It’s No Cosby Show, But Hey: 9 Underrated Black TV Shows That Should Have Got More Love
Name the classic black TV shows and the usual suspects always get named: “Cosby Show,” “Martin,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Living Single,” “In Living Color,” and so on and so forth. But we all know that the ’90s and early ’00s were the golden age for great black sitcoms, and while the ones already named got all the shine, a flurry of awesome ones deserved just as much love and notoriety for their hilarity, realness and for being just plain ‘ol good TV. Here are nine of our favorites that could have used some more love (and views), and feel free to name your own underrated joints. Be prepared to click. *winks*
Aside from having a pretty awesome theme song, the show about a church in Philly and the people who kept it going was an underrated gem. Maybe the storyline was a little too different for some, but for those who watched, we know that it was delightfully humorous and smart. And while it didn’t touch on the most serious of issues as early ’90s sitcoms tried to do (AIDS, drug use, teen pregnancy, etc.), the wholesomeness of it all worked. It went for five seasons, and if you’re a fan or never watched, you can catch episodes on TVOne nowadays.
Don’t front, the first few seasons of the show headed up by our favorite braided-up singer and former “Thea” star were awesome. Mo stayed with drama and she made some decisions that might not have been popular, but hey, it kept the show interesting. I know you remember when she passed up on the shiny new Saturn her dad bought her for that raggedy a** Jeep!? That couldn’t have been me. It also helped that not only did she have the cutest boos (a young Usher AND the black boy from “Mighty Ducks”??? Score.), but they kept it serious with real topics that weren’t fed to you in a corny manner. From drug use, to racial issues and teen pregnancy. Of course, the last few seasons weren’t as delightful, especially when they brought Ray J in the picture as the cousin/brother, but UPN could have at least done right by the series and let them have a proper series finale. Ah well, we’ll always have the bankhead bounce and “Mo-to-the”…
I just find everything Robert Townsend does to be underrated, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks so. This little TV show is an example. And sure, as the title says, it wasn’t anything near the critical darling that was the “Cosby Show,” but the family comedy that helped launch the WB network was a very entertaining show. The Harlem family dealt with all kinds of drama, including Robert Townsend’s character being shot after bringing a troubled youth into his home to get a chance at a better life. What also kept things interesting was all the random celeb cameos in the series, including a thug a** Tyrese and a troubled Da Brat, whose character got a high school degree on the show. And while I couldn’t really stand the eldest son, the kids were adorable. And who doesn’t love Reagan Gomez-Preston?
Everybody Hates Chris
As someone who didn’t have cable when this show debuted, it was something I decided to give a try because…well, I didn’t have anything else to watch! But to my surprise every episode I watched was absolutely hilarious. And nobody had me chuckling more than Tichina Arnold’s character of Rochelle, and Terry Crews as the very cheap but lovable Julius. From joking about having polio to slapping the black off of folks (they literally had a bag with brown dye in it that was supposed to be Chris’s face), the laughs always kept coming. But I liked that they kept it real with the show, this was a poor family joking about food stamps, racial prejudice, bullying and more. Only Chris Rock could make something like that funny and equally moving. Of course, the show did well critically and even received a bevvy of awards nominations, but viewership was another story. Now that it’s in syndication on channels like BET and Nick at Nite, it’s finally getting the shine it should have a long time ago.
Half & Half
As silly as it was at times, “Half & Half” was pretty great, maybe that’s why it followed my favorite show on UPN’s Monday-night lineup, “Girlfriends.” Following estranged sisters Deedee and Mona as they try to rebuild their relationship, we met a slew of hilarious supporting characters, including Adam, a gay assistant at Mona’s job, as well as Big Deedee and Phyllis Thorne, the always bickering mothers of both Deedee and Mona. MC Lyte’s recurring role as Mona’s boss was even surprisingly funny. But as much as I liked watching these two polar opposites struggle to find love and get along with one another, others weren’t paying attention. Including the CW, who passed on picking up the show when UPN picked up sitcoms from the network’s lineup. They missed out!
My Wife And Kids
I was pleasantly surprised by this series and all the heartwarming characters on it who were also funny as hell. From big head Junior who was the family dunce, to clumsy but smart Claire, and of course Michael Kyle (Damon Wayans) and Jay (Tisha Campbell) as the goofy parents who never really grew up 100% after having their brood as teenagers, this show was a must-see for me on the otherwise dull and color-challenged ABC (shout out to “The George Lopez Show” though). While it did well with getting nominated for a slew of light awards, viewership was so-so and the show bowed out by season five.
The Wayans Bros.
I loved every theme song this show had, as well as the series itself. The brothers were a nice contrast from one another, what with Shawn being the pretty boy with big dreams, and Marlon being the stupid but funny one who just so happens to be a good actor. His silly behind, along with “Pops” was what had me tuning in nonstop when this show was big on the WB. But of course, like mos of the shows on this list for some reason, five seasons was all these brothers got and they weren’t even granted a proper series finale. Oh well, there’s always the syndicated episodes on MTV2!
Malcolm & Eddie
Who else knew nothing about Kansas City, Mo. before watching this show? But if every man in the city looked something like Malcolm Jamal Warner during his loc stage, I would love to go there. Anywho, the series was probably one of my favorites in the late ’90s thanks to Eddie Griffin (I’ll never forget his impression of Prince), and the still strong comedic timing of Warner. It’s also always a nice treat when Karen Malina White (from shows like “Cosby Show” and “A Different World”) is on TV with her motormouth. After only four seasons the show was dunzo. But if you’re thirsty like me though, the show’s first season is out on DVD.
Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper
When you think of popular black television shows that people still talk about to this day, “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper” probably isn’t one that pops up on you or critic’s personal lists. However, for those who followed the show about an NBA player-turned-teacher/coach, you probably know that it was still pretty dope, and not just because of the catchy theme song and the Oakland setting. Blame it on the uber-funny Mark Curry (where is he!?) and the fact that Raven-Symone became a series regular (and you know any show with her on is a winner–aside from that “State of Georgia” mess), but the show was popular for a hot second, even getting the chance to be part of ABC’s coveted TGIF lineups. But the show was canceled after its fifth season unexpectedly. Just when Mark and Vanessa were finally going to get married! Thanks for nothing ABC…