentioned have been dominating ABC Thursday nights for a couple years now. She laid out the blueprint for what black television made would mean today.
“When people who aren’t of color create a show and they have one character of color on their show, that character spends all their time talking about the world as ‘I’m a black man blah, blah, blah,’ ” she says in New York Times Magazine in 2013. “That’s not how the world works. I’m a black woman every day, and I’m not confused about that. I’m not worried about that. I don’t need to have a discussion with you about how I feel as a black woman, because I don’t feel disempowered as a black woman.”
Blackish is producing rising stars such as Yara Shahidi while showing the nation some of the struggles of a black-American today. The outspoken teenage actress addressed the roles she was offered before finding Zoey Johnson to HuffPost Live.
“Before Blackish, I got offered a couple roles that were just — you know, they just didn’t portray black people very well, teenagers very well, me very well [or] anything like that, so I ended up turning them down,” she said. “But Black-ish was perfect and timely.”
FOX countered with a show such as Empire, which mixes the music world with a talented cast. Fox also introduced the world to Ginny Baker who plays a black, female baseball player in the show Pitch. That’s not all as they also brought in Corey Hawkins who helped bring the 24 franchise back in 24: Legacy.
But the beauty isn’t just the shows that are on the network channels. With the rise of cable, and streaming platforms black leads and programming has been spread in many different networks.
Donald Glover introduced the world to the popular show on FX called Atlanta. 50 Cent struck gold with his show Power. Issa Rae brought the wit and perspective originally seen in her YouTube series Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl and became a star in the hit show Insecure. Gabrielle Union also plays a journalist and personality in the popular BET show Being Mary Jane. Let’s also not forget the impact of seeing Luke Cage as a black superhero in the popular Marvel show on Netflix.
What’s special about this go around is the diversity of the programming and the roles played by prominent black actors. The challenge will be keeping this up so that it isn’t just a mere trend, but becomes the normal in the future.
Are there any shows that we missed that you are looking forward to watching? Let us know.
To witness Black History, live in living color check out our friends over at CCC where you can see black history being made everyday”