Ahh, the 90’s, one of the best decades in the history of the Black television series’. “Martin,” “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air,” “Living Single,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” “Moesha,” “The Wayans Bros,” “The Cosby Show” and “The Parkers”–all shows that will forever be timeless in Black TV. I can watch reruns of these shows over and over again and even know what will happen next and still laugh hysterically, cry when someone gets married, and laugh again.
Fast forward to the present and you can barely get a second season out of these watered down, slapstick style comedy TV series’ like “House of Payne,” VH1’s “Single Ladies” and BET’s “Let’s Stay Together.” I would never even think of buying a DVD series of ANY season of these shows. Why not? Well, these are not necessarily shows that you can watch rerun after rerun and not get annoyed by much less remember they existed six years from now.
Like your parents boasted about shows like “Good Times,” “Sandford & Son,” and “The Jeffersons” to us, we’ll skip right on over the host of black TV shows post-new millennium and go back to the hilarious black comedies of the 90’s and tell our children about it. As of late I’ve been noticing a pattern taking shape within Black television, and that is that ratings seem to always be an excuse behind a show getting pulled. Which makes me wonder, if nobody is watching black sitcoms anymore then what are they watching, because TV is definitely still being watched.
The other day a very influential black woman spoke briefly on the state of black television and it really made me wonder. Then I realized it, I’ve been trained. I can’t speak for the readers out there but I realized that I’ve been trained to like what (before just a few years ago), I swore I’d never fall victim to: and that is my love for “real-life” drama or “reality tv.” The television industry has trained me to become transfixed with seeing pointless drama instead of the scripted, yet positive images and lifestyles that in my own reality would take much hard work to attain. The industry figured out what myself as well as many other reality TV lovers “desired to see” before we even realized it–which is the highly-scripted and well-rehearsed drink-throwing, hair-shifting, “Who Gon’ Check Me Boo”-style drama on TV every week. What I didn’t know was that the public (if you don’t like reality TV, you can quietly exclude yourself from this group) has become obsessed with the idea of “real-life” drama, which is exactly why you have reality shows like “Basketball Wives,” and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and shows that we think are reality are the total opposite.
Not only that, but we actually watch and create celebrities out of reality TV ‘stars’ as opposed to watching well-trained actors and then we complain when these TV series’ dissipate due to low ratings. I realized that the problem is much less the commentary and content of these shows and more so the people and the TV industry giving the people what they want. Ultimately what I’m saying is that, with the many different black TV shows that has came and went over the course of the last 10 years, I can count on 1 hand the amount of shows that have made a lasting impression.
Many people complain and say that we have no black TV shows yet divert their time to reality television. Evolution is definitely a great way to promote change and growth but do you think reality TV has enough longevity to permanently take over for the Black Television series? Is the Black Television Series dead? And if so can it be revived, if so what would it take to make these shows more memorable and widely accepted?