The invention of the television created a new outlet for influence on society, and with the premiere of The Ethel Waters Show in 1939, “black television” began. “Black television” can be described as a number of black sitcoms many black Americans have been influenced by or that are part of black culture.
Different shows display a combination of different characteristics and aspects of black life, from hardships and family drama, to overcoming the challenges many minorities face all while growing together as a family. Black Television is set apart from plain television with black culture and parallels in life from cast to audience; a certain experience actors have on and off the stage.
Older shows, such as Good Times and Sanford and Son display a sentiment of life college students today see in their grandparents. Economic opportunity, discrimination, culture from the era, and morals mostly align with those of that who played a part in raising young adults today.
More relatable shows, such as My Wife and Kids and Everybody Hates Chris signify the generation before today’s college students, parents. Both shows under the influence of comedians Chris Rock, executive producer of the popular show Everybody Hates Chris, and Damon Wayans, creator of the show My Wife and Kids. Attributes in the similar “no nonsense” parenting styles, sibling relationships and struggles of maintaining a family align with the notorious attitude of many black parents, all while keeping the audience laughing.
Several shows from the 90s are most relatable to this generation of HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) students, having the strongest and most impactful effect on black culture. Sitcoms such as Moesha, One on One, and The Parkers feature black romance as a continuous storyline throughout the length of each show. In Moesha, the main teenage character faces struggles from a black girl’s point of view on crushes, sexual relationships, and growing into a young lady. The Parkers uses Nikki Parker’s hopelessly romantic gestures towards Stanley Oglevee as comedic relief, and One on One’s Flex is a flirty bachelor whose lifestyle is changed when his teen daughter moves in.
Among the most positive shows is A Different World, a spin-off of classic, The Cosby Show.
A Different World showcased college life for HBCU students in the late 80s. The show both gave exposure to HBCUs and demonstrated black life in the collegiate world.
Classics like Martin and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air contributed to black culture, popularizing certain phrases, and influencing fashion and music.
Jarren Narcisse, junior mass communications major from Dallas, Texas agreed on Martin’s influence, “A lot of what I say and a lot of what I do is based off [Martin].”
Other shows such as Sister Sister, Smart Guy, and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper created a platform for young black actors to be the representation for youth in the media.
Jasmine Grover, freshman Sociology major from Long Beach, California stated, “That’s So Raven is a really goofy and energetic person, and black women are usually seen as the angry black women stereotype in media.”
The influence black television has had on its viewers is nothing shy of being impactful in various aspects of black culture and black life.