Last week I did the #BGNPodcast with Cree Summer!

You’ve definitely watched one of these shows, so you’ve definitely heard her voice.

#BGNPodcast In Case You Missed It: Cree Summer

Last week, Black Girl Nerds did a special Thursday night podcast with none other than Cree Summer, from A Different World and maybe every 90s cartoon known to people in my age group. It was an honor to speak with her, she’s well known for her voices but even just her natural voice is soothing. She was really kind, felt connected to the Black Girl Nerds “tribe” and basically invites us to hang out with her in Hawaii at HawaiiCon (if anyone wants to book my airfare, I’d totally do it!).

I grew up on Cree’s voice, including: Atlantis the Lost Empire, Tiny Toon Adventures, Rugrats, and Batman Beyond. A personal favorite? Danny Phantom. Long lost cartoon that I wish I could rewatch? Histeria!. Then later, after college, I finally caught up on all of A Different World, which helps revitalize my desire to write something like that for television. Cree’s career was unconsciously an influence for me without me even knowing she was involved in those projects.

Take a listen to hear her “pirate mouth,” advice to aspiring voice actors, and enticing descriptions of what it’s like at HawaiiCon (take me awayyyy!).

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“A Different World” Cast Still Hangs Out Over 25 Years Later

imageCree Summer (@iamcreesummer) tweeted this photo of herself, Kadeem Hardison, Darryl Bell and Jasmine Guy hanging out. If only this meant everyone’s long felt desires if a reunion were happening. But this is good too! It’s wonderful to know that some casts become friends and keep in touch like this. I love it!

Also check out the Black Girl Nerds Podcast where we talk with Cree about her time on A Different World and her voice acting career! Love her!

Why Are Black Sitcoms Less Available to Us?: Black Sitcom DVD/Streaming Distribution Disparity

Black Sitcoms Distribution Article Cover

In this digital age of streaming and DVD and Blu-ray, its seems we can watch anything we want, on any device we want, any time we want. Despite the number of networks and outlets available, there are what feels like the fewest black sitcoms on today. Compared to the heyday of the 80s and 90s, the lack of black sitcoms is especially obvious when you consider there is not one on network television. So you’d think we’d be able to go back to those great 80s and 90s TV shows to fill the void of black faces on our television screens. And yes, there are plenty of shows in syndication thanks to BET and TV One and other minority niche networks. But, as I said, in this digital age, you’d think we could watch whatever we want, whenever we want. This is not the case.

When I fell in love with A Different World this summer, I immediately went searching for it on the internet. I found it: terrible quality, 3-parts per episode YouTube videos. Ok. What about on DVD? Only season 1. Netflix? Nope. Hulu? Hasn’t even heard of the show. I currently have 30 episodes stored on my DVR thanks to TV One syndication. Then I thought of other popular black sitcoms and decided to do some research.

Shows like The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Family Matters had major audiences. Diverse audiences even; these shows aired during some of the most popular ratings time slots on TV: The NBC Thursday Must-See-TV block and the ABC TGIF block. The first two shows have full series on DVD, but Family Matters remains at only 3 seasons of its total 9 on DVD and none on any of the major streaming sites. Martin and Girlfriends also have all their episodes on DVD, but again, no streaming. Other shows from these eras and time slots, some with lesser ratings or critical acclaim are available but not black shows.

Check out this chart I made, featuring about 48 black sitcoms spanning from the ’60s to the ’00s (only 1 currently running sitcom is on the list)(It’s a bit ridiculous that it only took me a couple of hours to compile this list. It should be a longer list).

Black Sitcom DVD Release/Streaming Chart

Black Sitcom Streaming Availability Chart

Preview of the chart. Click through for the full and most updated version.

Only a quarter of the series on this list have full DVD releases. Only 3 are available on Netflix. Only 5 are available on Hulu. Some can be seen on the WB website or other network/studio pages (not listed on the chart), but I’ve watched shows on the WB website before, it’s not a pleasant experience (perhaps they’ve made some changes).

Why are our shows not available to us? Why must we hunt through DVD bins and “Save Until I Delete” on our DVRs or suffer through terrible quality YouTube versions (missing episodes or muted scenes because of song copyrights)? Why did so many Wikipedia pages say “Season 1 was released on DVD, but future seasons haven’t been made available due to poor season 1 sales”? Are people really not interested? Or were those cop-outs for those companies (more often than not, these shows were distributed by Warner Brothers)? I know that in the case of A Different World, season 1 differs greatly from the other 5 seasons, so of course DVD sales were low. The fans were waiting for season 2-6 to come out. What about The Jamie Foxx Show or Living Single or The Bernie Mac Show? Who is preventing these shows from being available to the (African-) American people?

I put African in parentheses above because here’s the thing: if shows featuring black people aren’t made available to everyone–not just black people–then how will a wider audience of people come into contact with black shows? If they were available as easily as [insert random show that people rarely watch or talk about but is streaming], we could get more than just black people watching these shows. We could expand the typical audience of these shows to include other races and the next generation. And in doing that, we could inspire writers and producers and networks to give more black written/black-led TV shows a shot (especially on network television). Then, more people would have exposure to great television programs and then realize, oh right, the cast was all black.

I don’t know what the solution is. Petition letters for shows like A Different World and Living Single have gone around, but they don’t seem to do much good. Hopefully, Netflix and Hulu will reach out to the black audience. For goodness sake, in their “Categories” section, Hulu has a Spanish Sitcom section while Netflix has a Korean TV Shows section. Why is there no “Black Sitcom” section, why are those shows not available? Maybe we need to create a streaming site that can get the rights to black TV shows; but there are already so many ways in which black television is being propelled backward (maybe you feel this way about Tyler Perry shows, maybe you don’t, but you definitely can’t ignore the complete lack of any black sitcoms on network television–and only three black led dramas, two which premiere this season)–we don’t need to add segregation to the list.

Let your favorite streaming service know that Black Sitcoms are worthy of being viewed. Make them talk to distributors to give them the rights. And support syndication reruns. Somewhere, I’m hoping something will change.

Are there any black sitcoms I left off the list? Any that have DVD/streaming availability that I neglected to mention? How do you think we can get better access to black television sitcoms?

*CORRECTION* I miscalculated on the chart: there are 12 shows with full DVD releases. Not much better. It has been corrected.

Related post: https://constarstudiestv.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/constar-studies-90s-black-sit-coms/

What I Watched Today

Today I finished Orange is the New Black, after starting the season yesterday midday during a sick day at home. Interesting show, great supporting characters, I’ve grown to dislike Piper more and more as the show progressed. Daya, Taystee, Poussey, and Black Cindy are some of my favorites characters. The pre-prison flashbacks were such a small taste of these characters and I really want more of how a lot of them got to prison and their normal lives.

I also watched:

Whose Line is it Anyway?

Brooklyn 99 – Hmm. Amusing new show. Enjoying the diversity (2 black people AND 2 hispanic characters). Mike Shur is a plus, as a big #Parks fan. I’ll keep this on my DVR.

New Girl – So glad it’s back! It was sooo good and I LOVE Nick and Jess! and Winston was FANTASTIC and oh Schmidt. But the show has not lost it’s greatness over the summer.

The Mindy Project – Well. There were some good moments, but as usual, you can’t air Mindy after New Girl, it’s not as funny and for me, constantly fails in comparison. Sorry Mindy. Also, I’m bored with James Franco. *rolls eyes* But welcome back, Mindy.

The Daily Show

The Colbert Report

The Queen Latifah Show – I might check this out regularly. I don’t watch a lot of talk shows, but today’s interview with Will was funny of course and the segment with Will and Alex Trebek was inventive and fun. I still need to watch the rest of the episode though…

A Different World – expect this to go on my daily list a lot, since I love it and it’s right there on my DVR.

[New segment I will do to help me write everyday/more often. As the Fall 2013 TV comes along, I will try to at the very least, post what I watched each day. If I’m feeling write-y, I will add opinions and such. Though it may only be: “I’m so excited for this episode!” (if written before) or “this episode was fantastic!” (when written after). Hope I can keep up and keep going with this blogging thing. =)]