'Homeboys in Outer Space': A '90s Classic

Throwback Thursday: As movies go into the weightless beyond, we recall when blacks drifted in space.

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Screenshot of 'Homeboys in Outer Space'

(The Root) -- In 1999 the satirical media outlet The Onion asked several "everymen" what they thought of Kweisi Nfume's accusation of flagrant whitewashing in major network programming. "With the possible exception of MLK's assassination, there has been no greater setback in the struggle for racial equality than the 1997 cancellation of Homeboys in Outer Space," answered system analyst "Dale Gibson."

That's right, Homeboys in Outer Space. The same show one local chapter of the NAACP compared to Amos 'N' Andy. The one TV Guide ranked 31st on its seminal list of "The 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time." The series that traded in stereotypes so offensive that my mother shook her head in shame every time I made her flip the channel to UPN. The show I watched religiously all during my junior year in high school.

Starring Darryl Bell as Captain Picard wannabe Morris Clay and the mononymous Flex as ne'er-do-well Tyberius Walker, Homeboys was so bad that it was bad. Their hair pretty much set the tone. Bell's character, Morris, had a slick conk-and-S-Curl hybrid as if he'd told his robot barber, "Give me the Lando Calrissian look but with baby hair." And Flex's Ty sported a 23rd-century high-top that was reaching for the moon. According to the theme song, Morris and Ty were "mercenary brothaa-aas, down for one anothaa-aaa."

A shining example of sci-fi parody gone wrong, the show tried to poke fun at black and geek culture by throwing them both under the "Space Hoopty." The special effects were self-consciously bootleg. The inside of Morris and Ty's used starship looked like a Greyhound-station bathroom after a bomb went off. Their "computer" was named "Loquatia" ("Or Ms. Jones if you're naaasty") and was preprogrammed with ghetto sass.

Also, the dialogue went like this:

Morris: Pull yourself together! In our many years of intergalactic battle we've been through worst than this!

Ty: Nuh-uh.

[Cue the laugh track.]

Yet despite all the government-cheese comedy, somehow Homeboys managed to wrangle in an impressive list of guest stars, including John Astin (The Addams Family), Gary Coleman (Diff'rent Strokes) and even OG Star Trek alums James Doohan and George Takei. That, and me as a devoted fan because the show never once took itself too seriously. I mean, how could it?

I was hooked from the very first episode, when Morris, trying to sound ominous and important, intones, "Space ... " but instead of filling in the blank predictably, his voice cracks like a prepubescent teen's: "What a cool place!" That's what kept me coming back week after week for the short-lived one-season spoof: the unbridled innocence that could only be described as straight-up goofiness. Yeah, the one-liners were all lowbrow and laugh-tracked. But who cares? They're doing stuff! In space!