Ramble #68 Colored TVPosted: September 9, 2013
The other day I was watching a rerun of Family Matters, and at the same time I was flipping the channel to check out The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.
There’s something disturbing about seeing Jaleel White in suspenders and thick glasses in HD but the episode itself was the typical simple plot with Steve professing his love for Laura publicly, and it kind of sickened me yet I was entertained. I went back and forth to the young Will Smith at a pre-marital counseling session with Lisa, (Nia Long) the girl he never married and I flashed back to the days when these were primetime TV programs.
I remember being a young kid and catching Good Times, What’s Happening?, The Jeffersons and one or two other shows that had brown people in syndication, but on the weeknights and weekends there were actual shows that featured African-Americans or whatever you want to call them. I don’t mind the term “black,” although I don’t know if it should be capitalized or not. I mean I know; I just don’t always feel like it.
Anyway, I am showing my age here but who cares when I can think back to 227, Diff’rent Strokes and Amen coming on NBC. Fox had In Living Color, Martin, Roc, no one remembers True Colors. Then there was The Cosby Show, A Different World, The Fresh Prince, In The House, Jackie Childs was the black guy on Seinfeld, 21 Jumpstreet had Holly Robinson, Gabrielle Union and Aisha Tyler showed up on Friends, Lisa was the token dark gal on Saved By The Bell, Mark Curry was Mr. Cooper, Malik Yoba was a cop on that undercover show. Remember Robert Townsend’s show Parenthood? And Steve Harvey had a show. We all skimmed Moesha here and there, maybe even The Parkers too. I kinda dug All Of Us not just because of Lisa Raye, but I would never tell anyone. Even Bernie Mac convinced Hollywood to let him on the small screen. And so did Damon Wayans with My Wife and Kids. From Sister to Sister, to Living Single, to Girlfriends, there was a moment when television tried to show what being tan in America was all about.
Who ever thought it would end? I am all for racial harmony so it’s not like I need some entire Negro channel or anything (BET doesn’t count), I’m just surprised that the black sitcom disappeared from television. Sure I understand reality TV took over, and everyone has cable anyway. And Tyler Perry is supposed to be the sole representation of black comedy, and Rickey Cooney, I mean Smiley is dressing up like a lady somewhere on a network…but it’s still a little amazing that The Game has to come on twice in a row and TV One is trying to make a push to put all kinds of weirdo shows together.
I’m not even complaining ladies and gentlemen. I’m no activist or anything. I just noticed that some shows have their fair share of diversity from Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal to The New Girl and whatever else comes on television. I am sure there are a bunch of shows that I don’t watch that infuse some color and they resemble real life. With all the CSI and Law & Order programs, I’m sure they are filled with brown folks on both sides of the law. How else would rappers like Ice-T and LL Cool J keep those checks coming?
But when I think about the 80s being so close to the civil rights movement and segregation, maybe positive black role models were needed. Maybe it was imperative that we see white families taking in black orphans like Webster, and Arnold and Willis. Could it have been a part of the mission to see Benson keep a household in order and view Dr. and Mrs. Huxtable as successful professionals with wonderful kids?
Did it help society to give the youth a peek at a black college where they stopped focusing on comedy for the last three seasons and just delivered lessons and black awareness? A Different World made me want to attend a university, so maybe TV did influence reality.
The same way Dennis Haysbert alleges that his role as a black president on 24 helped America accept Barack Obama. A black president is in office and a black sitcom isn’t on television. I find it slightly ironic that the world is more accepting of all colors, yet we’d rather write scripts for reality TV and make stars out of the “talentless.” This could just be the new direction of the world.
Maybe sitcoms aren’t that important anymore. Maybe the now defunct Run’s House, and T.I’s show appeal more to this generation than Cliff Huxtable would. Could it be that the new dads to emulate are names like Stevie J, Scrappy, and The Game? And if that is so, I am fine with that. However, I do miss the days when there was more than Tyler Perry comedy on the small screen. Not that I hate him or anything, I just believe that for every Nicki Minaj, there should be a Lauryn Hill. Not the crazy Lauryn Hill…you get my point.
Ignorance is cool to me, I enjoy the occasional foolery on reality shows but I also loved the false sense of security I got when I knew there was a black family with an issue that would be solved in a half-hour. And it was intriguing to watch them all grow up and go on to do bigger and better things as actors and actresses…and even become lesbians (hey Raven).
I might have taken it for granted. Oh well. I do have a theory that in some 50-100 years all ethnicities will mix up and everyone will look like Blake Griffin and Mariah Carey anyway…and some old guy will still find something to complain about.