BLACK TV #BlackHistoryMonth
A few weeks ago, when one of my best friends asked me what my top 10 scripted TV shows were, I realised that nearly all my favourite shows have black leading characters! In both film and TV, people of colour (I hate that term/phrase!) have always been grossly underrepresented, in front of the screen and behind it.
Black talent in this area of entertainment is finally being recognised and I'm all the way here for it. I go out of my way to support black people in entertainment in order to debunk the RACIST idea that black faces can't be monetised unless they are in music or handling a ball. I like all brand posts with black models, I stream podcasts run by black people, I like posts on Instagram from black creatives, I give views to black women on Youtube and I watch shows with black creators, producers, writers and black leading actors.
Does this mean I support mediocre talent sometimes? Absolutely! Now that Luke Cage has been cancelled I can scream from the rooftops about how rubbish it was but did I increase its viewer count? Yes! I would put it on while doing other things just so my views would count. Why you ask? Because it is incredibly hard for shows with black leads to get picked up and all it take is for one show to flop for the industry to use it as an excuse to not pick up another show with a black lead. So yes, I shamelessly supported Luke Cage even though it is probably the worst show I have ever given my time to. #NotRudeHonest
To be clear, I don't mean to say we should always support bad shows/talent however, right now, it matters that we support all things black so that the crack in the wall that we've been squeezing through can become an open door we can just walk through. Only then do I feel we will have the luxury of being selective.
While discussing my TV roster, my friend stated that they hadn't heard of most of the shows I'd mentioned. As in the UK, October is Black History Month (it's February in the US), it feels like the best time to bring some of these shows to light for others like me who enjoy seeing melanin on their screen. Don't worry, these are all good shows! 😜
Like many others across the globe, my favourite TV show is 'Game of Thrones' but as it hasn't got any black lead actors I won't be discussing that any further.
This Is Us
At number 2 I have 'This Is Us'. The show follows the members of the Pearson family and uses their past to show the effects that life events have had on their present. Based on the complex relationships between various people in this family, this show satisfies the ethnographer in me. Touching on love, death, jealousy, body confidence, marriage, abandonment, adoption and fertility, 'This Is Us' has been known to evoke strong emotions in its viewers male and female, but I can proudly say that I have not cried once while watching it. 😎
Seasons: 3 - Status: Currently in S3 - Episodes per season: 18
How To Get Away With Murder
My favourite TV genre is 'drama' and nobody does it better than Shonda Rhimes. My third favourite show, 'How To Get Away With Murder', is based on a badass criminal defence attorney and law professor portrayed by Viola Davis, who takes some of her students under her wing and together, become experts in getting away with murder. Literally. Shonda is really good at colour-blind casting and producing storylines that are so good, they allow you to forget the multi-ethnic nature of the cast and focus on the characters themselves rather than their appearance. No typecasting over here.
Seasons: 5 - Status: Currently in S5 - Episodes per season: 15
'Black-ish' is simply TV gold which is why it sits comfortably at number 4. Using humour, this sitcom uses every episode to address racial issues from the perspective of an African American family. Despite their upper middle-classed status, the show depicts the ways in which slavery and racism affects every aspect of a black person's life even when they are successful. Oh, and the youngest daughter, Diane Johnson (played by Marsai Martin), might be a psychopath! 👀
Seasons: 5 - Status: Currently in S5 - Episodes per season: 24
My number 5 has got to be 'Insecure'. Watching this show is like spending time with your girlfriends and many young women can relate to the various storylines covered. Although this season was a bit disappointing storyline wise, it didn't disappoint in all the other aspects that the show is loved for, black girl magic! From killer swag, to certified clapbacks this show does an amazing job of showing black women just being. Well done Issa Rae!
Seasons: 3 - Status: Hiatus, S4 confirmed - Episodes per season: 8
If you haven't started watching 'The Chi' then you need to catch up before the new season starts in 2019. Created and executive produced by Lena Waithe, 'The Chi', which has been compared to 'The Wire', is based in a neighbourhood on the South Side of Chicago where the death of a young boy affects the fate of all the characters, young and old. My favourite character is a self-assured boy called 'Papa' (on the right in the image below) who oozes confidence without an ounce of hyper masculinity, a true king.
Seasons: 1 - Status: Hiatus, S2 confirmed - Episodes per season: 8
If, like me, you love a good organised-crime drama, then my number 7 is for you. 'Snowfall' is set in 1983 Los Angeles and portrays the rise of the crack epidemic through the life of young dealer Franklin Saint, who is portrayed by British actor, Damson Idris. From teenage romance to the war on drugs, 'Snowfall' is full of throwback 80's vibes.
Seasons: 2 - Status: Hiatus, S3 confirmed - Episodes per season: 10
At number 8 we have another Shonda Rhimes creation, 'Grey's Anatomy'. The show is based in a hospital however, everything from sexuality, adoption, faith, sexism and racism has been addressed at various points throughout the seasons. Shonda has also done a great job of casting strong black female leads (prime example, Dr. Miranda Bailey!) and my current fave is the beautiful Dr. Maggie Pierce. I have a soft spot for female cardiothoracic surgeons and although she will never replace my alter ego, Dr. Cristina Yang, Maggie has been a welcomed addition to the cast.
Seasons: 15 - Status: Currently in S15 - Episodes per season: 24
Number 9 is a cult favourite, 'Atlanta'. Created by and starring Donald 'Childish Gambino' Glover, 'Atlanta' is centred around two cousins who are trying to make it in the rap game as a rapper-manager duo and their friend who is just along for the ride. As the name denotes, the show is set in Atlanta and the obstacles they face due to a series of bad decision making is depicted in comedic fashion.
Seasons: 2 - Status: Hiatus, S3 confirmed - Episodes per season: 10/11
Being Mary Jane
'Being Mary Jane' has unfortunately been cancelled but it is still a good show and takes my number 10 spot. Created by Mara Brok Akil, who created the iconic TV show 'Girlfriends', the series follows Mary Jane, a successful TV news anchor through her professional and personal struggles. Mary Jane's struggles are very relatable and the show makes a point of touching on issues that affect black women in particular. If that isn't enough reason to watch, the cast is full of eye candy of every hue. 😍
A two hour movie finale to the show was promised for 2018 however I have yet to hear any update on that. If you know something I don't know, update me in the comments below. The official reasons for the cancellation of the show is unknown however Gabrielle Union, who plays Mary Jane, has told us to ask 50 Cent. What's the tea Fiddy? 👀
Seasons: 4 - Status: Cancelled - Episodes per season: 9-12
Talking of 50 Cent, 'Power' is another favourite (still 10 shows since my number 1 didn't count! 😜). Turf wars, ruthless murders, legal trouble, a ride-or-die wife, broken friendships, a steamy love affair, illegal money and lots of suspense - what's not to love? Oh, and the theme tune is a straight banger! Warning: Tariq will raise your blood pressure, watch at your own risk.
Seasons: 5 - Status: Hiatus, S6 confirmed - Episodes per season: 10
Although those are my top 10, there are more shows that I feel deserve a mention:
There was a time that all these shows would have never made it to TV so it is important that we support them once they do. Things are definitely changing but we still have a long way to go.
Happy Black History Month folks! ✊🏿✊🏽✊🏾