Many of you would be surprised at how much of our content is naturally born out of the conversations the BNP staff has throughout the day. The latest example would be our #AnimeGasp hashtag. Another would be when one of our writers sparked a discussion on the the Top Five black sitcoms of all-time. But that same unnamed writer felt the inclination to throw Moesha in the list like that’s a thing it’s okay to do. [It was Savon, blow up his mentions if you must.]
Then another member of our staff, L.E.H. Light, stepped up to correct the wrongdoing. And she did a very good job and almost deaded the entire discussion. But then she finished the list off with Everybody Hates Chris and made me hit a double take. Again, great show. But top five? All-time? Like, all of it? Nah.
So I’m here to tie up all the loose ends and present the actual list of the best five black sitcoms of all-time.
5. The Jeffersons
Most of the shows on this list, many of which feature middle to upper-middle class black families, would not have existed if not for The Jeffersons. The show gave us an inside look into a family of recent wealth that were able to move on up in the world to a deluxe apartment in the sky but still had the relatability of the life they left behind. Who would’ve imagined that the poster for the American Dream in the 1970s would feature a black family?
George Jefferson became a staple in American households and Florence deserves credit for every single bad hairline meme you see on Twitter today. And it’s worth pointing out the irony that The Jeffersons was a spin-off of All in the Family, which featured the regularly racist Archie Bunker. Take that as a sign that greatness can come out of the oddest placed.
4. Living Single
By the time the 1990s rolled around, we’d had a healthy number of sitcoms about black families. But Living Single filled a noticeable void when it came to telling the stories of young black people who had moved out of the but hadn’t started families of their own. And it was nice to have a show about four independent women who weren’t all white and on social security. [Sorry Golden Girls, I still love you.]
Over the course of five seasons from 1993 to 1998, viewers helped push the show to the top of ratings as we followed the stories of Khadijah James (Queen Latifah), her cousin Synclaire along with Reginé and Maxine. The guest list was one for the ages and the relationships will always be #goals.
Feel free to start a petition to get this show on Netflix. We’ll support it.
3. A Different World
There’s a number of people in my life that would hold it against me if I said A Different World is the reason I went to college. So I’ll just say it was one of a handful of reasons.
Originally a spin-off of The Cosby Show that depicted Denise Huxtable’s experiences off at Hillman College. But, after the first season, everything centered around Whitley Gilbert and Dwayne Wayne as they navigated their way through life on an HBCU campus and immediately after. Let’s be honest, the show doesn’t really start until season 2 anyway. That’s when we were all introduced to the magic of Cree Summers, Sinbad, and Lou Myers ad Mr. Vernon Gaines.
The issues presented in the show were often too serious for The Cosby show – such as consent, race relations and HIV/AIDS – but still highly important to the college-aged black community.
2. The Cosby Show
[As an aside: Bill Cosby is likely whatever expletive you’ve used to describe him over the past year or so. And then some. While we respect everyone’s individual choice to separate his crimes from his work, or not, we hope that you’ll offer us the same courtesy.]
The Cosby Show wasn’t just one of the most popular black sitcoms of all-time. It was one of the most popular sitcoms ever.
The stories of the Huxtable family permeated American culture for more than eight seasons. Cliff and Claire Huxtable were the relationship many of us wanted to have one day and the constant hijinks by the revolving door of children running in and out of the house made for some great comedy.
A lot of people like to pick on the later seasons, after the kids grew up and mostly moved out. But we wouldn’t have had Maxine Shaw without Pam. And Rayen Symone was so cute and funny at an early age that you would’ve thought she was made in a factory exclusively for entertaining youngsters.
1. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is peak black sitcom for a list of reasons as we watch Will Smith adjust to his sudden move to Bel-Air from Philly. Smith’s charisma, talent and star power only tripled by the time the show was over, the comedy still holds up 20 years later and the emotional scenes still make us all drop tears – or a single Denzel tear – all the same. Come on. “How come he don’t want me man?” If you didn’t just get a lump in your throat, you have no soul.
But we also fell in love with the rest of the Banks family almost overnight – maybe, except Aunt Viv 2.0. Uncle Phil raised all of us. Carlton could’ve easily become an easy target for punchlines, but was quickly developed and mastered the art of the clapback. Ashley was everyone’s innocent little sister. Hillary was always up to no good. And don’t even get me starter on the Petty Gawd, Geoffrey Butler.
Last thought. You’re not a real fan if I hit you with “I begged and pleaded with her, day after day…” and you don’t know the next line.
Honorable Mention: Black-ish
So we were banned from including shows currently running on-air on this list. But if I could have, I would’ve seriously considered throwing Black-ish in despite only being three seasons in. It’s already given us hot takes on contemporary black life and a handful of teary-eyed moments from an incredibly talented cast. Here’s hoping that we can ride this wave for a while longer.