Black Family Sitcoms
Before the 1970’s, the number of black shows was almost non-existent. After the 70’s, an influx of different shows appeared. However, many of the shows were very stereotypical of black culture and experience. One example is Sanford and Son, which showed an extremely poor father and his son. The actors in the sitcoms were loud, obnoxious, and illogical. The theme of the show usually consisted of playing the dozens with each other. Soon, the sitcom Good Times finally showed the real black experience. Moreover, The Jeffersons soon became the landmark black sitcom. The male lead was George Jefferson, played by Sherman Hemsley. He portrayed his part well, a money conscious man with a small temper. The most important attribute about him was that he was a good husband to his wife. All of the shows I just mentioned were before my time. I still watch them in syndication. They really had a big influence on me and many other black sitcoms to come. Most importantly, those shows had a really big influence on me. They developed my whole personality. These sitcoms showed me that there are black people with real emotions, worries and feelings. Seeing successful, educated black faces was all I needed. If they can do it, so can I.
When I was very young my family lived in the Crown heights section of Brooklyn. The first black sitcom that I experienced was The Cosby Show. The Cosby Show is, to me, the most influential show in American culture and also in my life. Growing up in a society where it’s hard to have black role models, The Cosby show was a breath of fresh air. Bill Cosby is definitely one of my role models. The revolutionary thing that Cosby did was to make his background cast, like the producer or director, black. Many other shows at that time always had white producers, which did not cater to black people’s needs. There were many critics that did not agree with Cosby not putting episodes on racism or prejudice about black people. However, he explained that black do not always live like that. It is actually prejudice that black people are always followed by racism. From the parents to the youngest child, everybody played their part very well. I also loved the music of the show. The jazz played really reminded me of when I used to travel with my father to Manhattan and also to the doctor’s office. It makes me recollect on my childhood. Jazz and Hip Hop is a big part of my life. That show makes me feel good about my childhood. The final episode was so sad. Cosby’s son, Theo, was graduating from NYU. The final scene was just Cosby and his wife, Clair. Cosby showed Clair that the doorbell was working, as the doorbell was broken for the past 15 episodes. When he pressed it, a jazz tune played until the show ended. They walked off the stage together waving. The whole audience clapped, watching as the 8 wonderful seasons came to an end.
The other show that influenced me was the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It’s funny because before I never used to like the show. It was only until the show ended two years later that I started to pay attention to it’s magic. Will Smith was also one of my role models. He already made a name for himself as a Hip Hop star. Instead he wanted to explore his horizons and become an actor. He was so cool and suave. He was also very intelligent. In my younger years, I always wanted to be like Will Smith. He hardly studied, but somehow seemed to ace every test. He was always good with girls. He had all the right pickup lines. I modeled my life after him. I would always look in the mirror and think I was fine. What I really learned from Will Smith was that he was borderline cocky, and very confident. Every time I even think about that show, I laugh. I really miss that show.
I think every body would agree with me that Family Matters was THE show to watch on TGIF Fridays. Since Family Matters was around my lifetime, I really was into that show. Steve Urkel, at first a guest actor, created the success of the show. He was my favorite character. Steve taught me to embrace your intelligence. In the show, even though many people picked on Steve, they saw the good in him. Steve taught me to have unconditional love for somebody, whether they hurt you or not. Carl, the father of the family, was such a funny dad. He really depicted many fathers, including mine. The theme that was good is the Steve-Laura relaionship. You were always wondering, will Steve ever get Laura? Will Laura ever love Steve back? Later in the show Laura starts to see steve for the loving, kind person Steve is. Steve had a good heart. He would make the Winslows refelct on themselves so they can see the wrong in their ways.
The Black Sitcoms would always get me through the day, and through my problems. It was an escape. Those shows also brought in a second influx of later sitcoms. To name a few: Living Single, Martin, Jamie Foxx Show, All That, Moesha, The Wayans Bros., and Sister Sister. All of these were the decendents of the big three: The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Family Matters. I grew up on all of those shows. They gave me my personality and my worldly view. If they can do it, why can’t I? I always wondered, how did I ever have time to study?