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Is Nostalgia All That's Next For The Black Sitcom?

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by Zeba Blay
September 11, 2012 10:14 AM
72 Comments
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Last month, dance choreographer and television producer Debbie Allen took to her Twitter account with a passionate plea. It was a call for the return of her popular late 80s, early 90s sitcom A Different World. Allen had just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the spinoff, originally conceived of as a vehicle for Cosby Show star Lisa Bonet, who later left the show after its first season. Despite Bonet’s departure, A Different World lived on for six seasons, serving as a fresh window into a facet of the black experience that had not been explored on American television before - the black collegiate experience.

“We need to recap this groundbreaking series that is so missed in TV today,” Allen wrote. “Can I get an amen?”

At the height of its popularity, A Different World was the second most-viewed black sitcom on television, tackling then taboo issues like HIV/AIDs, class relations amongst black people, blackface and the mammy image, the LA Riots, and the Gulf War. It was a new take on an old form, yes, but it was also following in a tradition that had began before The Cosby Show with programs in the late 60s and early 70s like The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Sanford and Son - shows that brought the funny but still, at times, attempted to take on “real issues” - issues that often acknowledged the not so swell parts about being black in America. And in the wake of Cosby and A Different World came a flood of black 90s sitcoms - The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Living Single, Family Matters, Martin, The Parent ‘Hood - over fifty or so shows on network channels that focused on everything from tight knit working class families, Beverly Hills millionaires, boy geniuses, high school music teachers, twins switched at birth, and housing project supers.

But then, by the end of the decade, something shifted. Sitcoms depicting black life began to gradually drop off the rosters of the Big Three networks (CBS, ABC, NBC) as the popularity of shows like Friends and reality television began to rise. According to The New York Times, between 1997 and 2001 the number of thriving black sitcoms dwindled from 15 to only 6. This included Girlfriends, The Bernie Mac Show, The Jamie Foxx Show, The Steve Harvey Show, Moesha, and its spinoff The Parkers. Today, there are just about the same number of black sitcoms in rotation, all of them on basic cable (like Tatyana Ali’s Love That Girl! and Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet?), and two of them the brainchildren of Tyler Perry (take that how you will).

It seems we’ve entered a period in which the black sitcom, in the most traditional sense, is entirely unsure of what it wants to be. The three-camera comedy as an entity is in a bit of a transition period - single-camera shows like 30 Rock, The Office, and Modern Family (all with one or two complimentary brown and black characters) have irrevocably changed the television comedy landscape. But for the black sitcom, a sense of nostalgia and creative ennui remains. TV Land’s recent announcement that it will begin airing reruns of The Cosby Show in primetime this year and the positive reaction to Allen’s tweets last month suggest a yearning for a black sitcom of the past.

Reed Between the Lines, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm-Jamal Warner, was one of the many new shows picked up by BET, created as a sort of Facebook generation answer to that yearning. It centers on a middle-class black couple balancing their careers with parenthood. Comparisons to The Cosby Show were unavoidable - even the set was distinctly similar to the familiar layout of the Huxtables’ iconic brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. In an interview with Upscale magazine, former Cosby kid Warner acknowledged the similarities, saying: “None of us is Bill Cosby, so we’re not trying to recreate Cosby. What we are trying to recreate is the universality and the timelessness.”

Sometimes the wheel can be reinvented into something sleeker, smoother, hipper. But, for all intents and purposes, it is still a wheel, and Reed fails to add anything exciting or new to the family sitcom setup. Tracee Ellis Ross recently revealed that she was leaving the show to focus on new projects, while BET has announced plans to create a spinoff series chronicling the adventures of series regular Jacob Latimore at the fictional HBC Mt. Pleasant University. It’s history repeating itself, and rather than capturing a universal or timeless quality the stale premises and seem weirdly dated. They’re redundant when they mean to be revolutionary. But that revolution happened twenty years ago, with Clair and Cliff Huxtable and their five well-adjusted kids, with Whitley, Dwayne, and the Hillman class of ‘91.

Two years ago, Vibe suggested that with the dwindling amount of black sitcoms on network television, cable had to potential to “revolutionize the genre.” Today, one wonders if all cable has really done is keep the life support on. Still, there is some hope, and it is coming not from television but from the web, a new frontier. Issa Rae’s wildly popular Awkward Black Girl has flourished, embraced by audiences starved for a different perspective on the black sitcom. Along with it new online shows like  The Couple, Roomloverfriends, and The New 20s have gathered followings, and it seems that the web is providing a platform for these shows that wouldn’t have been available to them on TV.

But while the web has proven an exciting space for original content, one still wonders whether the same space will ever be made on network television. BET recently announced two upcoming sitcoms - The Real Husbands of Hollywood (based on the popular 2011 BET Awards sketch), and Second Generation Wayans, a scripted comedy described as “a cross between Entourage and How to Make it in America,” chronicling the efforts of Marlon and Damon Wayans’ nephews to make it in Hollywood on their own. The concepts are timely and intriguing, but it remains to be seen if anything interesting will actually be done with them.

The future of the black sitcom may be a decidedly hazy one at the moment, but the content being produced for the web gives at least some insight about what might be ahead. Perhaps it isn’t A Different World 2.0 that the genre needs, but certainly the sort of “groundbreaking” new perspectives that made Allen’s show so popular in the early 90s and are now making Rae’s Awkward Black Girl an icon for a new age.

Zeba Blay is a Ghanaian-born film and culture writer based in New York. She is a regular contributor to Digital Spy, Huffington Post, Africa Style Daily, and Afropunk. She runs a personal movie blog, Film Memory. Follow her on Twitter @zblay

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72 Comments

  • Kassie | September 13, 2012 12:48 AMReply

    Check this out! Get this to Debbie Allen.
    http://ianevans7.blogspot.com/2012/06/different-world-hillman-college-2012.html

  • Ashley | September 17, 2012 8:31 PM

    Thanks for that link. Loved reading his story

  • blacktvexpert | September 12, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    why does the article's author think that an intact family as depicted in season 1 of reed between the lines is a stale concept? when over 70% of black children are born to single moms a two parent family seems downright revolutionary. and why she does s/he assume a young black man going to an HBCU is a stale concept? has anyone seen the pilot/script in order to judge the execution? aren't there different issues facing college students now than back in the 90's? why the rush to judgement all the time on black entertainment? there are few new concepts in the entertainment universe which means that execution is key. Is New Normal revolutionary in concept because the principal couple is gay? or is it just a "stale retread" of an extended family comedy that we've seen since the Brady Bunch? Why not applaud Ms. Allen and other creative and influential people for noticing gaps in the marketplace (shows featuring aspirational black teens and college-aged knowledge seekers) and trying to fill them instead of going in on her for having a not-quite-original thought?

  • blacktvexpert | September 13, 2012 7:51 PM

    I have seen Reed, execution questionable, but that doesn't mean I'm not hopeful about the spin off. I think Jacob (not a Reed series regular) is charming and a campus setting (without the Reed family) is something we haven't seen in a while. I wish them luck and better casting.

  • Akimbo | September 13, 2012 2:19 AM

    The backdoor pilot aired as an episode of "Reed Between the Lines;" it was bad. It's not that the concepts are stale; they're just familiar with terrible execution. That's the real problem. Have you seen Reed before?

  • lilkunta | September 12, 2012 3:48 PMReply

    bet said REED BTL is returnng for a 2nd season. This article says Tracee is leaving the show. So she isnt in season 2?

  • blacktvexpert | September 12, 2012 4:54 PM

    no. the show continues with the couple separated and Malcolm raising his blended family with the help of friends.

  • Darnell | September 11, 2012 10:50 PMReply

    WHO CUT THE CHEESE and lets cut the crap?! @ FIREBRAND, although you said Charles nailed it, you went exit stage left, 180 degrees away from his opinion. Remember Frank's Place?! NO! And that's exactly why it did not stay on the air... who was watching, was it entertaining and did it make money? And could you please define this "high-quality, original, and non-stereotypical shows" that you long for? I mean, who defines "quality" and does it pay the bills? And please, the word "stereotypical" should not be viewed as a negative connotation. "Typical" is merely a reflection of something or someone. It's not always a bad thing. Truth be told, the sitcom that best represented black life, one that made loads of money, was "quality" in many ways and received top weekly ratings was one you've probably never seen. Well, some negros, specifically those from the NAACP, were beating their chests and smelling their own upper lips and calling for "quality" programming. Consequently, the show YOU HAVE NOT SEEN was replaced by a loud, scheming and raggedy junk yard dealer, Fred Sanford and his 35 year old son who lived with him in the junkyard. That first black TV sitcom was Amos & Andy. Yep, 8 years after it's removal (because of crying black folks who didn't know what they were crying about nor what they would replace it with) the next black face on TV was foul mouth Red Fox and his dusty buddy, Grady. @ ALM, you keep insisting that "Hollywood" is in collusion to deny all these great black writers and their "quality" sitcoms from being seen, until they really need them. And then, when they do let them in the door, they use them up and kick them to the curb like a dirty dishrag. ALM, it's simply not that kind of party. If Hollywood has a model, it's the model of money - period. And they've been using black folks -- from the beginning of time -- in the oldest profession known to man, without shame nor guilt. Pimping ain't easy but it pays real good. So if black folks built it (well written "quality" programs that make money) they will come.

  • Firebrand | September 20, 2012 4:38 AM

    @ Darnell - You had me busting up laughing with that one. I have to say, your take on those two shows is spot-on, and from what I can tell, I'm sure we'd both agree on Good Times as well. We both love The Cosby Show though, right? By the way, have you ever seen a show called New York Undercover? I've heard good things about it, so I went ahead and ordered the DVD set from ioffer. It was the very first cop show to have two people of color in the starring roles.

  • Darnell | September 20, 2012 3:42 AM

    Firebrand, of course I've seen "Chameleon Street" but I have to say I am nothing like that character. You see, he went out of his way to dupe people, that's not me. It's just that whatever crowd I am in I feel comfortable. If a person wants to talk politics, I can do that. If one wishes to have a conversation on black literature, I've read hundreds. If jive talkin' and talkin' big shit is your game, I was born and raised around the best shit talkers. My son calls me a chameleon because, again, I don't feel out of place in any crowd. My lady says I will "coo" with a snake. In other words, I will talk to a drunk on the street as easily as I'd talk to the mayor of the city. And really, I get wisdom from both. But these days, my biggest passion is watching movies... and I do not like film snobs. Some of them are bullies who look down on those who do not share their "taste". That tends to plays right into the hands of "enemies on your own team" Re: Sanford & Son, as I mentioned that show was one of the first starring a black cast, so quite naturally all was all up in there. Looking back, if I had to "analyze" the show (which I really don't like to do. I try to leave that for the "critics") Fred Sanford was a lazy stereotypical con man. Aunt Ester was your stereotypical church lady who was sometimes loud and ignorant. Lamount was a grown man who lived with his father in a junk yard... nuff said. Grady was... Fred's buddy... nuff said. But it was funny to me. Now for my take on The Jefferson, I'll copy and paste my words from a blog post of mine. I hope it's not too long. The title is HOLY MACKERAL: They Were Much More Than Coons. I started off by talking about George Stevens of Amos & Andy fame. I then moved to Good Times. Now here we go--> "How about these lyric, lets see if they ring a bell... Temporary layoff/ good times/ easy credit ripoff/ good times/ ain't we lucky we got them/ GOOD TIMES! WTH? What's good about easy credit ripoff! Did I hear a subliminal message? How about this one: Beans don't burn in the kitchen [no mo']/ grits don't burn on the grill [no mo']/ took a whole lot of crying/ just to get up that hill [what hill?]/ Now we up in the big league [what league?]/ took our our turn at bat/ it's you and me baby/ and ain't nothing wrong with that/.. We MOVIN' ON UP! STOP... "We movin' on up"? Hold up, wait one minute, don't go anywhere. What the hell was "that"? I mean, to start with, George Jefferson was Archie Bunker's special kind of fool. Sure, George was given a bone by being allowed to say "HONKY HONKY HONKY", but what businessman runs around doing the slop and yelling honky? Give me a freakin' break. George Jefferson made Kingfish look like a choir boy. And, what's this "movin' on up" thang? I mean, the brotha had 2 busted down cleaners on the south side of Chicago. Do I hear a few more subliminal messages? Lets move on down the road. THE END! There you go Firebrand, a short peek, copied & pasted from my blog to you, my take on The Jeffersons and Sanford & Son.

  • Firebrand | September 20, 2012 1:48 AM

    @ Darnell - Reading you describe yourself and what you've been through, I couldn't help but picture William Douglas Street from the black cinema classic "Chameleon Street", an ingenious black con man who was exactly that, a chameleon. Since he's real, maybe you two would get along. Anyway, I dig your style, it makes you stand out from the rest. You're not an overly serious snob like a lot of others. I have a good sense of humor too, but I rarely reveal it on internet forums unless I'm in the mood. I should reveal it more though, and you just might be the person to inspire me to do so, because from what you described of yourself, you've lived the dangerous, reckless, and chaotic life I've wanted to live for a long time. But yes, we must definitely keep in touch, my friend. Tell me, what are your thoughts on "Sanford & Son" and "The Jeffersons"? How would you rate them on a scale of one to ten?

  • Darnell | September 19, 2012 10:42 PM

    @ Firebrand, re: "sense of humor" & "otherwise be lifeless discussions". Let me tell you the root of that, Firebrand. First, I come from a long line of Baptist preachers. Yes, without a deep explanation... I HAVE BEEN "THERE". Second, throughout my life of many many years, I've held many "other" job titles. Now, don't hate me or judge me, but some of those titles, not limited to, but some include an officer in the USAF, a stand-up comedian, a writer and columnist who has published poems, a husband & father, a drug counselor, a pimp, a drug smuggler & drug user, public office official, little league president & coach, and a convict... just to name a few. That's right, I've been locked behind bars. My last offense/crime was bank robbery. Also, in many ways, I've also been Ni**er rich. Needless to say, I've been around an array of people from ALL walks of life. My son calls me a chameleon b/c he says I have the ability to change "colors" or mix in any crowd. Anyway, since my journey/education/travels or whatever has afforded me the ability to blend in many "classes" of folk; black, white, rich and poor, I've been able to listen to and engage in several "diverse" conversations. Now let me tell you, the quasi-intellectuals and those who thought they had a little money were the biggest bores... the lamest duds... the most uninteresting... the biggest phonies... the biggest cowards I've ever been around. I could never trust them because I knew they were afraid to say what was really on their mind. Their image was always on the line (so they thought) and they were preoccupied at what others thought of them. But listen, what I've noticed in life is that not until a person's back is against the wall or they find reasons to let down their "defenses", will they come with the real deal (that's not always the case but...). That's why, for the most part (and having said all the above) I choose, in this forum, to use a type of discourse/flavor/dialog, that tends to inspire "conflict", laughter and "controversy". Yep, open up the conversations by any means necessary. Right or wrong, it works for me and I've kissed the sky and danced with the Devil. And I am still here to talk about "it", books, politics, the church, films, or whatever.

  • Firebrand | September 19, 2012 8:14 PM

    @ Darnell - Oh yeah, I read that bit online about Tim Reid only releasing the entire series on DVD if they restore it with a soundtrack that matches the tone of the show, because they apparently can't release it with its original soundtrack, sadly.

  • Firebrand | September 19, 2012 8:13 PM

    @ Darnell - Yeah, I linked you to a site that is selling all the episodes of Frank's Place in a DVD set, but for some reason it got deleted, which is odd because it wasn't an illegal link or anything like that. Most people are aware of ioffer.com and use their service to purchase all kinds of obscure and classic television series that aren't available anywhere else. I actually purchased mine yesterday from there because I was dying to watch the show again. I've ordered several other series from there such as A Different World and Kenan and Kel, and I haven't been disappointed with their services yet. Hopefully this post doesn't get deleted too.

  • Firebrand | September 19, 2012 8:10 PM

    @ Darnell - I feel the same way. This conversation with you has definitely opened my eyes as well, and I agree that it's very difficult to define "Best" because there are too many meanings to go along with such a term. I love discussing black cinema because it has such a richly complex history, which consists of many failures and winners, and not all of our people are going to agree on what represents the best of it. I've noticed many of your other posts on here and you're definitely a great debater with a nice sense of humor, and you also bring a lot of much-needed energy and personality to what would otherwise be lifeless discussions, and this was one was no exception. It goes to show that we don't have to agree to have a smart debate that we both can gain something from. Also, if it weren't for you, I would have never read or even been aware of that Donald Bogle book, which I thought was an amazing and educational read. I loved it so much that I went ahead and ordered another one of his books, which should be here in a few days. Hopefully this isn't the last quality debate we have.

  • Darnell | September 19, 2012 7:39 PM

    One last thing before you reply, Firebrand. YEP, I knew Bogle's work would put you up on a load of new information to add to your arsenal, hence my reference "your head is going to swell with "New Knowledge On The Brain". But man (or is it woman?) from my perspective this has never been about "winning" a battle while losing the war. To that point, I believe in the adage/saying... "We don't need enemies on our own team". Consequently, since we are brothers of the same struggle, what helps you, helps me, even if we don't agree on how to get to the finish line. Again, that's why I really really, truly truly appreciated this conversation. If nothing else, it may have inspired you, me or others to look at the complexities of this thang called Black Cinema, from a different perspective. You know, even if we don't like the SOB on the other end of the line or don't agree with them, the conversations must continue. Heck, we may hear something about a guy named Donald Bogle.

  • Darnell | September 19, 2012 5:27 PM

    OH... and one of your posts/comments (in this tread) was taken down/deleted. What's up with that? Was that your request or did I see something that was never there? Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me?

  • Darnell | September 19, 2012 5:07 PM

    @ FIREBRAND... first, Thank YOU, thank you, thank you! Thanks for participating in the type of discourse that I believe is rarely seen in S&A's comment section. That is, two mindsets that were staunchly opposed to the views and opinions of the other, yet, continued the conversation. To the point, they laid down their less than desirable opinions of each other (slinging mud, name calling and such) and preceded on a path that included conceding the points of the other or at least acknowledging something was true or valid. In my opinion and from my viewpoint, that seldom occurs in this forum. So again, thank you very much. Now I am going to do what I seldom do, that is agree to disagree. Because, for the most part, without lengthy explanations, it would be very difficult to define "BEST". You know, best at what? Best writing... best actors... best at getting laughs... best for that time period... best at being different/original... best messages... best images of African Americans... best at being non-stereotypical, or what? To that point, I never quite understand why "stereotypical" is viewed and/or used as a negative connotation? However, in closing, since you went there, Frank's Place had a few "characters"; guests and regulars, who some would consider stereotypes. One (off the top of my head) was the preacher who had one of those less than flattering "black preacher names" and he was on his hustle. And, the whole premise behind why/how Tim Reid acquired the place, was a stereotypical image of the black father gone wrong. So yeah, as much as this hurts me :-), we will have to agree to disagree. Btw, in doing my research ( I had to find something to bring to this table b/c I knew you were no joke) I had visited that link. Also, in trying to find where I could purchase copies of Frank's Place, someone mentioned Tim Reid, who wanted to distribute them, having difficulties with the cost of using the theme song. Anyway, in short, imo, from the old crusty jive-talkin' loudmouth black man from the flatlands of Iowa, you've been a worthy and honest debater. Good talk, thanks.

  • Firebrand | September 19, 2012 2:21 AM

    This will be my last post to you until you reply, but let me direct you to the youtube video for the intro, in which you can see several supporters of the show in the comments section who truly appreciated it in all its glory. You don't have to agree, but this is just to show you that I'm far from the only one who feels that way about this great show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpig9t0VdEE

  • Firebrand | September 19, 2012 2:15 AM

    @ Darnell - Also, I just got done reading one of Donald Bogle's books recently, and in it he actually supports my opinion that Frank's Place was one of the top black sitcoms, noting its uniqueness, freshness, delicate balance of humor and drama, well written characters, nuanced acting, complete lack of stereotypes, and the lack of pandering over-the-top humor that is so often found in black sitcoms. So, you pretty much know what you did by recommending me Bogle's work; you gave me more fuel for the fire. :)

  • Firebrand | September 19, 2012 1:45 AM

    @Darnell - My mistake, I didn't realize you already mentioned The Cosby Show.

  • Firebrand | September 19, 2012 1:33 AM

    @Darnell - The preponderance of truth? I'm aware that it's just my opinion, just like it's just your opinion that a stereotypical show like The Steve Harvey Show arguably blows a unique and elegant show like Frank's Place out of the water. Just like it's just your opinion that a safe show like Room 222, which had nothing new to say about race or anything black-related, arguable blows a smart, subtle, and funny show like Frank's Place out of the water. Don't get me started on A Different World, which took a while to even find its way, and even at its peak, didn't make the same leap in quality that Frank's Place did over its predecessors. I'm surprised you didn't mention The Cosby Show, which many point to as the peak of black television entertainment. Everybody Hates Chris was great though. You can't see why Frank's Place would fall in the top 20 of the best black sitcoms. Well, I can't see why the shows you mentioned would fall in the top 30 best black sitcoms, so we'll just have to agree to disagree.

  • Darnell | September 15, 2012 7:57 PM

    Firebrand, the jury is back. The preponderance of truth does not support your statement that Frank's Place was the best sitcom ever made starring African-Americans. For starters, not to highlight the downsides of Frank's Place (and there are a few) the following sitcoms would arguable blow Frank out of the water. Let's start with The Steve Harvey Show, Everybody Hates Chris, Room 222, A different World and of course The Cosby's. You can most assuredly bring an argument defining your definition of "best ever made", however, whatever those parameters might include, I still can't see how Frank's Place would fall in the top 20 of "The Best" black sitcoms.

  • Darnell | September 14, 2012 12:29 AM

    @ Firebrand - And I've watched a few Frank's Place(s). That's not a simple task. I mean, the show is hard to find. I had to call around to friends and internet outlets. That's funny how that works. Amos & Andy aired in the early 50's. It was taken off the air after 72 episodes. It was banned from TV around 1967-68?? However, they can be purchased off the internet 24/7. But Franks Place... not so easy. ANYWAY... we have to talk :-). I don't know your time zone or when you'll read this, but we have a few things to talk about. And look, go out and buy a strong cane. I mean, listen, after you read Donald Bogle, your head is going to swell with "New Knowledge on the Brain". So when you put on your brothaman-the world is my oyster stroll (some call it a pimp stride) you're going to need a good ivory cane to hold you and your new big-head up. But we have to talk about Frank's Place... we sure do.

  • Firebrand | September 13, 2012 3:05 AM

    @ Darnell - I've already ordered my first Bogle book, so thanks again. This guy definitely seems like the writer for me.

  • Firebrand | September 12, 2012 11:40 PM

    @ Darnell - Game on, and thank you very much for accepting my challenge. I think it will actually benefit you more than it will benefit me, if you actually do get a chance to see the entire show. I've already stopped calling you Uncle Ruckus, so no hard feelings. I haven't heard of Donald Bogle, but I'll be sure to seek out his books, I'm always in the mood for a new read. :)

  • Darnell | September 12, 2012 11:10 PM

    @ Firebrand, that's a bet. I mean, I love a challenge and I love taking trips down memory lane, so I am going to do my best to check-out Frank's Place. After I am done, I'll come back to give you my thumbs up or two big toes down. If the show is what you say ( I really hope that's the case) I will bow down and say you were right. If it's not funny, smart or anywhere close to your words--> "arguably the best sitcom ever made starring African-Americans", you have to say I'M THE MAN and you have to call me MR. Darnell, not uncle Rufus :-) Now is that a bet? And btw, have you ever checked out Donald Bogle? I'd recommend if you haven't. He's a film historian and author of several books concerning African Americans in film and on television (good stuff) @ ALM, okay we'll let ours rest. Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.

  • I have it. | September 12, 2012 5:20 PM

    Excuse me. May I interject? I think I have it. Whether we agree or not, there is no denying that the man CareyCarey/Darnell or whatever, is arguably Shadow and Act's most intriguing and unique reader. Let no one assume from his record of "foolishness" that his concerns on the black cinema are not as honorable as anyone who visits this site. I say that because I have been reading his shtick for quite awhile. It may be said with truth that he will "show his ass" as he would say, but from reading his stories of his life, his family and the vast knowledge on movies he has seen, I know there's a sincere person inside the man some of us have grown to love and hate. Therefore, I'd say more power to him -- regardless of the monikers. In closing, someone asked if this site log IPs? I think any action that's counter to the Las Vegas slogan "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas" would infringe on the anonymity many of us depend on. Personally I adore the freedom to come home from work, pull off my shoes while letting down my hair in preparation to voice an opinion that may find me in deep conflict with my political associates or workplace, if there was any way they could discern my true identity. I applaud Shadow and Act for taking the hands-off approach. Just my 2 cents... going back to lurking.

  • Firebrand | September 12, 2012 3:32 PM

    @ Darnell - Funny how you think I'm that dumb. It's so obvious you're the loud, ignorant, and jive-talking CareyCarey we all know, as these others have so pointed out. I have indeed seen Frank's Place, and guess what? It is funny, it is smart, and it is entertaining, so what is your response to that, Uncle Ruckus, or should I say CareyCarey (same thing anyway)? I'm looking forward to reading your response. Oh, and I suppose that since you won't see the Marlon Riggs doc, you'll actually go out of your way to watch all 22 episodes of Frank's Place and admit I'm right, right?

  • ALM | September 12, 2012 2:24 PM

    @ Darnell: I stand by my comments in their original form. Have a great day!

  • Curley Rey Jetsons | September 12, 2012 11:48 AM

    Darnell used to have a totally different writing style from CareyCarey; he just slipped up one day and used the wrong one with the wrong name. Now he's trying to play it off. It's crazy because I used to think Darnell was a reasonable person & it makes me wonder how many regular commenters are just CareyCarey playing around. Does this site log IPs?

  • hmmm | September 12, 2012 11:04 AM

    CareyCarey/Darnell, if you're going to "reinvent" yourself you have to change up your writing style! (No riddles, repeating ALL the previous comments that you agree with, singing lyrics, quoting speeches, (It's yo thang....DEAD GIVEAWAY)

  • You ARE CareyCarey | September 12, 2012 10:48 AM

    Pretending you think CC is a woman is not throwing anyone off. You slipped up, accidentally used your Darnell handle on a CC special, and now this terrible cover-up. Not working.

  • Darnell | September 12, 2012 9:18 AM

    Opps, sorry Huuum, most of my comment was addressed to Ms. Firebrand who btw, said nothing to support her original opinion. She deferred her lack on knowledge to Marlon Riggs and blamed her closed mind & mouth on this site that doesn't support paragraph breaks. Imagine that? She wasn't spouting that mess when running her mouth about Frank's Place; a show she has never seen.

  • Darnell | September 12, 2012 8:49 AM

    @Huuum & Firebrand, they say it's a poor frog who doesn't toot his own lilypad and modesty is not my finest quality, but since the two of you wish to associate me with the illustrate and effervescent Carey Carey, I am honored. Although she may be sometimes loud, sometimes ignorant, sometime arrogant and frequently condescending, I think she's one of the most colorful and original readers of this blog. And I doubt that she cares what you think of her. Why would she? Having said that, if I want a good refreshing laugh or a different insight into an issue, I know, without hesitation, she's going to bring it. You Ms Firebrand, on the other hand ( I don't remember you) from what I've read, you're simply dull, boring, a boot-licker and easily offended. Now why did you get so mad? Nothing I said about you or this topic was wrong. I get it, you read Marlon Riggs' doc' and he told you about the history of blacks, why Frank's Place was "significant" (yeah, the old hold card... not entertaining, amusing nor funny, just significant) and why it was taken off the air. Yeeeeaaah riiiiight. Do you have a thought of your own? But I get it, since you couldn't convey HIS thoughts while stumbling over yourself, you felt ashamed and mortified. So you thought it was fitting to blast on me to get that monkey off your back? Anyway, I'll be your Uncle Tom and your Uncle Rufus but I will never be like YOU... thank God!

  • Firebrand | September 12, 2012 4:56 AM

    Oh, and for the record, your last few sentences make you sound like one lousy Uncle Tom. Who's that one old self-hating black man on The Boondocks? I forget his name. Every time I read one of your posts, I hear his voice.

  • Firebrand | September 12, 2012 4:47 AM

    Okay, Mr. condescending Darnell aka CareyCarey. Watch Marlon Riggs' documentary Color Adjustment, which tackles the long and complicated history of blacks in television, and you'll see why Frank's Place was so significant and why it REALLY got taken off air. Until then, I'm not going to bother getting into a tangle with you. It's bad enough this site doesn't support paragraph breaks as it is, plus you've always been very ignorant.

  • Nadi | September 11, 2012 7:26 PMReply

    I understand where you're coming from, Zeba Blay, but you might want to rethink how to word your argument. You complain a lot, give blanket statements, throw in a few metaphors, and source elsewhere without building a credible reputation or writing style for yourself. I feel like this is a high school periodical piece on one's favorite shows of yester years or a conversation I have with my girlfriends rather than one from an experienced journalist.

    You complain, but you give no viable solution or even an afterthought of what can be done to bring those black shows back on television. The internet does not suffice in providing an appropriate medium if it doesn't lead to a more national platform. After all, how many Youtube sketch shows and the likes end up getting tv deals to be produced? I love ABG but the thought of it staying online only as a cult internet following is not where I want the show to go. I need more black people like me on my tv. What you failed to do is make a convincing argument why this should be to people who think otherwise and those who have the power to put that first step down in the process. This article is too stuck in the when and where, without giving any insight as to why and how. I feel like this topic is fascinating and damn important, but could have been explored more deeply and far more convincingly.

  • Darnell | September 11, 2012 9:34 PM

    Whether we "agree" with Zeba Blay and/or see value in her "argument"/article or not, speaks to a more pressing issue I have with our guest contributors. I think they all should follow the lead of CURTIS CAESAR JOHN, who writes the entertaining posts "This Week in Black Television". One can easily tell that Curtis's articles are not a copy & paste job, that can be cut and paste to fit any nondescript blog, "program" or newsletter. There's no way he can pull out one of his old college papers or old dusty "streams of thoughts" from days gone by to make them fit a present time of the week or month of the year. His writing shows that he's actually engaged (daily and weekly engaged) in the subject matter and not just stroking his ego. But more importantly, and most importantly, he comes back with the courage of a lion and the pride of a man secure enough to walk around in the nude, to support his words, cleanup any confusion and engage the readers. He does not take them for granted. And if we want to be fair and honest... the backbone... the lifeblood of most blogs is it's visitors and the conversations (and yes conflict, controversy and disagreements) they engage in. So, in my opinion, to a large degree it's selfish, if not disrespectful and unappreciative, for the writer to abandon their post after submitting it for the minions to "interpret", which frequently leads to wasted space, misrepresentation and a ball of confusion. Seriously, if the writer is truly engaged in the subject, not just pimping us po' readers , I believe they surely understand the benefits of a moderator. And if not they, than who? Does anyone disagree or agree? What's the payoff?

  • Firebrand | September 11, 2012 8:30 PM

    Charles Judson nailed it. And another thing, instead of trying to recreate past shows (most of which had a lot of stereotypical issues despite blacks supporting them), shouldn't we be trying to get high-quality, original, and non-stereotypical shows made and on the air starring our people? Remember Frank's Place? It was arguably the best sitcom ever made starring African-Americans, yet it was cancelled and didn't get enough ratings, and that was because it was so unlike all the other black shows on TV at the time. It had no stereotypes, it was a smart, down-to-earth, and subtle show that depicted our people in a light rarely seen. Plus it had plenty of personality. If we're going to use past black shows as an example of what needs to be put back on air, that has to be at the top of your list, unless you just haven't seen it.

  • Charles Judson | September 11, 2012 8:15 PM

    While I don't agree with Zeba's conclusions about the new shows for the web having avoided dabbling in nostalgia themselves, the rest of her piece is still pretty solid as a starting point for conversation and thought. And I'm confused why you would think she should offer a solution to "bring back those black shows" when the point of her article is that the constant attempt to bring back those shows is the problem. Do we need a National Platform like network television? THE GUILD again is a perfect example that not every show or property needs that. Felicia Day has turned THE GUILD into a franchise that's led her to create Geek & Sundry: geekandsundry.com. Day has pretty much created her own studio and network. If it's getting to network and having my show canceled after 5 episodes, or giving up all rights. Or sticking to the web and having a show I own that's on Season 5 and has partnered with Xbox Live, and Dark Horse Comics through Geek & Sundry which has a series like Written by a Kid. I'll take the later. And several shows, films and actors/writers/comedians have made the leap via the web: Lonely Island, Donald Glover, UNDERCOVER BROTHER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, etc. Execs are always checking out Channel 101 and Channel 101 NY for new content. And STAR TREK NEW VOYAGES maybe fan made, but some episodes we're at one point being downloaded by 30 million fans per episode, that's compared to STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE's 3 million viewers per episode. Unlike a lot of new media champions, I still see value in network and Cable TV. However, the net is also a place to pioneer reaching audiences and monetize content. At the end of the day, if you can find a way to make a living creating web shows and still eat and pay your rent, while building up a fanbase, why not do that? Does it really matter if you can do that with 100,000 viewers or 6 million? I just know that many of the current web shows we champion at times, ain't going to reach and sustain the level of engagement required if they don't dig deeper and think long term.

  • Darnell | September 11, 2012 6:43 PMReply

    Let me see what I learned from this ongoing conversation. First stop... the writer ZEBA BLAY hit us with this --> "and two of them the brainchildren of Tyler Perry (take that how you will)." Excuse me, it's not how "we" should take that, but what was SHE implying? I say... shit or get off the freakin' pot! Now, as usual, Charles Jordan un-apologetically said what has to be said. First, "these shows give us something to talk about." Being "positive" sounds real good, but many of our new "positive" writers and stories suffer from dismal writing, lack of conflict and the contagious disease that's spreading among black writers "pushing messages over story". Now that's (pushing message over story) the The Black Death, the writing style that destroying the minds of our writers, imo. Think about that... a "message" IS NOT entertaining! Anyway, moving forward. As Charles said, we should never put the burden on the audience. And this is show business not history 101. Now, there was no shame in Orville's game. He said the black community is ready for a black gay sitcom. I'd say NOT. I mean, really, what is a gay sitcom? Is that a genre; rom-com, drama... what? Now JMac said the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the current crop of black web series. A few friends get together, one being the "boss"and the brainchild, they come up with this great concept, but none of the friends have a lick of writing talent nor original ideas. They come in strong but their creative "talent" is insufficient funds. They wrote a check that their ass can't cover. Now BO didn't pull any punches either. When she said the following, I said AMEN --> "We always say we want groundbreaking and revolutionary... but when we get them, we reject them en masse and/or complain that they're not "groundbreaking". Yep, as Gil Scott-Heron said "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"... and if it was "we" would find something to complain about -- THAT. Oh, that reminds me, speaking of revolutionaries, the commentator D.A pimped slapped our guest writer/contributor right upside her head with the following--> " Speaking of the revolutionary Tyler Perry (take that how you will, ZEBA BLAY ) The reason I mention Tyler Perry is because on this very blog there was a post about a foreign film whose synopsis was centered around a Jewish man finding the quintessential ghetto chick and OH.... OMG....! TYLER PERRY at least teaches us valuable lessons...... the last I checked people were verbally persecuting the man for allegedly "TEARING DOWN THE BLACK COMMUNITY" which I refuse to believe because ONLY people (black folks) can tear down themselves if they so choose.

  • Hmmm | September 11, 2012 7:45 PM

    Lol and CareyCarey/Darnell has spoken!

  • cynthia nixon | September 11, 2012 4:19 PMReply

    If Black people would stop watching trashy reality shows like "Basketball Wives" and "Love and Hip Hop" then maybe the networks would produce more quality Black sitcoms. What incentive do they have to produce quality programs if all they need is a group of ignorant women to pull each other's weaves out in order to attract viewers????

  • CareyCarey | September 14, 2012 12:59 AM

    Wow Charles... but can the woman cook? :-) I mean, you did a great job of explaining the economics of "shows" but you sort of side-stepped my other question. Now, from your experience/perception, how difficult is it to "get to the table"? Have you noticed a "we got ours, now you get yours" environment? You know, is there a closed loop? In essence, is there a good ol'boys & girls club comprised of who you know and who they know? Heck, some folks get to the top and then nervously look over their shoulders to see who might be eyeing their spot. I believe my question is shared by many b/c we frequently hear how hard it is to break in the business, be it writers, director, actors or "techs", the road, that slippery slope seems to be very cloudy with few road signs. Listen, if nothing else, could you tell us your friends "background". Is he/she plugged, working in the business, paid their dues, has past ("successful") products, on the grind, what? On another tip, what's stopping them from taking their "idea/concept" to a different studio?

  • Charles Judson | September 13, 2012 9:00 AM

    @Carey Since this person pitched this series within the last year I'm not going to give specifics. There are ALOT of industry folks that do read Shadow and Act and I don't want to make it impossible for this person to get another meeting. This person was baffled that they didn't get further. They also didn't bad mouth BET and I'd like to see them get another shot at pitching something there or elsewhere. As for understanding the economics of the shows, I find that paramount if we want to go forward. There are certain companies that hyper-target their advertising like Automobile companies and Fast Food and there are others that go more broader. When so many Black shows only cater to Black folks, it's very hard to get a diverse range of advertising. When you can get the same demographic of Black males advertising during an NFL game, or Black women on GREY'S ANATOMY, AND still hit Whites, Latinos, etc, what's the incentive to advertise on a Black show that's 50 to 70% Black and only has a few million viewers? Pay attention to the advertising of a show and count how many different products they cover. You can often judge the perceived advertising power of a show by who is and isn't showing up during the breaks. I can remember watching STAR TREK: TNG during the second season and a Tampon ad came on for the first time. Then the car commercial after that was directly aimed at women. It's an example of advertisers discovering that STAR TREK: TNG has a huge female fan base and going after that. I've been looking for an article on it, but I think it was back in the 1990s, maybe early 2000s, that Tom Joyner made a big deal about who was NOT advertising on his program. If I remember correctly, he started a sort of reverse boycott to get those advertisers on his program. There definitely was a racial element at play with advertisers who flocked to Top 40 syndicated programs and even Howard Stern, yet didn't advertise on TJMS. Joyner's demographic may skew older, it's also more affluent with lots of disposable income. I worked one of those Sky Shows when I was at B. Dalton's and if you wanted to hit households making more than $50k your ass should have been there. This is a problem that goes back to the early days of radio. Not only could we not eat at the lunch counter. Black radio couldn't get certain stores to advertise even though Black customers were spending enough money that it should have been a market to go after. Or, in some cases they were paying Black stations much less than White stations, even though Black customers were just as lucrative as the White ones. Many of these perceptions still exist. However, the more advertisers walk in saying we want more Black women, we want Latino men 18-34, the more network and cable channels look for shows to open that up. Lifetime's move to program films and shows with more prominent Black casts maybe to save themselves. It's also just as likely they've realized how lucrative and valuable the Latino and African American markets have become, especially untapped ones. We're in a time of change. We have to have a grasp on the CREATIVE and the BUSINESS.

  • CareyCarey | September 12, 2012 7:15 PM

    @ Charles, without a doubt you have the film and television industry on lock. When you speak I lean forward as if E.F Hutton is in the house. Having said that, your take on BET was VERY interesting. From what I gather, it's obvious to me ( and I assume anyone who's really listening) that most programmers, big wigs and shot-caller's decisions are based on money -->" I can beatup on BET, but that also means I have to beatup on the adverstisers who directly and indirectly have as much influence on why something stays on the air" ~ Charles Judson. That's been your position throughout these discussions. Thank you for keeping us mindful of that fact. "WE", black folks may never agree, but it seems to "quiet" some of the more racially tinged "blaming" comments. Having said THAT, I'm interested in this --> "or BET Execs really do have a hard time moving or thinking outside of the box they've been in for years." You were referring to a show that was pitched by a friend of yours which was eventually given the boot. Now, since you always support your statements and opinions with loads of "data" ( I love that in you) and I respect your insight, can you tell us something about the premise/concept of that show? I guess I am saying that although you're a great numbers man and you're obviously closer to the business than most of us, I am curious to see if your "eye" is different than mine and if you have your thumb on the pulse of today's black audience, esp BET's audience? Also, you listed some of the reasons why BET might have turned down the show. I've noticed the principle players at BET use the same players throughout their various endeavors. It's understandable because like many directors/producers they seem to be comfortable using their same "crew" over and over again. They know their background ( if they are dependable -- or not -- in the long run.. sort of like ABG's and HBO's alleged discussions). So is it possible that your friend was not part of the "in crowd". Therefore it wasn't about whether or not the script's premise was good to go, but he/she is not a proven commodity and/or they have a history that does not blend with those in power at BET? In short, from your experience and perspective, have you noticed that it's more about who you know and who they know, than the products one brings to the table (if they can even get to the table)? Anyway, show me what you're working with. Drop that show that never was.

  • Charles Judson | September 12, 2012 3:48 PM

    @ALM It's a little more complicated than that. CW was born out of the WB and UPN's failure's to survive. Collectively they lost something like $2 Billion over their lifetimes till they merged to become the CW. Even then in it was in serious trouble till they were able to started gaining traction with shows like VAMPIRE DIARIES and GOSSIP GIRL. Advertisers covet 18-34 and 18-49, with those shows they were able to capture that audience. Ironically, THE GAME actually tripled it's demo ratings when it moved to BET and was beating out other shows in its time slot and for the week, even network shows. Now THE GAME has slipped by 30% to 1.4. Which isn't bad compared to when they went off the air with .75, but a 2 to 3 rating for the demo is a magical threshold that has helped keep many a show on, giving it some leverage. Dropping out of the mid 2's isn't great. I'm pretty sure BET's alleged budget cuts and dropping of major characters for season 3 has much to do with that 30% slide. ABC reconfigured how they structured LOST's seasons to help stop the erosion of ratings they were suffering. Much like Fox realized that back to back 24 was the best way to stabilize that show and combined with the juggernaut that was once AMERICAN IDOL win the 18-49 race at the end of the season for years. I say all this to point out this is why more creators should explore the web as an option. It's damn hard to be beholden to swings like that. To go from a show that has X budget to Y budget because of changes in ratings and from that a change in advertising revenue is tough. It's even tougher to always have a show that will hit those rating numbers. Anyone pitching a TV Show has to know when they have something they think networks will like, which networks or cable outlets their shows will work best on, and know when they have something that is best left alone by network interference and will thrive on the net. Someone a few weeks ago told me about a show they pitched to BET and when I heard the premise I thought the show might broaden BET's demo and lineup, which would be closer to that 18-34 range. I was shocked that they got turned down. It's either a sign the execution of the premise wasn't great or underwhelming--and I've read some horrible takes on really great ideas--or BET Execs really do have a hard time moving or thinking outside of the box they've been in for years. Either way, it's an idea that has a shot of finding an audience on the web. I can beatup on BET, but that also means I have to beatup on the adverstisers who directly and indirectly have as much influence on why something stays on the air as the size of the audience and who is developing the shows.

  • ALM | September 11, 2012 9:36 PM

    @ Cynthia Nixon: I must respectfully disagree with you. Reality shows have only emerged strongly within the last 5 or 6 years. There is still a large gap of time when shows like "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air", "The Bernie Mac Show", etc. ended and reality shows began, where quality programming was not being created. Hollywood continues to find budgets for all manners of foolishness (something that can be proven by some of the films and tv shows spotlighted on this site and other sites), but can not seem to find the budget to produce quality sitcoms with diversity. There is apparently a model in Hollywood. When your network is struggling, focus on African American audiences for 4 or 5 years (see The CW, The WB, UPN etc.). It seems as if Lifetime may also be following this model in the present day. Once the audience and revenue dollars are established, then the networks somehow no longer have the budget to fund African American sitcoms, even when the shows that had been airing were big hits and large revenue generators.

  • Miles Ellison | September 11, 2012 6:19 PM

    Shows like Basketball Wives and Love & Hip Hop are on precisely because that is what a certain segment of black people want to watch. The ratings threshold on cable channels is much lower than it is on broadcast networks. The two aforementioned shows are two of the most popular franchises on VH-1, but I suspect those same ratings (and audience) wouldn't keep those shows on a network or attract the level of advertising revenue that a network desires.

    Look at ABC and NBC's attempts to cash in on the Mad Men phenomenon. That's one of the most talked about shows on television, but it doesn't have a large audience. Pan Am and The Playboy Club drew more viewers than Mad Men (the show both programs were ripping off), but that was not nearly enough to keep either show on the air. The difference is that Mad Men is on AMC, which programs to a more specific audience and isn't quite as dependent on advertising revenue as a major network would be.

    The Wire and Treme are shows with three dimensional, complex black characters. The Wire is probably one of the best TV shows of the last 20 years. Treme is pretty good, too. They're also two of the lowest rated shows that HBO has ever aired.

  • Orville | September 11, 2012 6:07 PM

    The Real Housewives of Atlanta is the highest rated in the franchise for Bravo. So, it isn't just black people who watch reality shows with a black class.

    Real Housewives Atlanta has a huge demographic audience.

    Nene Leakes is the breakout star of the Real Housewives Atlanta and now she has mainstream success with Glee and the New Normal.

  • Charles Judson | September 11, 2012 5:08 PM

    1) The incentive to make a quality show is when a show attracts an audience and a following networks want and can use to attract revenue. If you're looking to networks to program quality shows, they're not going to do it because audiences stopped watching anything. Bravo went from doing productions of ROMEO AND JULIET to QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY to REAL HOUSEWIVES because that's where the revenue was. NBC was willing to sue the Weinsteins for taking PROJECT RUNWAY to Lifetime because it was just that profitable. 2) What the web offers creators is freedom from having to attract a broad audience to survive. Nor do they have to worry that their core audience won't be enough for traditional network advertisers. We're not going to some of these shows ever make to network because it doesn't make financial sense. However, on the web these shows can thrive. THE GUILD is in season 5 and it's a show Fox would have likely moved into its Friday Death Slot before they even made it to episode 4. Realistically, it's a show that would have never made it to Fox--maybe G4, maybe Adult Swim. 3) While some of us complain about BASKETBALL WIVES, overall we continue to ignore that what makes these shows popular is that they give you something to talk about. They have drama. They have interesting characters who stand out. Being positive doesn't make for compelling television. STAR TREK: TNG's first season is by most measures subpar, with some truly awful writing. Because it lacks conflict, pushes message over story, and is mostly retreads of STAR TREK episodes and recycled scripts from the 1970s reboot. When TNG becomes it's own thing in Season 2 it improves by leaps and bounds, by season 3 it's pretty damn good. 4) As creators we should never put the burden on the audience. If a film or show isn't connecting more often that's with what was created and has nothing to do with the audience. Audiences have to be earned and then you have to fight to hold their attention.

  • Orville | September 11, 2012 3:58 PMReply

    Well I think the black community is ready for a black gay sitcom. I don't know if Shadow and Act readers know about Patrik Ian Polk's wonderful show Noah's Arc? Noah's Arc was a wonderful show it broke ground a few years ago and had two seasons. Noah's Arc deserved a bigger platform besides the gay channel MTV LOGO to reach a wider audience. After all, Modern Family, The New Normal ect. are gay shows but they aren't about black gays.

    I wish someone would come up with a black gay sitcom that also somehow involved the black community. I think it would break new ground like Noah's Arc did a few years back.

  • JMac | September 13, 2012 11:58 PM

    Nope. I don't know what you're talking about. Thought I did, found I was wrong, tried to take another whack at it, and nah... I still don't know. Doesn't matter. I'll just agree to disagree - whatever it is I'm disagreeing about.

  • NO BRAINER | September 13, 2012 11:44 PM

    Please, JMAC. No spin on what I'm saying. You know exactly what I mean by "relationships" and that doesn't include family, friends, co-workers, schoolmates, etc. I'm being specific to one type of relationship. I'm sure I made that clear when mentioning how much "Let's Stay Together" sucks. And Noah's Ark is nothing but a gay version of Girlfriends, both revolving around the TYPE of relationships I'm referring to. I don't want to see them anymore, whether gay or straight, and I'm sure there are many who feel like me, thus the collective frustration.

  • JMac | September 12, 2012 8:27 PM

    The "frustration" mentioned in the article and posts is the stagnation of current shows in merely replicating their predecessors rather than reinventing the genre or pushing the envelope. It is not a wholesale condemnation of "relationship" shows. At their core, all sitcoms concern some type of relationship - family members, friends, co-workers, schoolmates, church members, etc.... Personally I get tired of the single woman/man looking for sex/partner shows (which is the particular relationship I was referring to) but it would be ridiculous to downgrade every sitcom without evaluating its originality and inventiveness first. The New Normal isn't a typical sitcom, doesn't merely replace gay characters with straight characters, and is addressing issues that haven't been shown in primetime before... at least, so far. Time and more episodes will tell whether it becomes a blueprint for later sitcoms.

  • NO BRAINER | September 12, 2012 11:12 AM

    Again, relationship shows and the rightful frustration with them was mentioned in the article and the in previous posts... smdh.

  • JMac | September 12, 2012 12:57 AM

    Who here said anything about a relationship show? A gay focused show HAS to be about relationships and relationships only? I don't think so.

  • NO BRAINER | September 11, 2012 11:39 PM

    Weren't the previous posters, along with the author of this blog, just rattling on about groundbreaking? What? Noah's Arc is groundbreaking because it focused on gays? It's still a relationship show. I'm tired of all the relationship shows, including Let's Stay Together, which sucked, relationship or not. And to some degree, The Game is too. And to be quiet frank, I wouldn't want to watch a gay relationship show.

  • JMac | September 11, 2012 10:26 PM

    The black community would be more receptive to a black lesbian sitcom than black gay male sitcom... Paging Wanda Sykes (provided she gets some help - can't carry a show on her own)... I just don't see the black gay male thing happening anytime soon. I doubt many have even heard of Noah's Arc or bothered to watch it regularly. Not much interest there. Besides I can almost anticipate the anger that would erupt: (1) for having the show at all and (2) for people laughing at the wrong things on the show.

  • Nadi | September 11, 2012 7:30 PM

    I would actually love to see this. It would be a gigantic step forward, especially if it does so without being racist like The New Normal or stereotypical like Modern Family and, you know, actually funny.

  • JMac | September 11, 2012 2:35 PMReply

    Agree there is an unrealistic view (and undeserved hopefulness) regarding web series. Only some are groundbreaking in theory -the rest just seem to be Friends, Entourage, or Sex in the City clones - but the execution falls flat usually just after the first few episodes. It does seem as if a bunch of friends get together, brainstorm quickly, then only think ahead 2-3 episodes at a time ... or maybe just one episode at a time. ABG was good/okay and had lots of potential when it started but now I don't know what the heck it's about. I keep watching anyway hoping she'll recapture the lost magic and push forward. I watched Roomieloverfriends and decided to reserve my opinion on that. Considering there's no comments on that post, methinks everybody is being nice - by not saying anything. Hopefully, our black writers will finally define their purpose and learn how to recapture the feelings those old shows inspired without retreading the past. And yes can we not just have relationship shows. People are more than just their sexual relationships and the pursuit of sexual relationships. Seems to be a problem across the board with web series regardless of race.

  • Orville | September 12, 2012 1:46 AM

    @JMAC I mention Noah's Arc because it was groundbreaking, and I wish a new black gay show was on the air. Modern Family, Glee, and The New Normal have white gay men on television and those shows are getting decent press.

    I think the problem for black sitcoms is that they are copying the Cosby Show blueprint too hard like Malcolm Jamal Warner's show it is boring. A black gay male show would totally flip the script and challenge a lot of assumptions black people have about black gay men.

    Noah's Arc is actually a very good show it isn't like Queer as Folk which was a white gay show but very sex driven. Noah's Arc was tastefully done I think and I believe people can purchase copies of Noah's Arc DVDs on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, ect. Noah's Arc would be groundbreaking because it would illustrate to the black community that black gay men's lives aren't just about sex. I think that's a misconception black heterosexuals have. Black gay men have problems and conflict, love and relationships just like everyone else.

  • Charles Judson | September 11, 2012 1:39 PMReply

    I've been watching these new web shows and they themselves are still just as guilty of nostalgia. They may not be relying on old sitcoms and dramas as inspiration, they are leaning heavily on remember what we did last week? Remember that time you did that thing and we laughed? While some of these new web shows are more assured of what they want to be than they're TV counterparts, they're still demonstrating a lack of confidence in taking risks to actually be about, say or take a stand on anything. While the current crop of TV shows are awkwardly creating characters with overly predictable arcs, easy bake messages and tired plots, at least they have arcs and the characters aren't impenetrable ciphers who seem to lack an internal life. I watch some of these shows and I couldn't tell you what these current filmmakers care about or are interested in exploring. For others, they seem to stop right at they get up on that linI've been watching these new web shows and they themselves are still just as guilty of nostalgia. They may not be relying on old sitcoms and dramas as inspiration, they are leaning heavily on remember what we did last week? Remember that time you did that thing and we laughed? While some of these new web shows are more assured of what they want to be than they're TV counterparts, they're still demonstrating a lack of confidence in taking risks to actually be about, say or take a stand on anything. While the current crop of TV shows are awkwardly creating characters with overly predictable (and often poorly written) arcs, easy bake messages and tired plots, at least they have arcs and the characters aren't impenetrable ciphers who seem to lack an internal life. I watch some of these shows and I couldn't tell you what these current filmmakers care about or are interested in exploring. For others, they seem to stop right at they get up on that line. The first episode of THE NEW TWENTIES illustrates that. It's starts out promisingly about a young Black Woman trying to get her writing career started and find herself and jettisons that quickly to focus only on the relationships. In the episodes we learn more about her friends than we do her. Her wanting to be a writer isn't even a main plot line, it's introduced and it fades away. Hell, even the problems with her husband isn't the driver of the story. I can only watch THE COUPLE's vignettes so many times before my need for a plot and character development kicks in. They're like everyone else in a relationship. Cool. My friends do that quirky thing too. Cool. Now what are you setting up in episode 3 that I'm waiting to see pay off in episode 6? What is it about those characters you want me to learn and not just have it be a representation of couples everywhere. What is it they are struggling with? What's at stake? If I had to describe who those characters are, what they wanted, what their quirks were, I couldn't do it to save my life. They're ciphers. Non-stereotypes, but still ciphers. Give these characters meaning and a purpose beyond making us feel good to see someone like us, but don't seem to be struggling, or growing, or striving like us.

  • Charles Judson | September 11, 2012 1:42 PM

    Weird double posting thing. Not sure how that happened other than I obviously hit ctrl-v twice and wasn't paying attention.

  • bo | September 11, 2012 12:48 PMReply

    Couple of things. First, it's interesting that shows like The Office and Modern Family are mentioned as those that "changed the television comedy landscape," especially since, if the point is that they're somehow "groundbreaking," they're really not. The only difference between a Modern Family (which owes a heavy stylistic debt to both the British Office, and even further back to the film This is Spinal Tap) and a 3-camera sitcom is that Modern Family cheats by having their characters express their thoughts and feelings directly to the camera, as opposed to having the characters tell each other how they feel in a 3-camera show. It's a great show, but otherwise, it's a standard sitcom dressed up in the form of a stylized "documentary" format. Another thing, for all of the crying about the need for "groundbreaking" TV, the fact is that if this stuff is put on the air (awesome, yet ANOTHER webseries about a black relationships!), will people watch? We always say we want "groundbreaking" and "revolutionary" new shows and films, but when we get them, we reject them en masse and/or complain that they're not "groundbreaking" or "revolutionary" enough. Not to mention, these new "groundbreaking" and "revolutionary" ideas cost money, and also have to appeal to advertisers, who are, like it or not, risk-averse and will stick with familiar ideas and concepts. Sometimes there's comfort in the familiar, and I'm not just talking about in terms of the viewing audience.

  • ALM | September 11, 2012 12:10 PMReply

    Is "Love That Girl" returning? The positive side of me says that eventually the audience's thirst for quality content will collide with the right writers, directors, and producers. Then we will see the return of diverse, quality sitcoms. The funny thing is, I remember in the 1990's that the NAACP STAYED on the networks about the lack of diversity. There would be an article in Ebony or Jet around this time of year when new seasons premiered in which the NAACP kept a tally of diversity on the major networks. In response, a lot of new shows were created. At some point, the NAACP either stopped caring or had to devote their time to something else, and then we saw a major decline in the amount of quality sitcoms.

  • D.A. | September 11, 2012 11:58 AMReply

    I honestly think that there is a serious disregard for hope among persons of color (in particular Black Americans), when there was something as revolutionary as The Cosby Show, we put all of our proverbial eggs in that basket hoping it would last forever. When there was the realization that it would come to a formal end, there was the focus on another project, and another project, and then another. But when it all seems like it's coming to an end we lose all faith in the 'genre' as a whole, and we think since the golden era is gone, 'where do we go from here', or 'will there ever be another golden era?' The lack of confidence in the ability of a few to make something happen is more redundant than seeing an episode of 'Reed Between The Lines.' It's obvious in how potential viewers have written the show off (including Tyler Perry's works) like it could never be what was once great........ these efforts were never given a chance. The reason I mention Tyler Perry is because on this very blog there was a post about a foreign film whose synopsis was centered around a Jewish man finding the quintessential ghetto chick and OH, OMG, now TYLER PERRY at least teaches us valuable lessons...... the last I checked people were verbally persecuting the man for allegedly 'TEARING DOWN THE BLACK COMMUNITY" (Which I refuse to believe because only people can tear down themselves if they so choose). I think it is commendable that there are those like Issa Rae taking full advantage of a prominent resource in our 'Age of Information,' but it should also be commendable that there are shows like 'Reed Between The Lines' and 'The Game' (last I checked, it was only a matter of timing that had Tracee Ellis Ross absent from the 2nd season, I think people read into that a little too deep!!!!)

  • NO BRAINER | September 11, 2012 11:23 PM

    Well written, D.A., but say what you want... "Reed Between The Lines" and that other horrid one, Let's Stay together or some crap like that, those shows suck.

  • Agnes | September 11, 2012 11:09 AMReply

    Wow ,wonderfully written. Let the conversation continue and set the ball rolling for black sitcom comeback on network TV.The audience is there.Definatelyviable businesswise or is it?

  • sandra | December 29, 2012 2:51 AM

    i just want to share my experience and testimony here.. i was married for 6 years to my husband and all of a sudden, another woman came into the picture.. he started hailing me and he was abusive..but i still loved him with all my heart and wanted him at all cost?then he filed for divorce..my whole life was turning apart and i didn't know what to do..he moved out of the house and abandoned the kids.. so someone told me about trying spiritual means to get my husband back and introduced me to a spell caster?so i decided to try it reluctantly..although i didn't believe in all those things? then when he did the special prayers and spell, after 2days, my husband came back and was pleading..he had realized his mistakes..i just couldn't believe it.. anyways we are back together now and we are happy..in case anyone needs this man, his email address greatzuba@gmail.com, his spells is for a better life. again his email is greatzuba@gmail.com
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