What Is 'Black TV,' Anyway?

The Game cast (BET)
The Game cast (BET)

As new African-American owned networks like Aspire and Bounce hit our flatscreens, Shadow and Act writer Curtis Caesar John wonders aloud, just what is a "black show," anyway?

Family Time … remains only one of only seven scripted original shows on the air that is created by and starring people of African descent, the others being BET's The Game and Let's Stay Together, VH1's Single Ladies and TBS' Are We There Yet?, Meet the Browns and For Better or Worse (the latter two being produced by T.P. I excluded House of Payne as it ends this year). The bulk of these are sitcoms are very much made in the classic sense too as none of them are groundbreaking or push the envelope, which can still allow for good entertainment but nothing that stands out.

Most every other show on the air with Black talent follows the usually disingenuous BBF/Black Best Friend model as seen on sitcoms like New Girl and Mike & Molly and dramas like Revenge. Surprisingly, at least Mike & Molly, which is set in Chicago, has two Black actors, Reno Wilson and Nyambi Nyambi ,along with Holly Robinson-Peete in a recurring role. On the flipside, there are shows like Community (which is only renewed for 13 episodes come this Fall) and The Closer (which unfortunately ends in August) with Black talent that have more genuine roles as the Black characters are centrally involved in the plot and seldom shy away from having those men & women take the spotlight in multiple episodes and not in the stereotypical 'let's focus on the Black character for one episode out of twenty-four' way.

So then what exactly does make a show a 'Black' show? There's never been a consensus from the film world that a Black movie is definitely one that both has Black talent, themes or non-monolithic perspectives, and has to be made by Black folks. Quite the opposite as it's like anything with a majority Black cast is considered a Black movie – and the same seems to apply to Black television. Despite multiple strides against a locked way of thinking, Black audiences, like people of other races and creeds, just want to see themselves on screen and will watch whether it's Amos & Andy in the 1950's, Gimme a Break in the 1980's or House of Payne in 2012.


Read Curtis Caesar John's entire piece at Shadow and Act.

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