Comedian Chris Rock brought his autobiographical 1980s coming of age urban Brooklyn tale via this smart, funny and the second single camera sitcom on our list. Reminiscent of the style and format of FOX’s Malcolm In The Middle, for five seasons as the ‘TV version’ of the Rock family, Rochelle (Tichina Arnold), Julius (Terry Crews), Chris (Tyler James Williams) Drew (Tequan Richmond) and Tonya (Imani Hakim) reinvented the new millennium’s depiction of a black household. Everybody Hates Chris demonstrated with a little tough love— Rochelle’s threats to get her kids to always do the right thing, lots of family values, colorful supporting characters plus a whole lot of funny fantasy sequences that a loving family didn’t only have to just survive in an urban gritty, Bed Stuy locale setting it could thrive, entertain and prosper.
6. Diff’rent Strokes
Although not technically a black sitcom but a multiracial one, the larger than life characterizations Arnold and Willis Jackson played by Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges on Diff’rent Strokes always made the series feel like one. And as adoptive dad Phillip Drummond actor Conrad Bain will always be viewed as an honorary black father in pop culture. Along with sister Kimberly (Dana Plato) Diff’rent Strokes is best known for introducing the ‘very special episodes’ concept to sitcom television (complete with actor disclaimers at the open or close of an episode) And this sitcom tackled controversial topics like child abuse, racism and drug use. But Diff’rent Strokes will also be best remembered for strong acting moments by Bridges and perfect punch line deliveries by Coleman, as well as his memorable catchprase—’Wha choo taling about Willis?’ The series also featured Janet Jackson as Willis’ girlfriend Charlene and enjoyed a long running spinoff— Facts Of Life which was anchored by Charlotte Rae’s Mrs. Garrett character.
Back when The Fresh Prince of Bel Air aired in 1990 its biggest contribution to TV airwaves was bringing hip hop culture to primetime and turning a rap lite artist named Will Smith into a television star. Fast forward to 2010 and Will Smith is one of the biggest and most bankable movie stars in Hollywood (and can also boast a successful wife and children in showbiz.) But the sitcom story of the rich well to do Banks family; Phillip Banks (James Avery), his wife Vivian played by (Janet Hubert) and (Daphne Reid), and their three children Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), Hillary (Karyn Parsons) and Ashley (Tatyana Ali), who take in their poorer Philadelphia-born and raised cousin Will (Smith) made for six seasons of laughable fish out of water scenarios and bigger teachable moments. Will taught the uptight Banks family to loosen up, and collectively the Banks family taught and prepared Will for the responsibilities of life and manhood.
This Perfect Strangers spinoff, Cosby Show inspired sitcom unofficially morphed into ‘The Urkel Show’ thanks to the catapulted popularity of star Jaleel White. But once upon a time it was about the Chicago based Winslow family— dad Carl Winslow (Reginald Vel Johnson), mom Harriette (JoMarie Payton), grandma ‘Mother Winslow’ (Rosetta Le Noire), Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams) and son Eddie (Darius McCrary). Although the show’s title ended up not reflecting the sitcom’s shift in focus from traditional family styled stories to those centered around the character of Steve Urkel and various others played by White, Family Matters‘ new direction helped this series endure for nine seasons on the air. It remains the second longest running black sitcom in television history after The Jeffersons.