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What Has Happened to the Black Sitcom?

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What Has Happened to the Black Sitcom?

Old 05-10-06, 05:09 PM
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What Has Happened to the Black Sitcom?

I am 22, and I remember growing up with great, fun shows like Cosby, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Sister Sister, Martin, Living Single, Family Matters, In Living Color, Kenan and Kel, The Parent 'Hood, Roc, etc....A lot of these shows--in my opinion--were great.

And nowadays, it seems most black based sitcoms are relagated to UPN for whatever reason. And I read a second article today in the Boston Globe (the first was in Entertainment Weekly) that stated that due to the WB/UPN merger, a lot of black sitcoms will fall by the wayside except for maybe a couple like "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Girlfriends." It also stated that the people who work on these shows are predominately black, from the cast members to producers to writers to the camera-men...and a lot of them will be out of a job. Not to mention a lot of the viewers of these shows will have significantly less options available to them now.

I guess many here don't care, but I'm just curious for opinions...What do you think happened that has caused such a regression? I know that the sitcom quality in general has declined since the 1990's, but why does there seem to be such a derth of black sitcoms on TV on the bigger networks compared to say 10 years ago? What has caused the regression? It would seem to me that more progress should have been made by now, especially since those sitcoms back then were good.

Any thoughts?
Old 05-10-06, 05:13 PM
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you forgot to mention Homeboys in Outer Space
Old 05-10-06, 05:16 PM
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That article is off base. It would appear likely that the sitcoms the CW carries over will ALL be from UPN and that the shows they position around them on Sunday night will be similar to the ones they're carrying over. In fact, one of the expected new shows is actually a spin-off of one of the shows going away. UPN never aired more than 8 sitcoms to my knowledge (at least in recent years), and they seem to have never really had a stable set of sitcoms on more than one night at any one time. If the CW runs a 3 hour block on Sundays, I'd say we're at just about where we are this year.

As to only UPN, I recall a couple of shows called My Wife and Kids and The Bernie Mac show. If anything, I'd say we're slightly ahead of where we were with only 3 or even only 4 networks. Think about how many of the shows you listed were actually in first run at any given time.
Old 05-10-06, 05:21 PM
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I let you know as soon as I figure out what has happened to the White Sitcom.

Or should I say the funny White Sitcom..
Old 05-10-06, 05:23 PM
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That's a good point, too.

Honestly, I'd like to know why it seems like a crime to have a sitcom with a bunch of different people on it where the supposed comedy doesn't come exclusively from racial differences. Here in the real world, I'm JJ first and a white guy second. My old boss Ken was Ken first and a black guy second.
Old 05-10-06, 05:38 PM
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Hmm I wonder if it is just tied to the death of the sitcom. Do we know what percentage of programming those old shows were as compared to now?

Reality TV is killing sitcoms of all types.
Old 05-10-06, 05:53 PM
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I think the regression IS mainly about the regression of sitcoms in general, especially the 'family sitcom' as at least half of those you listed were. On the Big 4 networks you've got: A handful of sitcoms (some 'family sitcoms' in a debatable sense) on CBS doing well on Monday. NBC has all non-family sitcoms on Tuesdays and Thursdays. ABC has sitcoms sprinkled across the schedule, although none are doing especially well ratingswise. Fox still has Bernie Mac in addition to a lineup of sitcoms that are either struggling or cancelled/ending their runs.
Old 05-10-06, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Jimmy James
Honestly, I'd like to know why it seems like a crime to have a sitcom with a bunch of different people on it where the supposed comedy doesn't come exclusively from racial differences.
Old 05-10-06, 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by DRG
Fox still has Bernie Mac in addition to a lineup of sitcoms that are either struggling or cancelled/ending their runs.
If you can find it. FOX might still have Bernie (though, this might be the last season), but i'm sure they're just keeping it around to reach the magic 100 number for syndication. Or it's a quota thing..
Old 05-10-06, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by BassDude
Hmm I wonder if it is just tied to the death of the sitcom. Do we know what percentage of programming those old shows were as compared to now?

Reality TV is killing sitcoms of all types.

Bad sitcom writing is what killed sitcoms, not reality tv.

However, sitcoms have had a nice resurgence in the last year or so with The Office, My Name is Earl, Sons and Daughters, and Everybody Hates Chris. This is probably the first year in I don't know how many years where the best new shows were sitcoms. It was a lousy year for new network dramas.
Old 05-10-06, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by DRG
It works that way with Crabman, but it doesn't with Catalina.

I'd say overall, Scrubs best does what I'm looking for. That doesn't mean I dislike MNIE or The Office (where it's about the differences much of the time), but I wish it wasn't notable when something like this happens.
Old 05-10-06, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
Bad sitcom writing is what killed sitcoms, not reality tv.
Bad sitcom writing isn't the only factor. Reality TV is one factor (though it is overstated by most). I personally think the biggest factor, particularly for NBC, was the abuse they gave their brightest sitcoms for a period. Yes, I'm talking about Newsradio again. It's not the only comedy they treated poorly, though. When they were on top for a long period of time, it seemed as though they thought they could turn anything into a hit and therefore gave the crappiest sitcoms they developed the best shots.

I will say that it stands to reason that if reality was going to kill anything all by itself, it would have been the drama. Dramas tend to be more expensive than sitcoms, and reality shows tend to be hour-long shows (at least on network TV).
Old 05-10-06, 07:56 PM
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Speaking of stuff like Fresh Prince, Sister Sister, and Family Matters... what happened to the more kid-oriented sitcom? A lot of sitcoms now either tend to focus on single people or married couples where the kids are almost an afterthought. Not that I'm the target audience or anything, but hey, I used to watch TGIF...
Old 05-10-06, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by fujishig
Speaking of stuff like Fresh Prince, Sister Sister, and Family Matters... what happened to the more kid-oriented sitcom? A lot of sitcoms now either tend to focus on single people or married couples where the kids are almost an afterthought. Not that I'm the target audience or anything, but hey, I used to watch TGIF...
Cable ate the audience with channels like Noggin/The N?

I think this is the much better question. I'd like to see some brave network try a more kid/teen oriented lineup of sitcoms on Saturday nights. I think it could work for them.
Old 05-11-06, 04:56 AM
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I tend to agree that the Sitcom genre in general is struggling and the Niche "black sitcom" is just a victim like all the rest. But since its audience is so specific it's gonna get hit hard. The only Black shows I barely watch are Bernie Mac and Girlfriends. I don't watch any others.

Last edited by Giantrobo; 05-11-06 at 04:59 AM.
Old 05-11-06, 05:41 AM
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I think it's true what most have said about the ratio. Since there's so much on tv, it seems like there's more crap than quality but the proportions stay the same. If less sitcoms overall, then it will seem like there are less black sitcoms. It's been addressed that WB and UPN would trade potshots trying to attract different demos at different times in their history as the 2 newest networks. (and we see how that worked out just fine for them) Everything they learned was from Fox since they were the first new network and they tried to reach for the untapped black market. Once they became more established with a few niche hits, alot of that urban programming was slowly filtered out[dumped].

Not to turn this into a 'my show got cancelled' thread, and being another disgruntled AD fan, but someone posted about a resurgence after the reality show kind of faded, but I think every year you can find one or two good shows, a perceived resurgence might not mean there's more good stuff, it just means they havent gotten around to cancelling them yet.
Alot of crap gets canceled fairly quickly along with shows that may have potential and we can argue whatever is on is positioned to fail or succeed from the beginning, in regards to whatever TPTB want.

Much of what's on is just copcats of one another. So after Cosby went off the air, there was nothing on the air that was big ratings involving a nuclear family. So things went the way of Seinfeld and Friends.

So all that amounts to is: what kind of shows are hot, what demos are being targeted, and how many networks are out there? There'll be one network less after this summer so I wouldnt hope for any more diversification to come, for a while at least.

OP is only 22. Bet you havent seen (or remember) a black drama on network tv as of yet.
Old 05-11-06, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Rogue588
I let you know as soon as I figure out what has happened to the White Sitcom.

Or should I say the funny White Sitcom..



Exactly, what has happened to sitcoms since Seinfeld left the air, whether they are white or black? I think they all stink these days, except Curb Your Enthusiasm.

But as to black shows, they havent been great since the 70's/80's when they were churning out classics:

-The Jeffersons
-Whats Happening
-Good Times
-The Cosby Show
-Sanford & Son

With the exception of Martin, I can't remember when the last good black sitcom was on since Cosby left the air.
Old 05-11-06, 09:39 AM
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George Bush doesn't care about black sitcoms.
Old 05-11-06, 10:10 AM
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I never thought of "The Cosby Show" as a "black" show, since it was never really marketed that way (or at least I didn't notice it at my young age.) It had universal appeal.

But the current block of "black" comedies on UPN, as well as some of the older shows, come across as...well, a bit much. I think "Everybody Loves Chris" and/or "The Bernie Mac Show" might be the exception, since they seem more Cosby-like in nature. But the straight up "black" comedies are just not interesting to as many people.
Old 05-11-06, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Charlie Goose
George Bush doesn't care about black sitcoms.
Old 05-11-06, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by coli
With the exception of Martin, I can't remember when the last good black sitcom was on since Cosby left the air.
Martin wasn't funny.

Living Single was.
Old 05-11-06, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Draven
I never thought of "The Cosby Show" as a "black" show, since it was never really marketed that way (or at least I didn't notice it at my young age.) It had universal appeal.
True. Cosby's show was never put across as a black show. It was "just a show about a family". It was on the same coin with "Good Times", another successful show about a black family, being on the other side. "Good Times" was on the other side because it featured a poor, but otherwise intact family living in the Ghetto.

But the straight up "black" comedies are just not interesting to as many people.
And again, this is where Cosby's show was a success. It was never a "straight up black show". Also, Black shows cannot survive without broadening their appeal.

Last edited by Giantrobo; 05-11-06 at 10:40 AM.
Old 05-11-06, 10:37 AM
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you may have been able to blame this on reality TV a few years back when it was dominating primetime TV, but that is hardly the case now. the shows suck is the reason.
Old 05-11-06, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Charlie Goose
Apparently not even Black people care about black sitcoms.

FIXED
Old 05-11-06, 10:58 AM
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I used to love The Cosby Show, and to some extent I like Bernie Mac just because his face makes me laugh.

Honestly though, most of the "black" sitcoms are ridiculously black. I tried watching a few of them and had to turn them off. They were horribly written and horribly acted. Maybe I just don't enjoy watching people act all "ghetto trashy" or speaking in that slight ebonics accent.

And Sister Sister just bugged me. The Old Navy Twins were just so very wrong.

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