Thursday, February 18, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Black Sitcoms

This Throwback Thursday I wanted to do a little something for Black History Month by reflecting on my childhood and high school years. From my perspective, it seemed like the 90's was full of racial diversity compared to now, although it feels like sitcoms are becoming a little more diverse. While reading up some history about black sitcoms, it seems as though I grew up in the rise of black sitcoms, which proves my own personal point that we were truly spoiled in the 90's when it came to entertainment. In this post, I'll comment on some black sitcoms that I used to watch back in the day and even currently.

The Cosby Show (1984-1992)
Seasons: 8
Synopsis: Long-running popular comedy television series about the Huxtable family. Doctor Heathcliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) and Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad), a happily married couple, are raising their children: Sondra (Sabrina Le Beauf), Denise (Lisa Bonet), Theodore (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe), and Rudy (Keshia Knight Pulliam). The two oldest daughters eventually live successful adult lives and get married (Sondra to Elvin and Denise to Martin). As the children get older, the family gets larger and, to the chagrin of Cliff, keep on coming back home when he wants them to move out and live on their own for good. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: Despite the controversy surrounding the show's star Bill Cosby and the sexual assault allegations, it's hard to not include this show on my list. It's also the reason why a lot of people have a difficult time separate his character Heathcliff Huxtable from his own persona. Nonetheless, The Cosby Show deserves major credit for reviving the sitcom genre and starting many careers for several of its cast members. The Cosby Show is one of those staples that many families, no matter the race, came together and enjoyed. While it featured some memorable comedic moments, it also delved into serious topics such as teen pregnancy and dyslexia. Lastly, this show had some of the best introductions for its eight season run. I'm sure it'll be a long while before stations will resume rerunning the show due to the legal situation with Cosby, but it's still television treasure, especially for black sitcoms.

227 (1985-1990)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: 227 followed the lives of people in a middle-class apartment building in Washington, D.C. The show was centered around Mary Jenkins (Marla Gibbs), a nosy, tart-tongued housewife. Her husband, Lester (Hal Williams), had his own construction company, and their daughter, Brenda (Regina King), was boy-crazy yet smart and studious. Also cast in 227 was Sandra Clark (Jackée Harry), Mary's young, sexy building friend who constantly bickered back and forth with her about their respective views on life. Also living in the building was Pearl Shay (Helen Martin), a feisty-but-kind-hearted busybody neighbor who was known for snooping and had a sharp sense of humor. Pearl had a grandson named Calvin Dobbs (Curtis Baldwin), whom Brenda had a crush on and would finally date later in the series' run. Rose Lee Holloway (Alaina Reed Hall) was the kindhearted best friend to all. She had a daughter named Tiffany (Kia Goodwin), who disappeared after the second season. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: I want to say around the time of Sister, Sister, I got into this show and was amused to see Jackée Harry in a more sexual role compared to her role as Lisa Landry. I recognized Marla Gibbs from The Jeffersons, despite not watching it very often as a child, but I'm sure plenty of people back then recognize her from that show as well. Gibbs kept her quick wit and snappy comebacks in this show and they're still amusing to this day. There were also a few special guests that people my age may notice, but don't feel bad if you don't. Now that this show has been picked up by Logo (and marathoned not too long ago), I am reminded that this show not only had some great laughs, but an equally good family message that is still relevant today such as worldly issues that affect our country, drugs, and teenage hormones.

Amen (1986-1991)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: The series revolves around Ernest Frye (Sherman Hemsley), a deacon of the First Community Church of Philadelphia, who also works as a lawyer. He is often dishonest and frequently gets into trouble with his many harebrained schemes. Frye has a single daughter named Thelma (Anna Maria Horsford). Reuben Gregory (Clifton Davis) is the new, young pastor of the church, and also the object of Thelma's affection. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: Amen was a show I didn't watch too often as the reruns came on late at night. Similar to Marla Gibbs in 227, I was familiar with Sherman Hemsley from The Jeffersons and a few jokes surrounding him. From what I remember, Hemsley brought a similar humor to his character Ernest. I've also seen Anna Maria Horsford in many movies and TV appearances and she was always entertaining to watch on screen and this show was no exception.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
Seasons: 6
Synopsis: When Will, an inner-city teenager from Philly is sent by his mother to live with his relatives (the Banks') in Bel-Air, everybody is in for a surprise. It is funny how influence can go both ways... [Source: IMDb]
Comments: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is another one of those staple black sitcoms, like The Cosby Show, for a lot of people. I think almost every generation can easily sing every single word of the theme song. This is a show that still comes on various channels, one being Nick at Night. The show is more well known for its star character Will Smith, but the rest of the cast are just as memorable as Will, whether they had the same amount of success after the show or not, people still know them. The jokes are still hilarious, the serious topics (and even some not so serious subtle topics) are still relevant, and it's just great to see some of the celebrity guests on there such as Queen Latifah, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, and Sherman Hemsley. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is easily one of those shows you can have hours of conversation with friends, co-workers, and families over.

Hangin' with Mr. Cooper (1992-1997)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: Popular comedian Mark Curry plays Mr. Mark Cooper, a single high school teacher and basketball coach living in Oakland, California. Between coaching, teaching, dealing with neighborhood struggles and living with two beautiful female roommates (played by Holly Robinson Peete and Dawnn Lewis), Mr. Cooper keeps a humorous, positive outlook on life and provides advice and fun to the many people in his life that he encounters. The show also stars Omar Gooding as one of Cooper's students and basketball players Earvin Rodman. The show became more family orientated in the second season, adding Raven-Symone and Nell Carter while dropping Dawnn Lewis. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: Hangin' with Mr. Cooper was another show I believe I only watched in the late night hours and didn't keep up with it as much. I remember Mark Curry was a popular comedian back then and it feels like he has fallen off the map like Sinbad since then, but had a pretty funny and entertaining show. I don't remember much about it, but I'm sure it probably seems pretty goofy watching it now. I do remember being happy to see Raven-Symoné on screen again after The Cosby Show. The show really gave her an opportunity to gradually grow out of her cuteness and develop that sassy comedic delivery that she carried onto That's So Raven. The ladies of the show, Holly Robinson Peete and Dawnn Lewis, brought a great balance to the show with Curry's shenanigans. Also, it was nice to see Omar Gooding pick up an acting career pre-Smart Guy. For the most part, I knew him from a Nickelodeon game show by the name of Wild and Crazy Kids, which hopefully, I'll talk about in a later Throwback post.

Martin (1992-1997)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: Sassy sitcom centering on radio and television personality Martin Payne (Martin Lawrence). Series focuses on his romantic relationship with girlfriend Gina (Tisha Campbell-Martin), her best friend Pam and escapades with best friends Tommy (Thomas Mikal Ford) and Cole (Carl Anthony Payne II). [Source: IMDb]
Comments: Like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin was one of those shows that everyone has seen or at least can reference from. From Martin's tag line of "What's up"s to knowing what floor Bruh-Man stayed on, these are things you can't forget. Martin was a brilliant and hilarious show that knew how to keep its inside jokes fresh from episode to episode. You never got tired of Cole's lack of intelligence, Martin and Pam's insults, or not knowing what Tommy's job was. It also showed the affection and chemistry between not only the friends that Martin and Gina had, but their relationship as well no matter what good or bad came their way. Lastly, you can't forget all the various characters Martin Lawrence gave us like Sheneneh, Jerome, Roscoe, and Dragonfly Jones.

The Sinbad Show (1993-1994)
Seasons: 1
Synopsis: The series follows the life of David Bryan (Sinbad), a carefree bachelor, who becomes a single parent when he adopts two orphaned children, Zana (Erin Davis) and L.J. Beckley (Ray J), who face several issues which they work through together. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: While talking to my mom about this post, I mentioned a popular comedian of the 90s that kinda fell off the face of the earth: Sinbad. I vaguely remember him having a show, but I couldn't tell you anything about it then what I saw in the intro, clips, and Wikipedia. I'm sure it was a very funny show, since I remember enjoying Sinbad's stand-up, but I'm amused to find that little Ray J was part one of the orphans. Yes, Willie Norwood is Brandy's pseudo-rap brother Ray J.

Living Single (1993-1998)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: The series focused on two different households in one brownstone, one shared by a trio of independent women and another shared by a pair of male friends who had known each other since they spent their youth in Cleveland, Ohio. In the first apartment, Khadijah James (Queen Latifah), a hard-working editor and publisher of the fictional urban independent monthly Flavor lived with her sweet but naive cousin Synclaire James (Kim Coles), an aspiring actress who worked as Khadijah's receptionist and has an affinity for Troll dolls; and her childhood friend from East Orange, New Jersey, Regina "Régine" Hunter (Kim Fields), an image-conscious boutique buyer who was in a constant search for a well-to-do man to spend her life with (and spend his money). Later in the series, Régine became a costume assistant for the soap opera Palo Alto. When the show was canceled, she became a wedding planner and left the apartment to move in with her fiance, Dexter Knight (Don Franklin). Maxine "Max" Shaw (Erika Alexander), a sharp-tongued attorney and Khadijah's best friend from their college days at Howard University, frequently stopped by to share her unique insights; keep them entertained by sharing her day; to make sure that the girls' refrigerator isn't overstocked; and to start trouble with Kyle. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: Out of all of the rappers that had their own sitcoms, I think Queen Latifah had the best success. Living Single was one of the first shows to display and emphasis the variations and dimensions of women of color. They had different career goals and aspirations, personalities, and problems. It was a show that successfully delivered comedy and a message to its viewers and some, if not all, those messages are still relevant today. Not only was the content something to keep you watching, but seeing these characters develop over time was an enjoyable journey. Even now, I find it exciting to see Khadijah become more vulnerable to her emotions, Synclaire and Overton grow closer, the tension between Maxine and Kyle gradually turn into an uncertain love affair, and Regina's hairstyles and fashion appearances. There's a lot going on when you're "living single", but you have to remember that your girlfriends are always there for you.

My Brother and Me (1994-1995)
Seasons: 1
Synopsis: Follows the lives of several single male and female roommates and friends in 1990s Brooklyn, New York. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: For some reason, I thought this underrated Nickelodeon show lasted longer than one season, but I guess not. Anyway, when TeenNick decided to put together a block called "The 90s Are All That", this show came on and I immediately had to watch it (my mother joined too). I was excited, since apparently it hadn't been aired since 2000. I realized how cheesy this show was, but it still has charm. DeeDee just wanted to be as cool as his older brother Alfie and he was understandably annoying, but cute about it. There were amusing adventures and jokes throughout the show and I loved the family interactions. Surprisingly, a lot of the episodes are uploaded in HD on YouTube, so don't feel ashamed if you start waving your arms in the air singing "Goo Punch"~

Sister, Sister (1994-1999)
Seasons: 6
Synopsis: Tia and Tamera Mowry play twins who were separated at birth and by chance meet each other in a shopping mall. Ray Campbell (Tim Reid), Tamera's adopted father, is very different from Tia's adopted mother, Lisa Landry (Jackée Harry), but the twins don't want to be separated so Ray and Lisa end up living together. The series often focuses on the trouble the twins get into due to their identical appearance and the love-hate relationship between Lisa and Ray. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: Sister, Sister was a major part of my childhood and I still love this show dearly. Not only was it hilarious and entertaining, but it also incorporated some subject matters that stuck with me as I grew older. The show covered various topics concerning adoption, peer pressure, being interracial, online internet scams, politics, and so much more. As the show progressed, its quality never lacked when the twins entered college like a lot of sitcoms. I'm sure the show majorly boosted 227's Jackée Harry's career and there's even a reference to her character in one of the episodes. Viewers were also introduced to an annoyance turned cutie Marques Houston as Roger and his wonderful singing voice toward the end of the show's run. Of course, there were other actors that made a small mark in the show such as Dorien Wilson (which you might know from The Parkers), Brittany Murphy, Gabrielle Union, Sherman Hemsley (again), and, of course, the twins' real life younger brother Tahj Mowry. If you haven't seen it, I don't know what you're doing with your life, because it's one of the few sitcoms with an actual, satisfying conclusion!

In the House (1995-1999)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: Once famous football player must rent part of his house in order to support himself. A single mother and her two kids are the latest tenants. He also owns a sports clinic that he barely manages to run with a little help from his friends. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: I want to say this might've been somewhere between LL Cool J's transition between his rap career and acting. Honestly, I think I watched this show, like I'm sure most fans, because of him. Childhood crush, you understand. Before making this post, I did watch part of an episode and it's pretty funny, even though there's some cheesy moments. LL Cool J can surprisingly be funny. Of course, Kim Wayans, who I recognized from years of In Living Color, was hilarious and full of energy. Also, Alfonso Ribeiro of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame brings his expensive lifestyle in his character Dr. Maxwell Stanton. Surprisingly, there's quite a lot of episodes on YouTube, if you're interested in checking it out.

The Wayans Bros. (1995-1999)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: Shawn and Marlon Williams (Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans) are brothers who live in an apartment on 126th street in Harlem. Shawn owns a local newsstand, where he and his brother Marlon work on a daily basis. In the show's second season (in 1995), the newsstand and Pops' Joint (the restaurant owned by their father, John "Pops" Williams (John Witherspoon) were moved downtown into the fictional Neidermeyer Building, in Rockefeller Center, where Dee Baxter (Anna Maria Horsford (season 2 onward) works as a security guard.
Comments: Being familiar with the Wayans family through the sketch comedy show In Living Color, it was easy to know that this show would be a hilariously, good time. Trust me, this was before the Scary Movie and Haunted House franchises. It also had the side splitting John Witherspoon to keep the laughs going throughout the series. I remember watching this show from time to time like The Jamie Foxx Show and enjoying the contrast of the two brothers. Shawn was the more serious, ladies man, while Marlon took the wild and unconventional approach to life and love. The show also brought the charming and also funny Anna Maria Horsford who was in Amen and I'm sure other TV and movie appearances before landing on this show.

The Parent 'Hood (1995-1999)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: The series is about an upper middle-class black family in Harlem, New York City named the Petersons. Robert Peterson (Robert Townsend) is a college professor at New York University, and his wife Jerri (Suzzanne Douglas) is a law student. They try to balance their lives, their work, and their four children at the same time. The four kids span the ages from teens to toddlers.
The oldest two, 16-year-old Michael (Kenny Blank) and 15-year-old Zaria (Reagan Gomez-Preston), are reaching that age where they're eager to spread their wings and are ready to experiment and avoid being seen with their not quite cool parents. Nicholas (Curtis Williams) is a bright eyed 8-year-old who is quickly discovering the joys of mischief. 4-year-old Cece (Ashli Adams) is the darling of the family. Offering his own offbeat point of view is Robert's childhood buddy, Wendell (Faizon Love). [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: Along with Amen, Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, and In the House, I remember watching this more in the late night hours. I don't remember much about the show other than Robert Townsend being a hilarious and great father figure, Raegan Gomez-Preston giving much attitude and style to the show, and Curtis Williams bringing comedy and cuteness. Reading the Wikipedia article, it seems like the show covered some serious topics that families would appreciate discussing amongst themselves. I kinda wish this show would make an appearance somewhere so I can relive the ups and downs of the Peterson family one more time.

Kenan & Kel (1996-2000)
Seasons: 4
Synopsis: The show was set in Chicago, Illinois, and centered on the antics of two mischievous teenagers, Kenan Rockmore (Kenan Thompson) and Kel Kimble (Kel Mitchell). Kenan is a high school student with a job at a local grocery store, while Kel is his clumsy, orange soda-loving best friend. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: I think one of the most successful spin-offs that came from All That is Kenan & Kel. Kenan and Kel was the comedy duo of my generation and they definitely deserved their own show. I'll admit rewatching it on TeenNick/Splat! may be silly and even back then it was silly, but somehow the slapstick antics and chemistry between these two young actors was undeniably entertaining for me. It was always exciting to find out what the next misadventure would happen between these two and to say along with Kel how much he loves orange soda or his catchphrase "Awww Here it goes!". Before the show reemerged onto TeenNick/Splat!, it was interesting hearing all these rumors and stories about Kenan and Kel's relationship. Whether they had a falling out or not, I'm not sure. I think the various rumors about Kel were the most amusing from Kel being dead or assuming the identity of Waka Flocka Flame. Of course, the two actors appeared in other shows as permanent or recurring characters such as Saturday Night Live and The Parkers. Now we can see these two happily promoting their old show and reminscing on TeenNick/Splat!. Oh, I can't forget about that mindblowing reunion of "Good Burger" on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Malcolm & Eddie (1996-2000)
Seasons: 4
Synopsis: Malcolm McGee (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) is a responsible and sensible twenty something who ends up sharing an apartment and a business venture with relentlessly enthusiastic tow truck owner Eddie Sherman (Eddie Griffin) in Kansas City, Missouri (which is Eddie Griffin's hometown). A fast talker with outlandish frenetic energy, Eddie's charming naiveté always seems to get the two into hot water. But no matter what the situation, these opposites always end up bailing each other out. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: I remember watching this show after school and these duo of opposites brought many of laughs for me. I guess having a straight man is a popular formula when it comes to comedy sitcoms. Anyway, it was nice to little Theo from The Cosby Show become this grown man trying to establish his sports bar. Malcolm-Jamal Warner kept his charm and his chemistry with Eddie Griffin really made the show enjoyable, which is important for title characters, right? If I remember correctly, I enjoyed the quirky and sassy officer played by Karen Malina White.

Moesha (1996-2001)
Seasons: 6
Synopsis: "Moesha" is a sitcom (which, in later years, took more of a dramatic turn) that follows the life and times of a black teenager living in the Leimert Park section of Los Angeles, CA. For years since her mother died, Moesha Mitchell (Brandy Norwood) has taken care of her father Frank (William Allen Young) and younger brother Myles (Marcus T. Paulk). So when a teacher at her school, Dee (Sheryl Lee Ralph), marries Frank, Moesha feels her territory being encroached upon by a new step mother. As time went on, the two females of the house would learn to appreciate and cherish each other's presence. Moesha's boy-crazy best friends Kim (Countess Vaughn) and Niecy (Shar Jackson) as well as her eternally hungry neighbor and pal Hakeem (Lamount Bentley) are there to support Mo throughout all of the drama she finds herself in--and there's always plenty. Andell (Yvette Wilson), a local smoothie shop owner, is another close confidante of Moesha's, lending her wisdom to the teen when needed. Over the years, it was Frank who Moesha would clash with most. He has quite a hard time witnessing his "pumpkin" grow up, and often hates her. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: Whether you thought Moesha was selfish or self-center, she felt like a real girl with real life issues. Moesha learned how to balance the main character's love interests with comedy and moral take backs. The show dealt with serious topics such as teen pregnancy, drugs, adoption, body issues, interracial discrimination, sexual identity, and so much more. Moesha was outspoken, well rounded, and brought a new perspective of women of color (or just women in general). Sure, she had problems with her family, friends, and love interests, but it was all part of her character's development over the years. The show introduced quite a few regulars in its story such Bernie Mac, Usher, Dante Basco, and Ginuwine. There's also a subtle tie to Girlfriends during an episode when Ray J's character Dorian is searching for his biological mother with the appearance of Maya played by Golden Brooks.

The Jamie Foxx Show (1996-2001)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: Jamie King (Jamie Foxx) is an aspiring musician from Terrell, Texas, who has come to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. To support himself, he works in his family's hotel, the financially strapped King's Tower, which is owned by his aunt and uncle, Helen and Junior King (Ellia English and Garrett Morris). Among his co-workers during the series' run were the beautiful and intelligent Francesca "Fancy" Monroe (Garcelle Beauvais) and Jamie's high-strung, stuffed-shirt, "bourgeois" nemesis Braxton P. Hartnabrig (Christopher B. Duncan). [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: As I write this list, I've noticed that some comedians have better luck with their shows than others and this is one of them. The Jamie Foxx Show is one show I've watched continuously and occasionally watch the reruns of. The comedy was always funny especially the ongoing banter between Jamie and Christopher B. Duncan. They had the best comebacks for each other and it playfully reflected the contrast of "black" people and black people who "acted white" while not degrading one or the other. Garrett Morris also brought some great comedic moments and seeing him with Ellia English made me appreciate black love even more. They had admirable chemistry and it always made me smile seeing them being affectionate together. Of course, I can't forget another highlight of the show, which is Jamie's talent for music, which is something I'm sure many people didn't know about back then.

The Steve Harvey Show (1996-2002)
Seasons: 6
Synopsis: Steve Hightower (Steve Harvey) is a has-been 1970s funk legend who is now a music teacher/Vice-principal at Booker T. Washington High School on Chicago's West Side. Budget cutbacks meant Steve also had to teach drama and art, much to his surprise. Cedric Robinson (Cedric the Entertainer) is a coach at the high school, and Steve's longtime best friend. The principal of Booker T. Washington High is Steve's former classmate, Regina Grier (Wendy Raquel Robinson), who Steve affectionately calls "Piggy", because of the fact that she was overweight as an adolescent. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: It was nearly impossible to see Steve Harvey without his partner in crime Cedric the Entertainer. They made a great duo on and off the show and you can tell that their chemistry was genuine every time they were on screen together. Anyway, yes, Steve Harvey wasn't always bald and a TV host of Family Feud and a talk show. No, he was a music teacher with some actual musical talent. He was always funny in the 90s like he is now and obviously Cedric had his own moments of comedy as well. The Steve Harvey Show not only showcased the faculty, but introduced us to some very memorable students such as the always shirtless Romeo, the not so bright but romantic Bullethead, the overachieving Lydia (played by All That's Lori Beth Denberg), and the very intimidating Coretta (played by the rapper The Lady of Rage).

Smart Guy (1997-1999)
Seasons: 3
Synopsis: Set in Washington, D.C., the show centers on the misadventures of boy genius and youngest child T.J. Henderson (Tahj Mowry), who at the age of 10 moves from elementary school and gets transferred to Piedmont High School, where he ends up becoming a high school sophomore with teenagers as his classmates. He must adjust to the life with older but not necessarily wiser high school teenagers – including his brother Marcus (Jason Weaver) and Marcus's best friend Mo (Omar Gooding). Episodes typically deal with T.J.'s missteps of trying to fit in as a kid genius, while being a small kid in high school, as well as the contrast between his smarts and his brother's underachieving nature. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: Similar to Sister, Sister, I majorly enjoyed this show as a kid and even now. It offered the same quality and humorous material to keep me entertained as well as tackle some issues you wouldn't think of seeing in a family sitcom such as self image (i.e. plastic surgery), internet pedophiles, and feminism. I'm slowly noticing there's been quite a lot of black sitcoms with single fathers and I find that commendable. Floyd was an entertaining and admirable father figure and did everything he could to provide for his children. Not only did his children pick up some wisdom from him, but he learned a lot from his children as they grew older. Yvette was an intelligent young woman that was very well rounded and felt real. She had her shallow moments, insecurities, and strong feminist beliefs. Marcus did some stupid things sometimes, especially with Mo, but he did have his shining moments of intellect and proved he can be a good role model for his highly intelligent younger brother T.J. Despite skipping a few grades, T.J. still had his immature moments and reminded all of us that he's only a kid.

The Hughleys (1998-2000)
Seasons: 4
Synopsis: Darryl Hughley (D.L. Hughley), who owns his own vending machine business, moving out of from South Central to West Hills, a predominately white neighborhood within the San Fernando Valley. Darryl and his family try to adjust to living in an all-white area, at the same time trying to not forget who they are and where they came from. Darryl and Yvonne (Elise Neal) befriend their new neighbors Sally (Marietta DePrima) and Dave (Eric Allan Kramer) who are literally the polar opposite of Darryl. The story has many racial themes to it but are usually comedic as Darryl makes fun of other races, especially his white and Korean neighbors. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: In my perspective, I don't feel like The Hughleys left as big of an impression as say The Bernie Mac Show. The only reason I bring it up is because D.L. Hughley was also part of The Original Kings of Comedy with Bernie Mac and I find him a funny guy as well and, from what I can tell from watching a brief clip, they had a similar family vibe as well. Apparently, John Henton from Living Single plays the couple's best friend. Um...other than the usual "it's a funny show", I really don't remember too much about it.

Cousin Skeeter (1998-2001)
Seasons: 3
Synopsis: It starred Robert Ri'chard as Bobby, a young boy whose life changed when his strange cousin Skeeter came to live with his family. With Skeeter's help, Bobby learns life lessons and tackles the ups and downs of growing up. The show also included Meagan Good as Bobby's friend Nina, Rondell Sheridan as Bobby's father Andre, and Angela Means as Bobby's mother Vanessa. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: I think even then I thought this show was a little silly or cheesy. Cousin Skeeter was a show that I believe came on in the afternoon on Nickelodeon. It starred the cute Robert Ri'chard and his pretty eyes and, I'm sure a still current crush for some, the gorgeous Meagan Good. Oh, and a comedian by the name of Bill Bellamy. While I enjoy Bellamy's comedy most of the time, tweaking his comedy for more kid friendly ears can be very hit or miss. Pretty much, he's no Bernie Mac, but not terrible. I remember the show being alright, but I mostly watched it for Robert Ri'chard as his cousin was super annoying. Also, intro song was bumpin'!

The Parkers (1999-2004)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: Mother and daughter Nikki (Mo'Nique) and Kim Parker (Countess Vaughn) both attend Santa Monica College. Nikki got pregnant with Kim and dropped out of school but now, just as Kim is getting ready for college, Nikki decides it's her turn to finish getting her education. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: A spin-off show from Moesha, it offered the same great entertainment value and comedy that its origins had. Being part of the original Queens of Comedy, Mo'nique skillfully toned down her comedic content for a more family friendly tone that Bernie Mac successfully mastered. It was great seeing an older woman show pride in finishing college no matter the setbacks and age. She shared amazing chemistry with Countess Vaughn as Kim. Countess continued to keep up the dumb routine with occasional moments of intelligence in this spin-off as well as giving her opportunities to show off her vocal talent. Fun fact: It's interesting seeing Countess go from 227 to The Parkers. I was happy that Yvette Wilson carried over her character Andell to add more comedy and entertainment with Mo'nique. Of course, other characters from Moesha would crossover into this show over time. Also, while many others before me may recognize Jenna von Oy from Blossom, I know her as being one of Kim's best friends, Stevie, with the mother issues.

Girlfriends (2000-2008)
Seasons: 8
Synopsis: A look at the lives, loves, and losses of four different women: Toni (Jill Marie Jones), Maya (Golden Brooks), Lynn (Persia White), and Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross). [Source: IMDb]
Comments: Girlfriends, in my opinion, is the better alternative for Sex in the City. Maybe because the characters are more relateable and real or because they were women of color in various degrees of life, I've always preferred this show. Whether I understood the content fully back then or not, watching it now makes me appreciate it even more. It was a show with friggin' Kelsey Grammar's support behind it! The doctor from Cheers. And yes, I did watch Cheers as a child. Anyway, there were many ups and downs in the show and the story didn't mainly focus on the girls' sexual lives and relationships, but their careers, families, emotional problems, and just life as a whole. Joan constantly had to deal with balancing her friendship (mostly with her best friend Toni), career, and finding stability in the dating world, which I could somewhat relate to. Maya dealt with the results of teen pregnancy, infidelity, and nearly losing the love of her life. Lynn struggled to find her identity (being biracial and adopted and sexuality) and fear of commitment with a career. Toni dealt with romantic trust issues within her marriage and sometimes her friendship with Joan as well as maintaining her career and finding independence within herself. Girlfriends was a great representative of diversity among women of color. It broke the stereotypes while also weaving in some stereotypes in a non-negative or derogatory light.

My Wife and Kids (2001-2005)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: Damon Wayans plays Michael Kyle, a man on a tragically funny quest for a "traditional" family. He's a not-so-modern man living in a very modern world. Can you relate? His stay-at-home bride (Tisha Campbell-Martin) became a stock market trailblazer. His only son idolizes gangster rap stars instead of him. His moody, adolescent daughter's two favorite hobbies are asking him for money and giving him grief. And his youngest daughter rarely lets her daddy have the last word. Perhaps after all of the chaos is over, he will realize that his dream of having a normal American family came true a long time ago. [Source: IMDb
Comments: My Wife and Kids is another show I still watch to this day. I'm sure most of the new generation may recognize the Wayans name from the various parody movies such as Fifty Shades of Black and Haunted House franchise, but I know them from the sketch comedy show In Living Color. Damon Wayans is still hilarious and his impressions and comedic delivery never grow old, especially the ongoing inside jokes like "ehh no" and smacking Junior on the back of his head. Tisha Campbell-Martin continues to be a great talent and shows more of her comedic chops compared to her character Gina in Martin. Sidenote: it was nice seeing her reunite with Tischina Arnold on Everybody Hates Chris with her comedy. Like The Bernie Mac Show, the kids really made you stick with the show and watch them grow over time. They made their mistakes and also contributed to the crazy comedic situations they got themselves in.

The Bernie Mac Show (2001-2006)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: Bernie Mac is a world famous stand-up comedian living the good life in his Los Angeles home complete with beautiful wife, Wanda, and a hi-tech SUV. Life was sweet for the Mac-Man. Then one day, Bernie's sister, in Chicago, is sent to rehab for drug use and her three children: teenage Vanessa (Camille Winbush), asthmatic wheezing Jordan (Jeremy Suarez), and sweet, innocent Bryana (Dee Dee Davis), are put into Bernie's custody. Raising kids is hard! Especially these kids. They always give poor Uncle Bernie trouble, making him want to "bust their heads 'til the white meat shows". [Source: IMDb]
Comments: Most of the older crowd back then knew Bernie as being part of The Original Kings of Comedy, for me, it was this show. Well, I did know about The Kings of Comedy too, I never watched it (and still haven't). Sure, he has made countless appearances in other shows like Moesha and plenty of movies, but The Bernie Mac show was something that sticks with me the most. The show successfully bridge together Bernie's signature comedy style with a family friendly atmosphere that was easily relateable. Of course, the actors that really made the show were Dee Dee Davis, Jeremy Suarez, and Camille Winbush. They were a family that felt like your own and watching them grow up right before you on screen was an emotional and special experience, especially the show's final episode with Bernie and Vanessa.

One on One (2001-2006)
Seasons: 5
Synopsis: The show follows the lives of Flex Washington (Flex Alexander) and his teenage daughter Breanna Barnes (Kyla Pratt). The series begins with Breanna wanting to stay with her father, Flex, whom Breanna used to see only two weeks a year. When he blew out his knee during an NBA game, Flex had his communications degree to fall back on (which he revealed in a later episode he tried three times in order to get due to failing the class twice) and became a sportscaster. Flex works for the fictional WYNX-TV in Baltimore, resides in the ultimate bachelor pad, and lives the life of luxury. He is a ladies' man who wants to be both a responsible parent and a best friend to Breanna. Flex is very protective of his daughter, especially with boys. He has only had a couple of serious relationships, one of which was Breanna's mother Nicole Barnes (Tichina Arnold), whom he impregnated at the age of 18. When Nicole takes a job in Nova Scotia, Nicole allows Breanna to live with Flex. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: Briefly seeing Flex Alexander as Maya's husband in Girlfriends, it was nice to see more of the actor as the main star. He's pretty funny and did a great job with a show featuring a single father raising a teenage girl. Even though this wasn't her first go around, it was nice to see Kyla Pratt expand her wings on television outside of her brief appearance on Smart Guy and a few other shows. I'm sure most of you remember her more for her voice work as Penny Proud in The Proud Family, which will be covered in a later Throwback post. Cousin Skeeter's Robert Ri'chard reappears with Sicily in comedic and entertaining supporting roles, helping Breanna develop over the seasons. Tichina Arnold also makes a few appearances as Breanna's mother and gives Flex some much needed roughing up to spice up the show and fill in some holes with their family situation. One on One was a charming and funny show that I wish would rerun somewhere, because I feel like this entry doesn't properly showcase how great it was back then. Sure, it was slightly doomed when Breanna and friends moved onto college and no sitcom survives after that, but it was still entertaining to the very last episode.

Half & Half (2002-2006)
Seasons: 4
Synopsis: Mona (Rachel True) and Dee Dee (Essence Atkins) are half-sisters who share the same father. They are completely unlike each other, but they live in the same apartment building, so disagreements are common. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: Most may recognize Rachel True from the cult classic The Craft as Rochelle and Essence Atkins from Smart Guy as Yvette, so it was interesting to see these two women together in the show, especially when I thought they fell off the face of the earth as a kid. Despite not remembering too many details about this show, it was one of those shows I tried to catch every day with Girlfriends. Seeing these half sisters live together and try to get along was an entertaining adventure. Their opposites, along with their mothers, made things fun and kept the ongoing tension from Mona's past relevant and interesting. Also like Girlfriends, it added to the multiple dimensions of black women and I appreciated that. Oh, and Alec Mapa as Adam is hilarious.

Eve (2003-2006)
Seasons: 3
Synopsis: The show is named for its star, rapper Eve, and is about a trio of women who have their own boutique and clothing line. The show follows their dating lives and those of their three closest male friends. Michelle Penelope "Shelly" Williams, a beautiful and intelligent woman of the new generation trying to navigate the exhilarating world of 21st Century love, sex, romance and career. Shelly has been a little too single, a little too long for her own liking. Her two best friends, Rita (Ali Landry), a gorgeous, single former model, and Janie (Natalie Desselle-Reid), a woman very happy to be married and out of the dating scene, offer conflicting advice as Shelly tries to find her way on the rocky road to love. Representing the male side of the relationship equation is J.T. (Jason George), a handsome, regular kind of guy who really enjoys being single, and his best pal, Nick (Brian Hooks), who is looking for that one perfect woman who can meet his very exacting standards. Donovan Brink (Sean Maguire), the handsome, fashionable manager of The Z Lounge, one of Miami's hottest clubs, is friends with both Shelly and J.T. and inevitably gets stuck in the middle when problems arise. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: When Eve was really popular in her hip-hop, she had a show on UPN (which I believe is now the CW). Before putting this post together, I watched part of an episode to gather some thoughts on the show and aside from not really wanting to dedicating tons of time into watching it [and some other shows], I decided to go with whatever I could remember. I don't think I kept up with this show all the time, but I do remember enjoying it...I think. I vaguely remember the premise of Eve being part of the fashion industry and the usual friend banter, but not much else outside of me watching part of an episode. What I did watch was kinda silly, especially with the out of place laugh track, but I'm sure there are a few fans out there that can point out some entertaining moments from the show for me.

That's So Raven (2003-2007)
Seasons: 4
Synopsis: Raven Baxter is a teenager. She can see glimpses of the future. A lot of time her visions cause problems, because she doesnt see everything that will happen, only about 5 seconds of the future. She her friends, brother, and parents always get into trouble because of her visions. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: Before Raven-Symoné became a problematic person in the black community, everyone loved her from The Cosby Show to That's So Raven. She had a sassy comedic delivery and felt like a real teenager reaching for their dreams, dealing with annoying little brother, maintaining friendships, and being boy crazy. The show talked about some serious topics among the comedy such as racial profiling and body image. Some familiar faces that reappeared in this show were Orlando Brown who has appeared in various shows and movies like Major Payne and Moesha, Rondell Sheridan from Cousin Skeeter, and the quirky T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh from In Living Color. I realize I left off the spin-off series, Cory in the House, because I didn't watch it and it was horrendously unfunny. I think Cory was one of my least favorite things about That's So Raven and without Raven to bicker with, the show is no good.

Everybody Hates Chris (2005-2009)
Seasons: 4
Synopsis: Motivated by his childhood experiences, Emmy Award-winner/actor/comedian Chris Rock narrates this very hilarious and touching story of a teenager growing up as the oldest of three children in Brooklyn, NY, in 1982. 1982 is the year that Chris (Tyler James Williams) turns 13. Filled with dreams of being a cool teenager, Chris moves with his family from the projects to the "Bed-Stuy: Do or Die" neighborhood. As the family's emergency adult while his parents are working, he's responsible for taking care of his younger brother Drew (Tequan Richmond), who's taller and more confident than Chris, and sister Tonya (Imani Hakim), who gets all the parents' attention. Chris' rough, cost-conscious father Julius (Terry Crews) works numerous jobs to properly support his family. Sassy mom Rochelle (Tichina Arnold) runs the household on a tight budget, is very strict, and works part-time in a small real estate office. [Source: IMDb]
Comments: Whether you find him annoying or entertaining, I enjoy Chris Rock and this show is something I still watch to this day. There's various channels that show reruns of this comedy about comedian Chris Rock's life and I've probably seen every episode at least two or three times. Not only does it give an insight on the struggles of Rock's life, but it's relateable and entertaining. No one character out shines the other in Chris's family and the supporting characters round out the story positively. I think every time I see Terry Crews anywhere, I think of him trying to pinch pennies and fix everything with Crazy Glue and duct tape. Also seeing Tyler James Williams and Vincent Martella on The Walking Dead, I couldn't resist making Everybody Hates Chris jokes throughout it. I'm glad they've made a career from themselves in TV and even movies. It's also nice to see Tichina Arnold on TV again in a major role after Martin. In short, if you've never seen this show, you need to get your life together and check it out because it's hilarious.

Just Jordan (2007-2008)
Seasons: 2
Synopsis: The show follows the exploits and actions of Jordan Lewis, who has moved to Los Angeles from Little Rock. He has to work in his gruff grandfather's diner, and survive with a silly younger sister, a critical cousin, and his over-protective mom who seems to know all his misdeeds before he even conceives of them. [Source: Wikipedia]
Comments: I'm guessing after Romeo!, Nickelodeon probably figured that they should pick up another lil' aspiring rapper and give him a show and it was very much short lived. This show was released around the time I was slowly drifting away from Nickelodeon's teen line-up. It was funny at times, if I remember correctly, but nothing extremely special. Whether the show was underrated or just whatever, I'll have to admit that Lil' JJ was a gifted young comedian though.

While there are plenty of other black sitcoms that came out when I was a child, I did not watch everything out there. I'm sure there are a handful shows that the older generation might have thought I've forgotten like Sandford & Son, A Different World, and Family Matters, but these shows were ones that I've casually watched and didn't fully commit from beginning to end of an episode or season. In other words, they were part of my childhood, but didn't leave as big of mark on my own personal nostalgia. I can easily point them out and even shoot a little bit of trivia about them, but I don't think they fit in this list. Anyway, please feel free to reminiscent and share your own black sitcom memories in the comment section below. Happy Black History Month, everyone!

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