Ok…let’s seee, ummmm, what year is this, ok, 2008. The “black” shows on television arrre…Ok, well we have Chris Rock’s ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ that takes a trip back into the 1980s Chris Rock style. Then we have ‘The Game’ which is a spinoff of the now defunct ‘Girlfriends’, about athletes and their lives off court. Ok, hold on, hold on, there’s got to be another one, ummmmm, [scratchin head] ohhh yeah, how can I forget, the MyNetworktv channel just launched ‘Under One Roof’. Now if you’re a real ‘Under One Roof’ fan from the mid-90s that starred James Earl Jones, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Joe Morton and the now deceased Merlin Santana, you’d know why Martin Luther King, Jr. would be flipping in his grave by the mere use of the same title for yet another Flavor Flav train wreck. Can you think of anymore black shows on basic television? No? And oops! Flav’s show is a cable show, so you have to have cable to see it. Which in these days and times isn’t much of a consolation because just about every household has cable. So unfortunately, someone’s bound to see it.
Can’t you remember shows like The Jeffersons, Good Times, Sanford and Son, Diff’rent Strokes, That’s My Mama, What’s Happening! Not to mention, the black show behemoths, The Cosby Show and A Different World. We always had something to watch that we could enjoy and feel good about. We could even dance with our favorite regular on Soul Train later. And the best part of it all, you didn’t have to pay anything but the electric bill to see as much of these shows as you wanted.
So where did all of the black shows go? Did they get too deep? Did they say something to the black family that the networks didn’t like? Who called in and shut down production? Can you recall at least one wardrobe malfunction? Why didn’t the 70s, 80s and 90s black tv shows catapult us into mass opportunities in the new millenium? Instead, we’re left with a wasteland of programming terrain that is as nostalgic as Route 66 or Harlem’s Savoy or Apollo in its heyday. We’re peering through the window of possiblity, but no cigar. There’s obviously no lack of talent. In what era did we ever have a pure amateur walk off one stage (a singing competition, no less) and lose, then walk on another stage and right smack into an Oscar? Ain’t but a handful of Oscars on our mantels in the first place. And we all know how long it took to get those.
In a story in the Los Angeles Times, the NAACP’s Hollywood chapter president Vic Bulluck expressed his concern about the lack of representation from black talent.
“We’re very concerned about and disappointed at the lack of representation,” said Bulluck. “It’s something that we’ve been discussing with all the networks for a while, ever since the ‘Bernie Mac’ show left Fox. With ‘Girlfriends’ now leaving, the situation becomes a lot more urgent. The situation as it stands now is unacceptable.”
Unacceptable is a very good “start” to explain the unfortunate state of affairs when black Hollywood’s only jobs available are “Under One Roof”?