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Where are the Quality Black Sitcoms and Young Black Actors?

Updated on June 20, 2013

Famous Black Actors of the 90's

L to R: Malcolm Jamal Warner, Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Jamie Foxx, Lee Thompson Young, Marlon Wayan, Shawn Wayan, Damon Wayan, Keenan Ivory Wayan, Arjay Smith, Jaleel White, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy
L to R: Malcolm Jamal Warner, Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Jamie Foxx, Lee Thompson Young, Marlon Wayan, Shawn Wayan, Damon Wayan, Keenan Ivory Wayan, Arjay Smith, Jaleel White, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy | Source

All Grown Up

Malcolm Jamal Warner, Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Jamie Foxx, Lee Thompson Young, Marlon Wayan, Shawn Wayan, Damon Wayan, Keenan Ivory Wayan, Arjay Smith, Jaleel White, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy
Malcolm Jamal Warner, Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Jamie Foxx, Lee Thompson Young, Marlon Wayan, Shawn Wayan, Damon Wayan, Keenan Ivory Wayan, Arjay Smith, Jaleel White, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy | Source

Where Are All the Black Actors?

If you grew up in the 90's like me, you'll remember how abundant our African American actors were. With such acting heavy hitters as Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Jaleel White, and the Wayan Brothers, the 1990s was chocked full of African American actors that inspired and entertained us.

By the end of the 1990s, the amount of active young African American actors (below 35) available had become more and more scarce. I began searching for young African American actors while writing a novel on the ever growing online writing community website, Wattpad. (If you are unfamiliar with Wattpad, find out more about it here: What is Wattpad.)

On Wattpad, you have the option of adding who you'd like your characters to play in real life. Upon searching for young (below age 35) male African American actors, I noticed that the selection of actors available were very limited. They were even more so limited when searching for male African American actors that were younger than fifteen years old. Where did all of the African American actors go? Why are there not more actors and actresses of color in today's media?

What Happened?

1. Good Times, 2. The Cosby Show, 3. Family Matters, 4. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, 5. Martin, 6. The Jamie Foxx Show, 7. The Bernie Mac Show, 8. House of Payne
1. Good Times, 2. The Cosby Show, 3. Family Matters, 4. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, 5. Martin, 6. The Jamie Foxx Show, 7. The Bernie Mac Show, 8. House of Payne | Source

Black Sitcoms' Major Decline

L to R: A Different World, 227, Charlie & Company, The Redd Foxx Show, Diff'rent Strokes, The Cosby Show, What's Happening Now!!, He's the Mayor, Sanford, Amen, and Gimme a Break!
L to R: A Different World, 227, Charlie & Company, The Redd Foxx Show, Diff'rent Strokes, The Cosby Show, What's Happening Now!!, He's the Mayor, Sanford, Amen, and Gimme a Break!

Declining Black Sitcoms/ Television Shows

The 1990s brought an abundance of African American actors in the media. Sitcoms like The Jamie Foxx Show, The Wayans Brothers, Malcolm & Eddie, Family Matters, and even The Cosby Show brought comedy and relief to the ever expanding media of the 1990s.

After 2000, the quality of African American actors and television shows began to dwindle drastically. Though the 2000s did bring such quality black sitcoms as The Boondocks, The Bernie Mac Show, That's So Raven, The Proud Family and My Wife and Kids. Quantity of black sitcoms weren't scarce, it was the quality that was lacking in the 2000s.

What ever happened to the black sitcoms where - in the first season - there's a baby born and you grow up seeing the baby grow up on the screen? Perfect examples of growing up with a sitcom family: The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Parent Hood, The Bernie Mac Show, and of course The Cosby Show.

Black Sitcoms of the 80's

There were quite a few black sitcoms in the 80's, arguably the most popular was The Cosby Show. Most of the black television shows in the 80's revolved around family values and day to day life of the African American family.

We waited patiently for the next installment of the series every week from the African American families that we had felt we were also a part of. The sense of belonging grew deep within the African American culture.

Finally, no longer were we depicted as second rate comedy relief or the dumb token tag along friend. Shows like Sanford, Diff'rent Strokes, and Amen caressed the airwaves, and we ate it up. Even though there were break out black sitcoms before the 80's, the 80's had shown an ample amount of increase in black sitcoms than the previous decade, the 70's.

List of 80's Black Sitcoms (19)

  • 227
  • A Different World
  • Amen
  • Benson Bustin' Loose
  • Charlie & Company
  • Checking In
  • Diff'rent Strokes
  • Frank's Place
  • Gimme a Break
  • He's the Mayor
  • No Problem! (TV series)
  • Sanford
  • Snoops
  • The Cosby Show
  • The New Odd Couple
  • The Redd Foxx Show
  • The Robert Guillaume Show
  • Webster
  • What's Happening Now!!

90's T.V.Poll

Which black 90's show do you prefer?

See results

List of 90's Black Sitcoms (58)

  • 704 Hauser
  • Arsenio
  • Between Brothers
  • Buddies
  • Chef!
  • City Guys
  • Cleghorne!
  • Cosby
  • Cousin Skeeter
  • Damon
  • Desmond's
  • Family Matters
  • Getting By
  • Good News
  • Goode Behavior
  • Guys Like Us
  • Hangin' with Mr. Cooper
  • Here and Now
  • Homeboys in Outer Space
  • In Living Color
  • In the House
  • Kenan & Kel
  • Living Single
  • Lord Have Mercy!
  • Malcolm & Eddie
  • Martin
  • Me and the Boys
  • Minor Adjustments
  • Moesha

Black Sitcoms of the 90's

In the 1990s, black sitcoms seemed to over populate our airwaves, but even though there were a mass quantity of black sitcoms, the quality was just as impressive.

With break out shows like Parenthood, Cousin Skeeter, Family Matters, Sister Sister, and Roc we had an abundance of black sitcoms to chose from. We now had adult, family, and even children related black sitcoms and shows to chose from.

The 1980's seemed to display black family values on a public media medium, but just a decade later, the 1990's began the black friend values. Shows like Martin, Moesha, Malcolm & Eddie, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, and Living Single became the normal black sitcom in the 90's.

Usually an African American family or a group of friends daily lives were broadcast and we followed every week to find out what happened to our second families. We all watched as the children that were in the shows grew up to be teenagers and on to young adults, we laughed, we cried, we cheered.

90's Sitcoms & Shows Cont.


  • My Brother and Me
  • New Attitude
  • On Our Own
  • Out All Night
  • Porkpie
  • Rhythm & Blues
  • Roc
  • Sister, Sister
  • Smart Guy
  • South Central
  • Sparks
  • Sugar and Spice
  • Teech
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
  • The Gregory Hines Show
  • The Jamie Foxx Show
  • The Parent 'Hood
  • The Parkers
  • The PJs
  • The Royal Family
  • The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer
  • The Sinbad Show
  • The Steve Harvey Show
  • The Wayans Bros.
  • Thea
  • True Colors
  • Waynehead
  • Where I Live
  • You Take the Kids

Best Black Sitcom Decade

In your opinion, which was the best decade for black sitcoms?

See results

2000 Black Sitcoms

After 1999 it seems as if the quality - not necessarily the quantity - of black sitcoms and television shows began to dwindle. The exact reason why has yet to be explained, but it's as if the magic formula that brought us the Cosby's and the Wayans family had been lost in Y2k.

We had a few successes in black sitcoms in the 2000's, but most of them didn't have the staying power that the 80's and 90's sitcoms possessed. Very few like shows had the staying power and following like The Bernie Mac Show, Girlfriends, The Famous Jett Jackson, My Wife and Kids, The Proud Family, and That's So Raven.

So what happened? Where did all of our quality black actors, actresses, and sitcoms go? Where are the role models for our African American children in the performing arts today? It doesn't seem like there will be a magical pick up of black actors, actresses or sitcoms in the next few years.

I think its important to let our kids know that, even in performing arts, we - as a people - can accomplish much. With the breakout animated movie of Disney's The Princess and the Frog, I honestly thought that the black sitcoms and young actors/actresses would pick up, but it doesn't seem to be so.

2000's Black Sitcoms & Shows

  • Abby
  • All About the Andersons
  • All of Us
  • Barbershop
  • Brothers
  • Cory in the House
  • Cuts
  • Da Kink in My Hair
  • DAG
  • Eve
  • Everybody Hates Chris
  • Fatherhood
  • For Your Love
  • Friday: The Animated Series
  • Girlfriends
  • Grown Ups
  • Half & Half
  • Hey Monie!
  • Just Jordan
  • Kerching!
  • Like Family
  • Love, Inc.
  • Meet the Browns
  • Men, Women & Dogs
  • Method & Red
  • My Wife and Kids
  • One on One
  • Romeo!
  • Second Time Around
  • Sherri
  • That's So Raven
  • The Bernie Mac Show
  • The Big House
  • The Boondocks
  • The Crouches
  • The Famous Jett Jackson
  • The Game
  • The Hughleys
  • The Proud Family
  • The Tracy Morgan Show
  • True Jackson, VP
  • Tyler Perry's House of Payne
  • Under One Roof
  • Wanda at Large
  • Whoopi

Bring the Black Back to Television!

With the start of the 2010's we have seen a few black sitcoms grace the television, but none that I am personally interested in watching. Some of these have a pretty good fan base, - like A.N.T. Farm, Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse, and Are We There Yet? - but I feel that none of these have the staying power of the black sitcoms that preceded them.

Perhaps some of you think I'm being absurd? Well, think about this, can you name one African American actor below the age of 15 as of 2013, without searching the internet? How about two or three? Can you name 6 African American actors that are below the age 35 as of 2013? Now name 7 actors below the age of 35 that aren't African American. Do you see the difference? Something needs to be done! The role models for our African American boys are starting to dwindle, unless you seek sports.

As of June 2013, these are the black sitcoms that we have to endure:

  • A.N.T. Farm
  • Are We There Yet?
  • Belle's (TV series)
  • Black Dynamite
  • How to Rock
  • Let's Stay Together
  • Love That Girl!
  • Tyler Perry's Love Thy Neighbor
  • Mr. Box Office
  • Reed Between the Lines
  • State of Georgia
  • The Cleveland Show
  • The First Family
  • The Rickey Smiley Show
  • The Soul Man
  • Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Anaydena profile imageAUTHOR

    Mia Taylor 

    5 years ago from Euless, TX, USA

    @amandajoyShapiro true, but there are the token black actors and actresses, maybe a co-star... But there's no all black or predominantly black cast on television anymore. Its like they've reverted television back to when African Americans were just the sidekick.

  • amandajoyshapiro profile image

    amandajoyshapiro 

    5 years ago

    You make an excellent point that there are not as many majority African-American cast programs in the last few years. We don't have a Cosby Show or Family Matters on TGIF anymore. Nor do we have a Sister Sister or Parent Hood. All high quality programming.

    However, television itself has become more diverse in their casting. So today's trend seems to be talented African-American actors spread out among a number of shows, both fictional and reality-like. Jay Pharoh is gaining popularity on SNL (along with Kenan Thompson). ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Fosters, and Twisted. ABC's Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. USA's Necessary Roughness (Terrence King character). TNT's Leverage (Aldis Hodge). AMC's The Walking Dead. W. Kamau Bell's comedy show on FX. The number of comedians on MTV's Guy Code and Girl Code. And Tyler Perry's numerous series. These are just a few examples.

  • profile image

    simplextester 

    5 years ago

    test please ignore

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