Television is usually our secondary source for cultural instruction and social norms. After we’ve examined the people at home with us and the members of our community, we turn to television to discover how people in other places behave, communicate, and interact. As it pertains to black folk, we comprise less than fifteen percent of the U.S. population, but the prevalence of our art in mainstream media is remarkable. I do wish though that the black sitcoms of today were more like those of yesteryear: authentic, uplifting, and creative. Somehow predominantly black casts made hits in the past that have not been duplicated since their shows were first aired. Now, television is in dire need of a new wave of black shows reminiscent of the oldies that gathered us all into the the family room.
What we liked so much about Martin, and 227, and Sister Sister was that they were true to the spirit of using television as a medium to critique real life situations and provide insight, wisdom, and social commentary from the perspective of Black Americans. They also illuminated the humanity of black folk for audiences that were ignorant. Unlike the reality TV shows of today, Girlfriends, Hanging With Mr. Cooper, and the like provided us laughter and our daily dose of moral fiber, not just drama and empty calories. We felt better after each episode. Yes, when I say “we,” I mean black folk (this time and maybe next week too).
Those shows made us look at ourselves introspectively and provided us with examples of conflict resolution, family, love, and peace. A Different World captivated us with its depictions of dating and networking that were neither lewd nor embarrassing. I want that back. I want all of that back in the mainstream media, during prime time slots. I want us to see ourselves on television again. I want to watch Dwayne marry Whitley. I want to see The Winslows mentor and raise their next door neighbor whose parents were never around. I want to know that Flex Washington can raise Breanna Barnes into a beautiful woman as a single parent. I want us all to see those themes again, because seeing is believing.
It’s hard for me to speculate as to why these types of shows are no longer being created. Then again, the shows that do reap high ratings have very low standards. So, maybe there’s just not enough demand for wholesome TV shows. One could argue that shows like Jamie Foxx’s didn’t generate enough of an audience to be emulated, but some of our favorites, like The Cosby Show, have been in syndication for over ten years. Is the white TV man trying to keep us down, or are we not supporting our own endeavors enough to permeate the invisible wall? With almost $1 trillion dollars in buying power, it stands to reason that the African American community could get some stuff done if we wanted to make it happen. So, the conclusion that I’m drawing closer to is that I’m the only somebody who wants black television that my whole family can gather around to watch with pride.
Besides The Boondocks (which is the truth) there have been no black television shows of true substance that are entertaining. Martin and Living Single were excellent shows and it angers me that black television today is not up to par. It just isn’t right. Moesha, In the House, The Parent Trap, etc. were great shows that can’t be found today. Television just hasn’t been right lately, but maybe this is the calm before the storm of the next wave of real black entertainment television.