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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Top 10 Best Black Television Shows

Gabi Duncan |
February 11, 2014 | 5:42 a.m. PST

Executive Producer

In honor of Black History Month, Neon Tommy is paying tribute to some of the most talented actors and actresses in Hollywood and counting down the best Black television shows. Over the years, these shows have made us laugh (a lot!) and taught us valuable lessons about family, friendship and life.

Without further ado, here they are:

10. The Bernie Mac Show (2001-2006)

Late comedian Bernie Mac carried the Fox sitcom, which was based off material in his stand-up acts, for five successful seasons playing Bernie McCullough. On the show, McCullough and his wife handle the daily challenges of raising his sister’s three children. Bernie constantly rose to the occasion, and his candid commentary always put a smile on our faces.

9. Moesha (1996-2001)

In the midst of launching her R&B career, Brandy starred as Moesha Mitchell, a teenager living with her middle-class family in South Central Los Angeles. The show centered on Mitchell’s home life with her dad, stepmom and younger brother, and her social life with her three best friends, Kim, Niecy and Hakeem. She dealt with a variety of adolescent issues like love, sex, drugs and race. The show was a huge hit for six seasons and became even more popular for its many celebrity guest appearances.

8. Family Matters (1989-1998)

“Family Matters” holds the title for the second longest-running sitcom with a predominantly African American cast. The Winslows were a seemingly normal middle-class suburban family living in Chicago...until their next-door neighbor arrived. The nerdy Steve Urkel quickly became the star of the show, and his unrequited obsession with the Winslows’ daughter Laura became a dominant plotline. Actor Jaleel White nailed his portrayal of both Urkel, and, in later seasons, his sexy alter ego, Stefan Urquelle. The phrase, “Did I do that?” will never be the same again.

7. My Wife and Kids (2001-2005)

For five seasons, Damon Wayans played Michael Kyle, a loving husband and father of three who never faced a problem that he couldn’t solve with humor. After becoming a teenage parent, Kyle’s main goal was to prevent his children from experiencing the same fate (although he eventually fails). While eccentric and unorthodox at times, his parenting techniques result in some rather enjoyable television.

6. The Game (2006- )

The hilarious sitcom focuses on the relationships between professional football players and the women who support them. Tia Mowry played Melanie Barnett, a medical student who gives up the opportunity to attend Johns Hopkins to follow her boyfriend Derwin to San Diego while he pursues his athletic career. Barnett is instantly thrown into an unfamiliar lifestyle and must learn how to play "the game" very quickly. Luckily, there are some interesting characters to help her along the way. The show originally aired for three seasons on The CW before getting picked up by BET. While the show continues, it struck gold in the first three seasons.

5. Girlfriends (2000-2008)

Four best friends - Joan, Maya, Lynn and Toni - constantly supported each other through life’s inevitable ups and down and their friendship always came first. While the premise was nothing new, it still worked for eight long seasons. The show's success came from focusing on realistic female issues and delivering them in a smart and witty way.

4. Sister, Sister (1994-1999)

Tia and Tamera Mowry famously began their acting career on their successful television show that ran for six seasons. The twins played long-lost sisters who were separated at birth and adopted by different parents. Tia lives with Lisa Landry, an outspoken costume designer, and Tamera lives with Ray Campbell, a conservative, limousine driver. After a chance encounter at the mall, they all decide to move in together and become one big, happy family.

3. The Cosby Show (1984-1992)

It’s been 30 years since it premiered, but the iconic program is still used as a model for numerous modern family sitcoms. At the time, it was unheard of to see an upper-middle class African American family portrayed in a positive light on television. Patriarch Cliff Huxtable was a doctor, his wife Claire was a successful lawyer and all of their children eventually attended college. Not only did it pave the way for every subsequent African American sitcom, but Cliff will also go down in history as one of the best television dad ever.

2. The Jeffersons (1975-1985)

After 11 seasons, “The Jeffersons” was one of the longest-running sitcoms on American television. George and Louise “Weezy” Jefferson perfectly represented The American Dream by getting rich and “movin’ on up to the East Side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky.” Once they arrived, pure magic was born. Loud-mouthed, bigoted George could always be counted on to express his opinion, and sarcastic housekeeper Florence always voiced hers. The duo provided an entertaining exchange of insulting banter in each episode. The show also broke barriers by featuring the first married, black and white couple on television in the Jeffersons’ neighbors the Willises.

1. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)

“Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down.” If you don’t know these lyrics, you haven’t really been living. The story of a young kid from West Philly, who moves cross-country to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle in California, will forever be a classic...no matter how much time goes by. Why? Because of the amazing, unforgettable characters. Of course, Will Smith gave an incredible performance in the lead role but it’s his relationships with Geoffrey, the sarcastic British butler, Uncle Phil, his strict guardian with a fondness for food and Carlton, his preppy cousin with the irreplaceable dance moves, that make the show truly memorable.

Honorable mentions: A Different World, Living Single, Good Times, The Wayans Bros., The Steve Harvey Show, Smart Guy

Reach Executive Producer Gabi Duncan here. Follow her on Twitter.



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