Reports swirled last week that Will Smith hopes to bring a modern version of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air back to television. Now, as much as we love the Fresh Prince, the show wrapped with a tear-jerking series finale that doesn’t warrant a new version of the story. So we’ve decided to play TV exec and suggest a few shows that should come back to the small screen. Some of our favorite, unsung black sitcoms and dramas were too short-lived during their initial run. And a few of them didn’t get a proper send-off. In this list, we take a look at a few shows that deserve their chance to shine just one more time.
If there were ever a time for TV to air a series with threads of comedy along with social commentary, now is the time. Roc, which featured Charles S. Dutton as a Baltimore garbageman and his family, aired for just three seasons on Fox, 1991-1994. Fans were devoted to watching the show, but the Nielsen ratings were low throughout its run. Several episodes of the series were live performances, where, before the episode, characters talked about current events. With police brutality becoming all too common in America, and with homicide rates up in Baltimore, the reboot would have plenty of fodder to put in perspective through scripted programming.
Talk about a cliffhanger. A positive pregnancy test was found in Moesha’s apartment, which she shared with a few roommates. Myles got kidnapped by one of Dorian’s former acquaintances. So clearly, we need to tie up some loose ends in the plot. But also, what better way to bring Brandy Norwood back to TV? The Game has aired its final season. She’s finished up her role as Roxie Hart in Chicago on Broadway. Yes, she’s slated to appear on an upcoming BET series as Zoe Moon, a divorced, single mother of a 10-year-old who has dreams of being the next, big cosmetics mogul. So she likely won’t have time to commit to a whole season of Moesha. And that’s OK. Moesha should come back for one flash-forward TV special that catches us up with Moesha as a widowed mother to Hakeem’s child. Rest in peace, Lamont Bentley.
Girlfriends was a casualty of the TV writers’ strike from 2007-2008, when producers decided it was too expensive to bring the show back after the strike ended. Talks of a Girlfriends movie have swirled on gossip blogs for the past several years, with the whole cast glamming up the stage at Black Girls Rock! in 2013. In what would be the show’s final episode, Joan heads to her fiance Aaron’s classroom to read a letter from their teacher who had been deployed to Iraq. If movie-production companies can’t get behind a big-budget, feature-length film, why not bring the show back for an hourlong wedding special? Joan deserves the wedding of her dreams.
4. Frank’s Place
TV Guide agrees that Frank’s Place didn’t get a fair shot and listed it as No. 3 on its list of shows that went off the air too soon. Centered on Frank Parrish (Tim Reid) and his New Orleans restaurant Chez Louisiana, the show featured a funny mix of characters and brought New Orleans flavor to the small screen. It was nominated for nine Emmy Awards in 1988 and won three, including Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series. Imagine the show returning today, perhaps set shortly after Hurricane Katrina, as a sitcom about how a black-owned restaurant attempts to regain its footing.
5. South Central
South Central aired for only 10 episodes in 1994. Slated to air just after Roc on Fox, it was canceled, along with the other black shows in the 1994 lineup. Set in South Central Los Angeles, the show followed a single mother of three as she attempted to keep them in school and out of trouble during the height of gang tension and police brutality in Compton, Calif. The eldest son had been killed in a police shootout before the series began—a story that is hitting too close to home in cities across America. South Central set careers in motion for several young actors, including Larenz Tate, Maia Campbell, Shar Jackson and Lamont Bentley. Perhaps it could serve as another launch pad for budding black talent.
6. Out All Night
This short-lived sitcom was chock-full of star power. Out All Night featured Patti LaBelle in the lead role as the club owner of Club Chelsea in Los Angeles. Morris Chestnut, Vivica A. Fox and Duane Martin rounded out the cast. It featured several musical guests, including Boyz II Men, Bobby Brown, TLC and Gladys Knight. And the theme song was just too catchy to forget. The show only lasted for one season and didn’t get a chance to gain its footing. Imagine it rebooted today with someone like Jackée Harry as the club owner and the likes of Fetty Wap, Rich Homie Quan and Rihanna appearing as musical guests. In the meantime, put it on DVD already.
7. My Brother and Me
My Brother and Me was Nickelodeon’s first show featuring a predominantly black cast. Too bad it only lasted for one season. Set in Charlotte, N.C., the show featured a family of five as they went through everyday life. For ’90s kids, you’ll remember episodes where you chanted “Goo punch, alright, now!” and “Hit me, hit me, you think you so bad?!” The series deserves at least one more season, not only to add some color to Nickelodeon but also to show all the fun and antics that can happen in a simple black family that loves and laughs together.
Erin E. Evans is a writer and editor in Brooklyn, N.Y. Follow her on Twitter.