Seriously, you damn dinosaur, why are you still paying for any of it when there’s Netflix as well as all this great free programming available on the Internet? And why are you still paying or even giving your attention to networks and cable channels alike, who still thumb their noses at Black scripted series (no reality television does not count). At this point, it’s all a waste of money.
That’s why I have created this definitive (not really) list of smart web series you should be watching. Seriously, this list is pretty legit. And is a result of extensive research, completed over a series of three days including Wash Day, which is the whole day I put aside to take care of my loc maintenance. And because I have lots of hair and am slow in general with the re-twisting, I was able to watch the first seasons of these series.
So without further ado, here is a list of 10 smart Black web series you should be watching (and supporting) instead of cable. Enjoy.
Genre: situational comedy.
Created/Written/Directed by: Carlton Jordan and Crystle “Clear” Roberson
Starring; Erica Nicole Robinson, Skye Marshall, Leilana Smith, Preston Smiles, Ary Katz
What is it about: Two friends help their best girlfriend and the recently dumped girlfriend out of depression by helping her get back into shape – and under a new man.
What Makes this Smart: Well, I have written an entire profile on this series a while ago, when it was just one episode. Back then, I appreciated that the series approached the whole tired relationship genre from a new angle. But now that the entire first season is out, I say watch it because it is hilarious, especially the yoga teacher.
Entangled with You
Genre: situational comedy.
Created/Directed/Produced by Caryn K. Hayes
Starring: Loren Lillian, Kathryn Taylor Smith, Crystal Coney, Jes Meza, Shannan Leigh Reeve, David
What is it about: A lesbian black woman breaks up with her girlfriend and moves in with a heterosexual Black woman, who too has experienced a breakup after getting a sexually transmitted infection from her dude, and they instantly become friends.
What Makes this Smart: Lesbian and straight-women relationships seems so much like novel ideas. I mean, television will do straight male-straight girl roommates or gay male-straight woman roommates but the idea of two women (or men even) with different sexual orientations being friends with one another appears to be unheard of in Hollywood. In my opinion this series does a good job in normalizing what are essentially normal relationships. And it kind of reminds me of Kate and Allie – if Allie had ever came out the closet. Plus with 19 million new sexually transmitted infections every year – and a sizable portion being women – it’s good to see a series bring the topic out of the shadows and away from the stigma.
Genre: situational comedy, LGBTQ
Directed and Written by: Dane Joseph
Starring: Dane Joseph, Kristen-Alexzander Griffith, & Troy Valjean Rucker
What is it About: A show about three gay friends living in New York City, who are struggling through relationship drama and their careers as broke aspiring artists.
Why Makes this Smart: This award winning series has been a quiet YouTube sensation since 2009, with some of its more popular episodes reaching over 300,000 views. It’s funny, charming and endearing. And more than it is about the often ignored personal lives of gay Black men, it is about friendship. Seriously, I am a huge fan of this series. And although Drama Queenz is on a hiatus right now, there is plenty to catch up on with three seasons already under its belt.
Genre: comedic drama
Created by: Lena Waithe and Ashley Blaine Fetherson
Staring: Ashley Blaine Featherson, Hayley Marie Norman & Brandon Scott
What is it about: Have you ever logged into your online dating account and were like, “self, this would make a good television show and/or movie?” Well that’s what this series is kind of about. More specifically, the series follows a young, dark skinned woman as she switches her online dating profile picture with that of her lighter skinned roommate to see if she would get more responses, and ends up with more than what she bargained for.
What Makes This Smart: Is it because she’s light skinned or because she looks like Rihanna?, has been discussed to death in a zillion and one think pieces, so it’s about time we see this play out within the realms of scripted television. Outside of the colorism theme, “Hello Cupid” smartly highlights the perils of assumption making and how many of us, outside of the catfishing, too wear masks different than how we try to present to the world. It also delves into the reasons why people play games and gives it some humanity, instead of the old standby of, “bitches be crazy.” Plus, it is a new take on the relationship series, which is so desperately needed. I would say that out of all the series produced by Black & Sexy TV, Hello Cupid is by far my most favorite. And I am looking forward to it’s return for a second season.
For Colored Boys
Created, Written and Directed by filmmaker Stacey Muhammad (Co-written and executive produced by Marc Lamont Hill)
Starring: Rob Morgan, Lauren Hooper, Julito McCullum, Kai Muhammad, Charles Dutton, Adesola Osakalumi
What Is It About: A recently released convict returns home and attempts to reconnect with the family he’d left behind, in particular his troubled 20-year old son.
What Makes This Smart: Many dramas, which center on the lives of inner city men and boys only want to talk only about crime, violence and rap music, however FCB focuses on the emotional health of these men’s lives and decision making, which we rarely ever see on television – unless of course we are making fun of men for expressing emotions and talking about their feelings.
Created and Directed by Geno Brooks; Written by Geno Brooks and Lamont Pierré
What is it about: This series follows a young man’s journey to join a Black Greek letter fraternity on a Black college campus.
Why Makes This Smart: This is not just an anti-hazing or even just a series about Greek Letter organizations. The creator and directed said in a recent interview that he created the series because of the lack of depth in mainstream flicks about the Black college student experience. Mostly, what we see are steps shows and Hillman College. However any of us, who are proud graduates and students of our prestigious HBCUs knows they got their shit with them too. And I must say he did a phenomenal job of pulling back the sterilized layers to highlight important issues facing both students and the institutions themselves including domestic abuse, drugs, super seniors, financial insolvency (both the institution and the student) and brotherhood. All that is missing is a spades game.
Dear Future Wife
Directed/Edited/Written/And some other things by McKinson Souverain
Starring: William Alexander, Webbie Casseus, Jeovanie Andre
What is this series about: Awkward Black dude looking for love, and more specifically a wife.
What makes this smart: Yes, another relationship series (Black folks: do we think about anything else?) But besides that, this series is really well scripted, funny and slightly unconventional, particularly in how the main character is not your typical self-assured, womanizing Black or brown man. Instead, this series treats us to a regular dude – a security guard to be exact – who doesn’t even own a car and walks around with a cracked iPhone screen. In some ways, it kind of reminds me a little of the Black version of “How I Met Your Mother.” I don’t know how folks feel about that, but I was into it.
Genre: situational comedy
Written and directed by Danielle A Scott-Haughton
Starring: Linda Adey, Leonie Haynes-Moses & Samantha Earle
What is it about: Woman loses her job on the same day she discovers her live-in boyfriend in bed with her best friend and now must move back home with her mother and work with her at her Jamaican takeout spot.
What makes this smart: If you can get passed the low budget production value of this series, you will discover a very clever take on the not-so-perfect relationship some believers have with the man or woman upstairs – yes, I’m talking about God. Also did I mention it is from the UK and revolves a young Black woman and her family, who hailed originally from the Caribbean? This is the kind of diversity of the Black experience we need to see more of on the big and small screens.
Genre: drama, LGBTQ
Written by Sheri Johnson & Rob Fox; Directed by Tery Wilson & Sheri Johnson
Starring: Champ, Faurice Harley, Shawn Taylor, Toni Fields, Chevi Carter, Megan Mincey, Nikki Kanai, Netalyah Redd, Jordan Spencer, Melissa Poe, Mook Da Host Thomas, Cinque Tang
What is it about: Four studs (masculine lesbians of color) looking for love and balancing friendship in Atlanta.
What Makes This Smart: Like “Dear Jesus,” the production value is a bit lacking but overall, it’s a pretty well written show. I especially like it because it doesn’t treat our lesbian sisters like sidekicks to a straight character and instead makes them – and their experiences – the centerpiece of the show (and this is why we need more Black LGBTQ shows on television) with actual love lives and interests. Yes, let’s normalize all Black love. That point, along with the fun storyline (my favorite being the crazy, stalker girlfriend with no house furniture), is reason enough to tune in as well as give it a pass for being yet another show about relationships.
Smoke and Mirrors
Edited by Artemus Jenkins and written and directed by KarynRose Bruyning
What is it About: “Smoke and Mirrors” is yet another relationship drama, but this time from the perspective of an independent filmmaker, who always manages to finds fault with the women he dates.
What Makes This Smart: Honestly, out of all the relationship-themed series I’ve featured on this list, this one is the most true to the genre. However it is also my absolute favorite on the list,which just might mean I’m not as against the relationship series as I had initially thought. First, it is beautifully shot including cinematography which does a great job of lightening the main character, who is as chocolate as they come. Second, the soundtrack to the series, is a banger. But more importantly, it is the writing. Truthful, clever, witty and at times, poetic, this series has me pinning for a second season – and a Change.org petition to get this off of YouTube and onto one of the networks.
YOMO (You Only Marry Once) The African, Asian Persuasion.
Genre: situational comedy
Created and Written by Yonah Odoom and Moshana Khan
Starring: Yonah Odoom, Moshana Khan, Ginger Bonsu, Olivette Cole-Wilson, Kanchan Raval, Nim Johnson
What is it about: Two women: one African and the other Asian search for husbands while living in London.
What Makes This Smart: Okay, confession: this has only one episode (according to the show’s Facebook page, the rest of the season is currently in production). However, I am totally hooked on just that one episode, particularly on the immigrant families of both of these first generational Londoners. Plus, I want some jollof rice. (It will make sense, just watch).
Okay that it my list of 10 smart black web series you should be watching. Hopefully I have inspired some folks to save your money and cut the cable (satellite too). Also do note that this list, while fabulous and thoughtful, is only a small representation of Black independent films and series available, mostly for free, on the Internet. So the next time you are about to complain about the lack of diversity, coming out of Hollywood, just remember there is YouTube…