Link: How To Make It As A Black Sitcom: Be Careful How You Talk About Race

Link: How To Make It As A Black Sitcom: Be Careful How You Talk About Race on Huff Post Black Voices

Several people have sent this to me and I want to share it here. I haven’t been able to dissect it just yet, as it’s a long read, but it looks to be a really, really in depth piece discussing several decades of black sitcoms and comparing their successes and the ways in which they handle race. All of this as black-ish finds its legs and receives a full season pick-up.  There are some great graphs and discussion of a proposed “era” system of black sitcoms from the 50s until now.

 

Check it out.

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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!

Pilot Season Diversity Watch: Anthony Anderson to Star in ABC Comedy Pilot ‘Black-ish’

It’s early pilot season, so it’s a good time to start looking at the shows coming to our screens in the fall. Let’s look at the shows with diverse casting or production staffs that have been greenlit by the network. This doesn’t mean they’ll air in Fall–that depends on various things and most decisions are put forth in May–but they’ve been approved to be shot.

One pilot to look for is Black-ish, starring Anthony Anderson. Here’s the  TVLine description:

Black-ish (Comedy) [ABC]
EPs | Kenya Barris, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, Tom Russo, Peter Principato, Paul Young, Brian Dobbins
CAST | Anthony Anderson (Guys With Kids)
An upper-middle class black man struggles to raise his children with a sense of cultural identity despite constant contradictions and obstacles coming from his liberal wife, old-school father and his own assimilated, color-blind kids

Sounds interesting. I hope it doesn’t go the way of Guys with Kids, which failed to really spark anything in me and I gave up after like 2 episodes. I think this wants to hearken back to the Cosby Show, which I loved, but updated for a modern era. The Cosby Show was more insulated in terms of who the kids hung out with than this sounds like it will be.

I wonder why there are so many executive producers, usually we get one or two main names, rather than the list of 8 like above. And is the last time ABC had a majority/all black comedy cast My Wife and Kids (another show it relates to in terms of being a black family comedy, but again, that show was very isolated in terms of who the family interacted with on camera)?

I’m not sure how I feel about the title, or some of the implications. I can only hope that while maintaining “cultural identity,” the show also focuses on and allows the kids and the family to like “non-traditional” things and it being ok or at least a plot point. I could see Anderson’s character trying to get his kids to like classic hip-hop but they like rock instead (just a random example). Which, it’s great and necessary for black children to know their culture and where they came from, but also realize that black people are not a monolith and can enjoy a variety of pursuits not traditionally seen as a part of black culture. A fine line to walk, but one that might be necessary going forward.

I hope we hear more about this.

for more, check TVLine’s Pilot Scoop

Anthony Anderson to Star in ABC Comedy Pilot ‘Black-ish’.

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Response: Why the Presence of Black Women in Media is Important for Everyone via The Conversation

Ramou Sarr wrote this article, which I found via justwriteray, which speaks about the importance for representations of black women on television. She bring up some really great points about the need for better representation in the media.

In such a social society, television is one of the things that really brings people together. Many of my friendships and conversations began after I realized someone liked a show that I did. It warms you up to another person because now you have something in common. It’s a strange feeling when you’re left out of a conversation because you’re the only person who doesn’t watch that show. This happens even on social media.

I didn’t even know what any of these people were reacting to, and yet I still needed to watch; I still wanted to be included somehow. That’s the power of television.

[…]

This communal aspect of television is layered, and perhaps the most significant facet of it is the idea that television often acts as an agent of socialization, offering us a glimpse into how we are both different and alike, and informs how we view and interact with one another. Television also has the power to impact how we view ourselves and, by seeing portrayals of people like us on television, tells us how society views us. Children’s shows often have lessons and exercises about diversity and inclusion because most of us want children to know about these things, and yet this portrayal of the world as a diverse and inclusive one is sorely lacking in the current state of television catered to adults.

And we also have to remember that children don’t just watch children’s shows, they watch adult tv shows too. Whether because their parents let them, or they sneak it, or it’s on simply while they’re in the room, kids watch grown up TV as well. Someone in a class about children’s books said that kids only read books about kids their age or older. After a while, kids want to watch adult TV shows and adult TV shows don’t have the same messages of inclusion and diversity, as Ramou mentions, that kids shows do. So kids stop learning the lesson. I’m in no ways saying regular network TV should have lessons or that they all need family values, but there are ways people learn from television. It’s in our homes every day; if there were more people of color on television, adults (and the kids who see these shows too) would have a better understanding of the wider world around them.

In terms of relatability, black women can, of course, establish connections with white television characters, and they do…

White people, and Asian people and Hispanic and every other nationality should find that they relate to black characters too. They shouldn’t (finally have to) create a black princess and then only see black children using that doll. If Rapunzel (who I love dearly) is a universal princess and is found everywhere, then Tiana, Mulan, and Pocahontas and Jasmine should be too. Same goes for television. Black shows shouldn’t be considered a risk for only drawing black audiences (which is a bigger market than given credit for); plenty of people who weren’t black grew up watching the Cosby Show and Fresh Prince and currently enjoy shows like Scandal. Black should be given the chance to be see as universal.

Representation of black women on television is important because black women are important.

This is so important. Black women often grow up not seeing themselves as important because they don’t see positive representations of themselves in the media. More representation means more people, of all colors, get to see more sides to the black experience: both the ways in which we are unique and the ways in which we are the same.

Black Girls TV Banner 1

Check out Ramou’s full piece here: The Conversation | Honest Talk with Amanda de CadenetThe Conversation.

 

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Link: 12 Television Writers of Color You Should Know – Flavorwire

12 Television Writers of Color You Should Know – Flavorwire

Hopefully this list grows more and more as the 2014 pilot season arises.

Some of my favorites from this list:

Obviously Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. I am currently taking an TV writing class and decided to write a Scandal spec script. We’ll see how it goes.

Mindy Kaling – of the Mindy Project, obviously. I didn’t watch The Office, but I watch The Mindy Project and enjoy it’s rom-com style (when it sticks to it)

Aisha Muharrar writes for Parks and Recreation. She wrote the following episodes: “Kaboom” (2.06) “Park Safety” (2.19) “Camping” (3.08) “Born & Raised” (4.03) “Operation Ann” (4.14) “Bus Tour” (4.21)”Ms. Knope Goes to Washington” (5.01) “Ron and Diane” (5.09) and this seasons Recall Vote.

Yvette Lee Bowser wrote for A Different World and created Living Single. Two of my favorite black sitcoms. I need to check up on her other show Half and Half.

Check out the list for more, some of your favorite shows have writers of color you might not have known about. These writers are from Modern Family, The Killing, Hannibal, House, and Orange is the New Black!

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Article Response: Why I think “Why Is ‘Sleepy Hollow’ A Hit?” from Forbes is Missing a BIG Factor

First: Click here and skim Why Is ‘Sleepy Hollow’ A Hit? – Forbes, though I basically summarize it below.

Here are some reasons the Forbes gives for the success of my favorite new show of the season, Sleepy Hollow and some counterarguments.

1. “Choosing a young person, Emily Murray, as ‘Social Media Producer.'”

2. “Using Facebook and Twitter” (duh? What else would you use?), or I guess the point is knowing where your fans are hanging out (which is an excellent point–Castle, Doctor Who, and Supernatural fans rule Tumblr, Scandal and Sleepy Hollow are Twitter hits, no one is really using Facebook for this kind of thing).

3. “Collaborating internally.” I guess this means having the social media team and creatives and marketing people all work together to have gifs and images ready for the twitter experience; all of that requires multiple departments to work with the social media guys.

4. Focusing on the product, not the company.” or I guess, creating a community around the show not the network, but this is what every show does. Every show has a twitter account and makes it about the show. This isn’t a special thing Sleepy Hollow is doing.

5. Getting the actors to tweet. Yes, this is a huge helping, which they learned from shows like Scandal. Get everyone on board and people will retweet behind the scenes info or Orlando Jones being a hilarious doofball mentioning fanfiction and gifs in his tweets.

6. The twitter account having a back and forth “fight” with the twitter account from rival network show Elementary. Yes, this was funny to see and contributed to word of mouth.

But the article, which is definitely tech/social media focused, didn’t at all think about the show or the fans it draws. Other shows do these very same things. They have show specific twitter accounts. They try to get their actors to live tweet. They have the marketing department draw up designs and posters that work with their live tweeting efforts. These aren’t the only factors.

The audience is a major factor, and who is in Sleepy Hollow‘s audience? The same kinds of people who are in Scandal’s audience. Young black (females mostly, but some males who reluctantly admit they watch either or both shows) people (what these young people call Black Twitter). The media hasn’t yet caught on that young African-Americans LOVE Twitter. And if you give us a show with a black lead, we will watch that show (because we don’t have many options with that factor, so we watch the ones that do until there are more options). And we will tweet about it to our other African-American friends on Twitter. And shows like Sleepy Hollow and Scandal, both with a black female lead, will skyrocket to the top of the tv ratings and social media discussion charts. Oh, but we don’t talk about this being a factor, do we? Nor do we discuss the fact that the person doing the most tweeting and connecting with the fans is Orlando Jones, a person of color. These things are certainly important.

Other shows have tried to mimic the formula of Scandal. They’ve done the same social media things that Sleepy Hollow is doing. And yet they’re not ratings phenomena. All because the networks and media coverage are hesitant to acknowledge the real reason these shows are blowing up: because people want to see diversity on their TV screens. They are more likely to tune in. They are more likely to tell their black/asian/hispanic/white/etc friends about it. And then the show get super popular and gets renewed for the next season 4 episodes in, like Sleepy Hollow did.

Don’t let social media take all the credit for this show’s success. I know that’s what the article was about, but in a discussion about social media, you should discuss the people who use social media, and their various idiosyncrasies. That’s the real way of understanding how to use it and what platforms are best.

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/

Black TV 2013: Fall and Winter Preview | Old School 94.5

Black TV 2013: Fall and Winter Preview | Old School 94.5.

Check out this article, which discusses some of the [network tv] shows airing this fall that feature black characters. It’s sad we still need articles like this to point the shows out, but it’s useful. Especially since when I last looked at NBC’s Thursday Comedy Lineup, I did not spy not one black person on the posters (as much as I looove love Parks and Rec, it doesn’t add much for NBC’s lead/co-star diversity).

I am about to watch Sleepy Hollow tonight and as yesterday’s post said, I watched Brooklyn 99 and was pleased by a diverse cast. I am also interested in Almost Human and I already watch Scandal. Glad to see that there is some color on network TV, but it’s a shame that most of these shows the black character is a co-star or supporting, not the main actor/lead character. Kerry and Blair Underwood (Ironside) are leads. The Originals seems to star the black lead, while Sleepy Hollow, Almost Human, and Brooklyn 99 seem to be a dual lead deal thing going on.)

Hopefully, if there are midseason replacement shows, we can get some more diversity on network television (or some break out supporting minority characters who get increased storylines), because it feels like an all-time low right now. (Is Brooklyn 99 the only network sitcom starring a black person right now? With Mindy making 2 shows with minority leads? If there are others, let me know…)

Blog quotes:

“Last I read the last African-American/ Black sitcom that aired on a major TV network in the U.S was 6 years ago. 6 years.”

“Black sitcoms were, in many respects, a TV sub-genre that presented to viewers love, respect and fun. And through these sitcom shows, they demonstrated that it was possible to come from and be from an minority group- and STILL be successful and happy without resorting to derogatory stereotypes and buffoonery that elicits the very stereotypes Black people have fought and challenged throughout the years. And of which they continue to do so to this day.”

http://waichingsthoughts81.blogspot.com/2013/06/what-happened-to-black-sitcoms-on.html?spref=tw 

 

Check out this post from a UK citizen’s perspective on black television in America. Even from abroad, they recognize that there is a severe lack of representation of black people on American television, especially the major networks. 6 years is a long time. And that seems to go for dramas too. Not too many dramas on network TV starring black people (and this is me including them as the lead, not as a token but as a focus. Won’t even bother trying to find a drama where there are more than one.) and right now we only have Kerry Washington on Scandal. I just saw an ad for NBC’s Thursday night line up–no black people to be seen. =( 

The Black Sitcom: A Representation We Can Be Proud Of

The Black Sitcom: A Representation We Can Be Proud Of

I knew I wasn’t the only one with these thoughts on what the black sitcom is missing today. I just need myself and more people to help networks see that shows like this are worth greenlighting. And audiences to actually watch them. 

 

(And the Nielson ratings system to die or be seriously upgraded because people like me (basically non-middle of the country who doesn’t watch CBS) don’t get our voices heard so shows we want to watch don’t get the “ratings” they need to survive. That’s a rant for another post.)

Making Diversity the Norm, a Quote

Aisha Muharrar, a writer for NBC-TV’s Parks and Recreation, understands our nostalgic longing for programs that reflected us in authentic characters and situations that brought laughs without compromising our dignity. “I loved watching The Cosby Show, Living Single, Fresh Prince and Family Matters when I was a kid. But so did all my white friends. They were just good shows we all enjoyed. The answer is to make it the norm again so two shows don’t have to be the representation for all of black culture.”

The Shonda Rhimes Effect