With network TV currently suffering from a drought of black family sitcoms, VIBE decided to look back to the glory years of television, when family shows were not only shown in white but in glorious and colorful diverse shades of the black experience in America. And best of all, thanks to reruns many of those listed below are still making us laugh. See if you agree, disagree and if your favorites made the cut as we present our list of the 10 Best Black Family Sitcoms Ever Made. —Ronke Idowu Reeves
Moesha starring Brandy Norwood flipped the perspective of the black family sitcom and presented it from the eyes of the child in the fictional Mitchell family. ‘Mo’ as she was affectionately called was big sister to Myles (Marcus T. Paulk) and daughter to dad Frank (William Allen Young) and stepdaughter to stepmom Dee (Sheryl Lee Ralph). And over the sitcom’s five-year run and in between the laughs the it tackled the serious ‘very special episode’ topics like parental death, teen sex and pregnancy, drugs race relations and infidelity. Moesha also enjoyed a spinoff, The Parkers which starred Countess Vaughn and Academy Award winning actress and BET talk show host Mo’Nique.
Julia was not only the first single parent family sitcom, and the first to depict a black actress not shown stereotypical role as servant or domestic (Julia played by Diahann Carroll was a nurse) it was also the first to come under scrutiny for being apolitical in the turbulent 1960s and not showing the ‘real’ a.k.a. black urban experience (Julia was set in the suburbs.) But in historical retrospect, the sitcom, (also the first to not use a laugh track) remains groundbreaking in several other areas including how a widowed mom with young son Corey (Marc Copage) juggles career, family and reentering the dating world. Carroll’s love interests on the show were played by Paul Winfield and hunky Black Cesear star Fred Williamson.
8. The Bernie Mac Show
Raunchy-style comedian Bernie Mac borrowed from the difficult and life changing experiences in his real life to tell his televised view on parenting in The Bernie Mac Show (an R-rated version of this family fare also served comedy fodder in his standup segment in the film The Kings Of Comedy). This single camera comedy helped to redefine the black family show with its blended family set up of Bernie McCullough, his wife Wanda (Kellita Smith) and their nieces Vanessa (Camille Winbush), Bryana (Dee Dee Davis) and nephew Jordan (Jeremy Suarez.) Mac always broke the fourth wall to address America as he shared the trials and tribulations of raising the bright, sweet but wounded kids of his crack addicted sister. And while the show always went for the funny side of things in this sitcom set up, it never once shied away from the serious and more harsher side of the realities of how and why they came to be a family.