Some of my most enduring childhood memories include time spent with my favorite television characters. I was a heavy reader but television influenced my writing style immensely. I grew up with the Seavers
. I wanted Charles in Charge
of me. I yearned to hang with Zack Morris
. Did I practice Balki Bartokomous’s dance of joy in my bedroom? “Don’t be ridiculous!” Of course I did!
As an "oreo" in the burbs, Black faces weren't abundant in my life, but TV provided a variety of Black interactions to enjoy and from which to learn. I thought I would have my own urban magazine like Khadijah James
. Zaria Peterson
had the coolest hairstyles for me to copy (unsuccessfully). Tia and Tamara
were ugly and annoying but endearing. Moesha
was the girl I loved to hate. Some Image Award winners, but these weren't "top rated" shows; still, they offered different walks of Black life for a young girl like me to observe and appreciate. There weren't any Black dramas, but I could enjoy a laugh without the shucking and jiving; fun, but not overly clever shows that weren't heavy with the burden of representation. These were shows that just “were.” They spoke to Black people being human as well as being Black, something sorely missing today.
After Fox decided that the Black audience wasn't worth their time and money, and with the demise of WB and UPN's urban-centered television, today you will scarcely see a show with more Black than white faces despite more television networks than ever. BET, Centric, Bounce TV, and TV One have this audience in mind, but there are numerous issues with content and network availability. TV Land, TBS and Own have thrown their hats into the ring as well, but people are still dissatisfied with the (mis)representation and quality.
Sadly, due to the dearth of Blackness, people expect each and every new show to be the definitive Black show. Much like The Cosby Show
had to contend with, there are cries about the way Black folk are represented, as if there aren't Black women having clandestine affairs with white men in power, or silly families with ornery Uncles. Cable costs have risen an average of 3.3 percent in the past year, and it is estimated that in 2013, 4.7 percent of all cable subscribers will cancel their service in favor of Netflix
subscriptions as well as using the network websites and YouTube
to get their fix. With this, net-sclusive shows and webseries have increased in popularity. Awkward Black Girl's
success in crowdfunding and viewership was an early indicator of the power of again creating the diversity that we experienced in the 70s, 80s and 90s, but on our own terms.
There no longer needs to be an uproar about the lack of diversity on network television, the poor ratings justifying early cancellation, there not being enough airtime for Black images on television. Those who decry Tyler Perry’s success from lackluster writing (quick jab) can focus on creating the type of television we like with a one-stop shop for programming tailored especially for the Urban Geek Creatives.
puts the power in our hands with a platform that renders the arguments and excuses moot. What are your favorite webseries and TV shows that you feel should be included? Let's continue creating content without any bones of contention, and embrace this platform. It's here. Let's be responsible for its growth and lead the charge in blurring the lines of television and internet. #newrules
*all old TV show references point to their theme songs on Youtube. Because that is a lost art itself. Enjoy!*