BINGE IT!: Celebrating Black History Month with the best of Black TV sitcoms
ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Bingers, it’s Black History Month and it’s only right for us to celebrate the historic impact Black characters have on modern-day television.
From The Jeffersons in the 1970s to Scandal and Power in the 2010s, the Black character on television has evolved and transformed the shows we presently choose to watch.
To honor this Black excellence, we are celebrating over 30 of our favorite Black shows and sitcoms through the years. The ones that made us laugh and cry, and those that we can’t get enough of today.
Soul Train (1971-2006)
When Soul Train hit the air in 1975, it became an instant hit due to the lack of Black shows on television at the time. Created by its first host Don Cornelius, the show presented the latest dance moves and trends for Black teens and young adults. And you can’t forget the best musical performances. It ran for 35 years until its ending in 2006. But its popularity stayed consistent until the final episode. The term, “Soul Train line”, was coined from the show and is still a part of a good time at a party.
You can catch Soul Train on Tubi for free.
Good Times (1974-1979)
1974′s Good Times was the first time a Black two-parent home was shown on television. It was a spin-off of 1971′s All in The Family and was about a poor Black family living in the projects but making a way through life struggle with the help of family. The show was known for its sociopolitical stance and progressivism. Good Times was played consistently in my household growing up. I still remember every episode.
Episodes of Good Times are on Peacock now.
The Jeffersons (1975-1985)
The Jeffersons became so popular that it’s one of the longest-running sitcoms and the second longest-running Black series in television history. It’s a story of George and Louise Jefferson, a Black couple that moves up from Queens to Manhattan after running a successful dry cleaning business. They even had a wise-cracking maid that made everyone laugh. There were also episodes of the show that focused on racism, gun control, illiteracy, and alcoholism.
You can watch The Jeffersons on Tubi or Prime Video.
The Cosby Show (1984-1992)
The Cosby Show focused on a middle-class Black family in Brooklyn. The show displayed the good and bad times of a successful Black couple and their five children. The show spent five consecutive seasons as the No. 1 rated show on television and all eight seasons spent time in the top 20 Nielsen ratings. Not only is The Cosby Show one of the most successful Black shows, but it also led to a popular spinoff, A Different World.
You can watch The Cosby Show now with a subscription to Sling TV or for a fee on Prime Video.
227 was a spin-off of The Jeffersons and became a popular show in its own right. It ran for five seasons. Even though I was born in the 90s, my parents loved this show which is why I’d seen the entire series before I reached high school. It’s about the lives of middle-aged friends living in an apartment building in Washington, D.C. They gossiped on the porch while helping each other through rough times.
You can stream 227 on Tubi and Prime Video.
A Different World (1987-1993)
A Different World, a spinoff of The Cosby Show, aired for six seasons. It was centered around college students at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). The show was so popular it caused enrollment at HBCUs to rise drastically in the 1990s. To this day, you can still purchase a Hilman College sweatshirt and reminisce over the love life of Whitley and Dwayne.
Binge A Different World on HBO Max.
Family Matters (1989-1998)
1989′s Family Matters is about a Black family living in Chicago. It ran for nine seasons and also became one of the longest-running Black shows in television history. Steve Urkel is still one of the most recognizable characters ever.
You can catch Family Matters on HBO Max and Hulu.
In Living Color (1990-1994)
In Living Color was a sketch comedy series that began in 1990. Creator Keenen Ivory Wayans gave a raw and uncut spin on comedy that became very popular with audiences. It was the first sketch comedy series to air with a predominantly Black cast. The show also introduced us to the big and talented Wayans family and The Fly Girls. The show was groundbreaking for Black comedy and brought us several talented acts such as Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey, and David Allen Grier.
You can find In Living Color on Philo and Prime Video with a subscription.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
Starring a young Will Smith, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air tells a comedic story of when a teen from the streets of West Philaphedia is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Bel-Air after getting in trouble on a playground in his neighborhood. The show gave us pure laughter and one of the greatest tv uncles and mentors, Uncle Phil. During its six seasons, the show was a top hit for NBC and still has the greatest theme song to this day. Recently, the show has been rebooted. You can catch Bel-Air on Peacock.
You can laugh at The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on HBO Max.
The television show Martin was one of Fox networks highest-rated shows. Starting in 1992, Martin Lawrence showed his comedic range on the show by not only playing the main character Martin Payne, a radio DJ but also portraying several other characters such as the ethnic and flashy, Sheneneh. The series came to an end in 1997 but the reruns are still played on many screens in Black households.
Martin is streaming on HBO Max now.
Living Single (1993-1998)
Living Single ran for five seasons and was centered around five friends living in a brownstone in Brooklyn. Starring rapper and actress Queen Latifah, the crew loved and laughed and the show was a hit with the Black audience. Portraying successful Black singles together, Living Single became the fourth highest-rated Fox show to air.
You can stream Living Single on Hulu.
Sister, Sister (1994-1999)
Sister, Sister was a story about identical twins reuniting after being separated at birth. Airing in 1996, the show ran for six seasons and featured a predominantly Black cast. The show starred real-life and lovable twins, Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Tamera Mowry-Housley. It followed the story of the twins and their friends from high school to college. Reruns of Sister, Sister are still a hit today.
Sister, Sister is available on several platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and Paramount+.
The Wayans Bros. (1995-1999)
The Wayans Bros., starring brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans, was a hilarious show about two close but opposite brothers living and working together in New York while having misadventures in any attempt to get money. The show lasted five seasons with an unexpected final episode and reruns of the popular shows are still running on television today.
Watch The Wayans Bros. on HBO Max now.
Kenan & Kel (1996-2000)
Airing in 1996, Kenan & Kel was probably Nickelodeon’s best show featuring a predominately Black cast. Winning “Favorite TV Show” at the 1998 Kids’ Choice Awards and running for four seasons, the series focused on two best friends that just couldn’t stay out of trouble. And no one will forget how much Kel loved his orange soda.
Kenan & Kel is available on Paramount+ now.
The Jamie Foxx Show (1996-2001)
The Jamie Foxx Show was a hilarious sitcom starring singer and actor Jamie Foxx. The sitcom, which started in 1996, focused on Jaime King who moved to Los Angeles to become an actor and was working in his aunt and uncle’s hotel to support himself. The show sky-rocketed Foxx’s acting career, playing in several Blockbusters following the show’s ending.
You can catch The Jamie Foxx Show on HBO Max.
Airing on UPN (now The CW), Moesha was a hit from its start in 1996. Starring superstar R&B singer Brandy, the show centered around a Black teenager living in Leimert Park and learning the ways of life with her friends and family by her side. Moesha soon became UPN’s highest-rated show and dealt with several social issues such as teen pregnancy, drug use, sexuality, and race relations.
You can watch Moesha on Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and Paramount+.
The Steve Harvey Show (1996-2002)
The popular series, The Steve Harvey Show, lasted six seasons. The show centered around a washed-up 1970s funk legend that’s forced to get a job as a music teacher at a high school to make ends meet. Starring King of Comedy legends Steve Harvey and Cedric The Entertainer, the show is full of comedic relief and was nominated and won several awards during its run.
Catch episodes of The Steve Harvey Show on Pluto TV.
The Parkers (1999-2004)
The Parkers is a hilarious sitcom about a mother and daughter that not only lives together but is also in college together. A spin-off of Moesha, it follows the everyday crazy lives of Kim and Nikki Parker, Kim’s friends and bandmates, and Nikki’s love obsession with Professor Oglevee. The show ran for five seasons and was loved in the Black household. I still watch reruns of The Parkers today.
You can binge The Parkers on Netflix.
Girlfriends premiered in 2000 on UPN. The series was about a group of four Black friends working and living in Los Angeles. It showed the good and bad moments of friendship between the girls. It ran for eight years and you can still see reruns of the series running on network television. Girlfriends was popular among young to middle-aged Black women.
You watch Girlfriends on Netflix and Hulu.
My Wife & Kids (2001-2005)
My Wife & Kids ran on ABC for five seasons. Starring Damon Wayans, the series centered around a dysfunctional Black middle-class family where the parents held a unique parenting style that made everyone laugh. The show still runs on network television and is now available on several streaming platforms and deserves the honor of binging.
Binge the full series of My Wife & Kids on Hulu.
That’s So Raven (2003-2007)
That’s So Raven was a hit from its start in 2003. The Disney Channel show, starring Raven Symoné, received high ratings and even produced several soundtracks. It’s about a Black teenager who experiences visions, and when she follows those visions through she always gets into trouble with her friends because of it. The show was even nominated for some Primetime Emmy awards. A spin-off, Raven’s Home, aired in 2017 and is still in production.
That’s So Raven is streaming now on Disney+.
The Boondocks (2005-2014)
Though The Boondocks was raw and vulgar, the animated show had an impact on the Black audience. The comedy is about the dysfunctional Freeman family after they move to the all-white neighborhood of Woodcrest. Episodes of the show make fun of real-life situations such as stereotypes, politics, and different lifestyles.
The Boondocks still airs on Cartoon Network and you can stream it on HBO Max.
The Bernie Mac Show (2001-2006)
The Bernie Mac Show was an instant hit in the Black household, mostly due to comedian and King of Comedy Bernie Mac. The series, airing in 2001, was centered around Mac’s chaotic life after his two nieces and nephew come to live with him and his wife. And trust me, they were a handful. The show was loosely based on his life and ran for six seasons until 2006. Mac died soon after in 2008.
The Bernie Mac Show is available on several streaming platforms such as Hulu, Tubi, Peacock, Pluto TV, and Prime Video.
The Proud Family (2001-2005)
The animated series The Proud Family was loved by many in the younger Black audiences. The Disney Channel show ran for five seasons and recently rebooted with an older and more mature Penny Proud. The show is about Proud and her life as it centers around her crazy family and friends.
You can watch The Proud Family on Disney+.
Everybody Hates Chris (2005-2009)
Everybody Hates Chris is a hilarious show based on the life of comedian Chris Rock. The show was about the misadventures of young Chris in Brooklyn. Though the show wasn’t immediately a hit, The American Film Institute selected Everybody Hates Chris as one of the best 10 television series of 2007. You can still catch reruns of the series on television today.
Watch Everybody Hates Chris on Peacock, Hulu, and Paramount+.
The Game (2006-2015)
The Game was a popular series among adult Black audiences. It was a show about the drama-filled lives of professional football players and their wives and girlfriends. A spinoff of Girlfriends, the show originally ended in 2015 but has been rebooted with a mostly new cast but you will see the return of Tasha Mack, everyone’s favorite “mom”anager.
You can watch The Game on Netflix and Peacock.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta (2008-present)
Some may not want to admit it but The Real Housewives of Atlanta was the best “guilty pleasure” in the Black household. Premiering in 2008, the reality show grabbed popularity due to the drama and love lives of the women featured including R&B singer Kandi Burress.
Catch up on The Real Housewives of Atlanta on Hulu and Peacock.
Scandal was a big hit since its start in 2012. Created by the talented Shonda Rhimes, the thriller series focused on the fast life of political advisor Olivia Pope, played by actress Kerry Washington. The spicy affair between Olivia Pope and President Fitz left Black audiences wanting more each week. It ran for seven seasons and won several awards.
You can watch Scandal on Hulu.
Love & Hip Hop Atlanta (2012-present)
Another “guilty pleasure”, Love & Hip Hop Atlanta premiered on VH1 in 2012 and has been popular ever since. The reality show is centered on the dramatic lives of inspiring hip-hop artists. The show still airs on television with many seasons and reunion shows under its belt.
You can stream Love & Hip Hop Atlanta on the VH1 app and on Hulu.
The Haves and The Have Nots (2013-2021)
The Tyler Perry favorite The Have and Have Nots gained popularity when it aired on the OWN Network in 2013. Based around the dysfunctional high-class Cryer family, the show consistently produced an attention-grabbing dramatic storyline that the Black audience couldn’t get enough of.
You can stream The Have and The Have Nots with a YouTube and Prime Video premium subscription.
How to Get Away with Murder (2014-2020)
How to Get Away with Murder is such a great show. Another Shonda Rhimes hit, the series is about lawyer and law professor Annalise Keating and a group of students as things turn crazy after lies and mysteries are revealed. Viola Davis played Keating so good she became the first Black woman to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Oustanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for the role.
Binge How to Get Away With Murder on Netflix now.
The series Power was definitely loved in the Black community, especially the character, James “Ghost” St. Patrick. The popular series ran for six seasons and has produced several equally popular spin-offs such as Power Book II: Ghost and Power Book IV: Force. The show is about businessman James St. Patrick and his run-ins while doing illegal business involving drugs.
You can watch Power for free on the Roku Channel app, the Starz app, and Hulu with a premium subscription.
Premiering on Fox in 2015, Empire rose to popularity quickly. Focused around the dramatic lives of the Lyons family and their hip-hop record label Empire Records, Black adult audiences enjoyed Empire and its unpredictable storyline. The series ran for six seasons.
Stream the full series of Empire on Hulu now.
The FX show series, Atlanta, centers around cousins Earn and Alfred a.k.a. rapper, Paper Boi and their journey to make it big in the rap game in Atlanta. Created by actor and artist, Donald Glover, the popular series’ third season is set to premiere on March 24. The show has won several awards including two Primetime Emmy Awards.
You can binge Atlanta on Hulu.
Insecure is about an awkward Black woman from Los Angeles and centers around her professional and crazy personal and dating life. The show’s emotional end in 2021 left Black audiences wishing there was more. The show has won several NAACP Image Awards and has received several Emmy nominations.
You can binge Insecure now on HBO Max.
You can also catch up on previous reviews in the “BINGE IT! with Kim” series below:
Copyright 2022 WALB. All rights reserved.