I co-hosted the Black Girl Nerds Podcast with the youngest stars of the television sitcom Black-ish. It was a great conversation, click through for a link to listen!
Link: How To Make It As A Black Sitcom: Be Careful How You Talk About Race on Huff Post Black Voices
Several people have sent this to me and I want to share it here. I haven’t been able to dissect it just yet, as it’s a long read, but it looks to be a really, really in depth piece discussing several decades of black sitcoms and comparing their successes and the ways in which they handle race. All of this as black-ish finds its legs and receives a full season pick-up. There are some great graphs and discussion of a proposed “era” system of black sitcoms from the 50s until now.
Check it out.
Is Black-ish the new Cosby Show? I'm not so sure, but there's certainly potential. Also, Tracee Ellis Ross kills it.
Cree Summer (@iamcreesummer) tweeted this photo of herself, Kadeem Hardison, Darryl Bell and Jasmine Guy hanging out. If only this meant everyone’s long felt desires if a reunion were happening. But this is good too! It’s wonderful to know that some casts become friends and keep in touch like this. I love it!
Also check out the Black Girl Nerds Podcast where we talk with Cree about her time on A Different World and her voice acting career! Love her!
Ramou Sarr wrote this article, which I found via justwriteray, which speaks about the importance for representations of black women on television. She bring up some really great points about the need for better representation in the media.
In such a social society, television is one of the things that really brings people together. Many of my friendships and conversations began after I realized someone liked a show that I did. It warms you up to another person because now you have something in common. It’s a strange feeling when you’re left out of a conversation because you’re the only person who doesn’t watch that show. This happens even on social media.
I didn’t even know what any of these people were reacting to, and yet I still needed to watch; I still wanted to be included somehow. That’s the power of television.
This communal aspect of television is layered, and perhaps the most significant facet of it is the idea that television often acts as an agent of socialization, offering us a glimpse into how we are both different and alike, and informs how we view and interact with one another. Television also has the power to impact how we view ourselves and, by seeing portrayals of people like us on television, tells us how society views us. Children’s shows often have lessons and exercises about diversity and inclusion because most of us want children to know about these things, and yet this portrayal of the world as a diverse and inclusive one is sorely lacking in the current state of television catered to adults.
And we also have to remember that children don’t just watch children’s shows, they watch adult tv shows too. Whether because their parents let them, or they sneak it, or it’s on simply while they’re in the room, kids watch grown up TV as well. Someone in a class about children’s books said that kids only read books about kids their age or older. After a while, kids want to watch adult TV shows and adult TV shows don’t have the same messages of inclusion and diversity, as Ramou mentions, that kids shows do. So kids stop learning the lesson. I’m in no ways saying regular network TV should have lessons or that they all need family values, but there are ways people learn from television. It’s in our homes every day; if there were more people of color on television, adults (and the kids who see these shows too) would have a better understanding of the wider world around them.
In terms of relatability, black women can, of course, establish connections with white television characters, and they do…
White people, and Asian people and Hispanic and every other nationality should find that they relate to black characters too. They shouldn’t (finally have to) create a black princess and then only see black children using that doll. If Rapunzel (who I love dearly) is a universal princess and is found everywhere, then Tiana, Mulan, and Pocahontas and Jasmine should be too. Same goes for television. Black shows shouldn’t be considered a risk for only drawing black audiences (which is a bigger market than given credit for); plenty of people who weren’t black grew up watching the Cosby Show and Fresh Prince and currently enjoy shows like Scandal. Black should be given the chance to be see as universal.
Representation of black women on television is important because black women are important.
This is so important. Black women often grow up not seeing themselves as important because they don’t see positive representations of themselves in the media. More representation means more people, of all colors, get to see more sides to the black experience: both the ways in which we are unique and the ways in which we are the same.
Check out Ramou’s full piece here: The Conversation | Honest Talk with Amanda de CadenetThe Conversation.
12 Television Writers of Color You Should Know – Flavorwire
Hopefully this list grows more and more as the 2014 pilot season arises.
Some of my favorites from this list:
Obviously Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. I am currently taking an TV writing class and decided to write a Scandal spec script. We’ll see how it goes.
Mindy Kaling – of the Mindy Project, obviously. I didn’t watch The Office, but I watch The Mindy Project and enjoy it’s rom-com style (when it sticks to it)
Aisha Muharrar writes for Parks and Recreation. She wrote the following episodes: “Kaboom” (2.06) “Park Safety” (2.19) “Camping” (3.08) “Born & Raised” (4.03) “Operation Ann” (4.14) “Bus Tour” (4.21)”Ms. Knope Goes to Washington” (5.01) “Ron and Diane” (5.09) and this seasons Recall Vote.
Yvette Lee Bowser wrote for A Different World and created Living Single. Two of my favorite black sitcoms. I need to check up on her other show Half and Half.
Check out the list for more, some of your favorite shows have writers of color you might not have known about. These writers are from Modern Family, The Killing, Hannibal, House, and Orange is the New Black!
A discussion on the lack of availability of black sitcoms via DVD or streaming services. Includes a chart of where you can access certain black sitcoms.
“I’ve seen this movie before,” Bill Cosby said in a recent interview. “How is it that there are people of color who are CEOs of companies, that are presidents of universities, but there is no reflection of that on the networks? It is arrogance and it is narcissism. Even the commercials have more black people than the programs.”
http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/19/entertainment/la-et-1119-black-family-20111119 (Unfortunately the show discussed in this article doesn’t seem to have survived–I haven’t heard much on it–though for me, the title is ineffective to start with. Too long and a bit clunky).
Even on shows starring white leads, there aren’t characters in these high professions. Can we get that at least?
“Last I read the last African-American/ Black sitcom that aired on a major TV network in the U.S was 6 years ago. 6 years.”
“Black sitcoms were, in many respects, a TV sub-genre that presented to viewers love, respect and fun. And through these sitcom shows, they demonstrated that it was possible to come from and be from an minority group- and STILL be successful and happy without resorting to derogatory stereotypes and buffoonery that elicits the very stereotypes Black people have fought and challenged throughout the years. And of which they continue to do so to this day.”
Check out this post from a UK citizen’s perspective on black television in America. Even from abroad, they recognize that there is a severe lack of representation of black people on American television, especially the major networks. 6 years is a long time. And that seems to go for dramas too. Not too many dramas on network TV starring black people (and this is me including them as the lead, not as a token but as a focus. Won’t even bother trying to find a drama where there are more than one.) and right now we only have Kerry Washington on Scandal. I just saw an ad for NBC’s Thursday night line up–no black people to be seen. =(
I knew I wasn’t the only one with these thoughts on what the black sitcom is missing today. I just need myself and more people to help networks see that shows like this are worth greenlighting. And audiences to actually watch them.
(And the Nielson ratings system to die or be seriously upgraded because people like me (basically non-middle of the country who doesn’t watch CBS) don’t get our voices heard so shows we want to watch don’t get the “ratings” they need to survive. That’s a rant for another post.)