Last night was the premiere of Blackish on ABC. Although it is the only all black sitcom on network TV, the fall season has seen an influx of black actors starring on TV shows.
It started slowly, but surely. Kerry Washington and Nicole Beharie came in as powerful women leading their shows with a different view of black women. Then Gabrielle Union with a bit more complexity, though essentially a mess. The ladies of Orange Is The New Black, who are incredible. Now we have Jada Pinkett Smith starring on the new Fox show Gotham, which is really good, Octavia Spencer on The Red Band Society, and of course Viola Davis on the exciting new show, How To Get Away With Murder. We also have Laz Alonzo on The Mysteries of Laura, Larenz Tate on Rush, Taye Diggs on Murder in the First, Nia Long on The Divide, Gina Torres on Suits, Retta on Parks and Recreation, Tia Mowry on Instant Mom, Terry Crews on Brooklyn Nine Nine, Morris Chestnut on Legends, Halle Berry on Extant and, one of my personal favorites, American Horror Story with Angela Bassett and now Patti Labelle. We or course also have OWN with all of its Tyler Perry shows. And that’s not even all of it!
Not only are there more black faces on TV, but the characters are all over the place. Not stereotypical, sassy black characters for comic relief, but black people in all kinds of situations. We’re being represented. We’ve even seeped into daytime. It’s beyond Whoopi on The View and Sheryl Underwood and Aisha Tyler on The Talk. We have Queen Latifah with her own show and now The Real. We’re all over the place, truly being represented and it is a beautiful thing.
Blackish is a different kind of show entirely. It goes head on at the issue of being black in a white dominated society. The lead character Andre, played by Anthony Anderson, is a successful black man with a family who lives in a predominantly white neighborhood and works at a predominantly white corporation. He is trying desperately to “Keep It Real”, especially since he feels his children are becoming white washed. His wife is played by Tracee Ellis Ross, who is a surgeon and his father is played by Laurence Fishburne, who is basically the aging version of Dap, his character from School Daze. It takes the issues of black culture head on. It will be interesting to see a black family on network television unflinchingly dealing with blackness.
All in all I’m excited to see so many different brown places in so many different worlds. It feels good to really start to see diversity on TV. Black film is also expanded with the success of Will Packer. I’m glad that we’re not only seeing ourselves on crazy reality shows. I’m more than ready. I will be trying to watch as many of these shows as possible.
For a full guide to black women appearing in new TV shows go to www.forharriet.com