News came out today from streaming giant Netflix: They will soon broadcast some popular ’90s black sitcoms. They delivered the news from their Twitter handle focused on black empowerment, @StrongBlackLead.
While black sitcoms like Moesha, Sister Sister, and The Parkers got fans giddy for the future binging and brand loyalists shouting Netflix’s praise, there are some black sitcoms that others would loved to see on that list. And since HBO Max owns the exclusive rights to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (meaning anyone with Roku or Amazon Fire won’t see it), we got to thinking…
What did Netflix miss out? What else could Netflix bring to the rest of us? What would you rather see and binge instead of some of these? So, that’s what brings us here…
Editor’s Note: We debated one of the great sitcoms of all time, The Cosby Show. But given Bill’s proclivities for ruffies and Jello Pudding Pops, we declined that inclusion. Emotionally, that would be Top 3 easily.Us
Here are 12 of the best black sitcoms we’d love to see Netflix get next.
*. Family Matters (1989-1998)
As an honorable mention, we meet the Winslow family with one of the most recognizable characters of the 1990s, Erkel (Jaleel White). Why honorable? This is easily Top 5 in black sitcoms on most lists, but Hulu already has it as one of its big players. And since streamers arm wrestle each other for exclusivity, don’t plan on Family Matters leaving Hulu anytime soon. And, not for nothing, but this easily has the worst theme song for any sitcom of all time. So bad!
12. A Different World (1987-1993)
The aforementioned perv wasn’t done with his TV legacy so Bill Cosby created A Different World, set in a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), a TV first. Denise Huxtable was on her way to Hillman, and then we met the rest of the gang. Ironically, the show got much better when Denise dropped out. From there on, it was great writing and took on many forgotten or feared topics in the black community. Brilliant writing for the time and ratings proved it.
11. The Jamie Foxx Show (1996-2001)
This show holds a dear spot in the pantheon of black sitcoms because we saw Jamie Foxx truly learn to lead. Loosely translated on his life as an aspiring actor from Terrell, Texas (represent North Texas), Jamie King comes to LA for…what else? An acting career. Mirroring geek life, the three stars of the show — Jamie, Garcelle Beauvais, and Garrett Morris — has been in Marvel movies.
- Jamie Foxx, ‘Electro’, The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- Garcelle Beauvais, ‘Doris Toomes’, Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Garrett Morris: ‘Cab Driver’, Ant-Man
10. Hanging With Mr. Cooper (1992-1997)
Mark Curry was a mediocre stand-up comedian but this sitcom made him a household name for a while. The show is a pop-culture reference (among children of the ’90s) to this day. Originally, Season 1 was a risque black sitcom — one man shacking with two women. It was harmless, but folk complained, so one woman got the boot and they brought in Nell Carter (Gimme’ a Break) and Raven-Symone (The Cosby Show) to lighten the mood. It worked and this TV series stayed good.
9. Roc (1991-1994)
When making a list of great black sitcoms, or any sitcoms for that matter, Roc almost always gets left off the list. The real-life nickname of Charles S. Dutton (the locker room manager from Rudy), Roc was a smart, mature sitcom. The three men there were all trained stage actors (From L to R, Rocky Carroll, Dutton, and Carl Gordon). That came in handy when the short-lived sitcom did something few did before and hardly any have done since — aired it live.
8. The Steve Harvey Show (1996-2002)
The current hardest working man in show business didn’t get his start here, but it sure was a catapult to super TV stardom. Steve Harvey plays Mr. Hightower, an out-of-work funk musician who takes a job as a music teacher. The cast was in perfect sync with each other and the writing (of course with Steve and Cedric the Entertainer) was hilarious. This show was an instant classic in the community and had a reach farther than that, for good reason. And yes, Wendy Raquel Robinson was so fine. Piggy, my @$$.
7. What’s Happening (1976-1979)
Aside from the ill-fated and desperate sequel-ish What’s Happening Now (1985-1988), these three guys — ‘Raj’, ‘Rerun’, and “Hey-Hey-Hey” Dwayne exhibited friendship better than most white sitcoms. Among black sitcoms, What’s Happening carries a special place among fans because it didn’t hold back on the strains of friendship, namely in the inner city of South Los Angeles. Despite the geography, the boys dealt with general issues, bratty siblings, and goofy antics. Nonetheless, it was great.
6. Sanford and Son (1972-1977)
Who better to play a cantankerous salvage yard owner than Redd Foxx? His rancor and vulgar stand-up made him a favorite on stage, but this was the show that brought him into homes every week. And shows like The Cosby Show owe shows like this a huge debt of gratitude. Sanford & Son, and its ilk, destroyed stereotypes of what “black sitcoms” were then. Redd Foxx (Fred) and Demond Wilson (Lamont) showed such good chemistry on screen that even white families had to watch it. They don’t make TV series like this. Oh, and the theme was one of the first successful songs written by Quincy Jones, so there’s that.
Fun Fact: The Sanford’s address was 9114 S. Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. As of 2010, if the junkyard actually existed, it would be located next to an office of the California Department of Corrections.
5. Living Single (1993-1998)
Before Living Single came out, young black people didn’t have many depictions of themselves in TV. Six friends…in Brooklyn…learning about friendship, relationships, and all that implies. And it gave Kim Fields a chance to grow up and escape ‘Tootie’. These were all young, black, and professional young people living their best life. And it was great. BTW, count them…six. This was the inspiration for Friends, six white people living in New York, learning about…well, you get it.
4. The Jeffersons (1975-1985)
Want to know why you didn’t hear of any successful black people on TV before one of the best black sitcoms of all time? They didn’t exist. Norman Lear was a genius. When everyone said it couldn’t be done, he made a spin-off (from All in the Family) about two well-to-do black people “movin’ on up” and it crushed. The great Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford, and Marla Gibbs as ‘Florence’ were spectacular. (Also, starred Lenny Kravitz’s mama as Helen Willis.) This sitcom broke down walls everywhere, and we are better off for it.
3. Good Times (1974-1979)
Unforgettable, unsubmittable, I go by N now
Just one syllable; it’s the end ’cause the game’s tired
It’s the same vibe Good Times had right after James diedNas, “Can’t Forget About You”
Even the greatest rappers know Good Times wasn’t the same following the two years of John Amos’ stronghold on the show as the bold patriarch of the Evans’ household, James. Dude was the hardest working man on television. If you can make it in the Chicago projects, you can fight your way through anything. And the Evans’ family proved that week after “Dyn-o-Mite” week.
But even after James died and we got the famous “Damn! Damn! Damn!” line out of Florida Evans, the show maintained its humor, solid storylines, united cast, and became one of the best black sitcoms ever. It showed us all we can have good times despite any of the tough times. Actually, it’s one of the best any color sitcoms ever. Period.
2. Martin (1992-1997)
If James didn’t “die” within two seasons, Good Times would be right here. Martin maintained everything during its reign in the ’90s — the cast, the comedy, and all those catch phrases. People are still called “Shenaynay” when they are trippin’ and we cheer on women to this day with… “You go girl!” Martin Lawrence was as raunchy as they come (one of his stand-ups was labeled NC-17), but he was TV gold here. Despite all the backstage rumors, this will always be a Top-5 black sitcom in most pantheons.
1. In Living Color (1990-2006)
Key & Peele. Chappelle Show. Neither exist today without the Wayans brothers paving the way for almost 20 years in sketch comedy. They were masters and not only did it launch the careers of several people (i.e., Jim Carrey, the Wayans boys, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, Tommy Davidson, Jennifer Lopez), but it launched black comedy into the spotlight permanently.
Catch phrases galore. Characters never to be forgotten. And that writing was superb. If there was an envelope, they pushed it. If there was a stereotype, they destroyed it. And if there was a bigot out there watching, they slapped it square in the mush. Granted, this is sketch comedy and not an actual “situation comedy” show, but this is In Living Color. I don’t know anyone in my frat (Alpha Phi Alpha, Incorporated) that doesn’t say this series when talking “black sitcoms.”
This was the best. For everything it gave us in our homes and in pop culture, it’ll be difficult to kick this king off the TV mountain.