Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Black Comedy

A black sitcom is an American term meaning a sitcom that features a primarily black cast or an African-American in the lead role. Although sitcoms with primarily black casts had been present since the earliest days of network television this genre rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s.
The favorite programmes of television audiences tend to reflect their different ethnic origins/affinities. The exposure of the black community on US TV has been greater than that of other minorities but continues to reflect racial divisions within American society. A series of popular black sitcoms appeared in the 1970s, including That's My Mama, Good Times, Sanford and Son, What's Happening?, and The Jeffersons. In the 1980s sitcoms such as The Cosby Show, A Different World and Frank's Place, challenged stereotypical portrayals of blacks but were nevertheless seen as "black" (segregated) despite appearances by white actors.
The Cosby Show, one of the biggest surprise hits in American television history, dominated Thursday evenings from 1984 to 1992. Focusing on the everyday adventures of an upper-middle-class black family, the series revived a television genre, which saved a struggling network (NBC), and sparked controversy about race and class in America. I have to admit I have never watched The Cosby Show as I was a bit too young for it but even after 20 years I am still fully aware of the popularity of the show.
However the show did not go on without criticism "One audience study suggests that the show "strikes a deal" with white viewers, that it absolves them of responsibility for racial inequality in the United States in exchange for inviting the Huxtables into their living room". "Meanwhile, the same study found that black viewers tend to embrace the show for its positive portrayals of blackness, but express misgivings about the Huxtables' failure to regularly interact with less affluent blacks". These quotes show that there were still tensions between different races and it is also worth noting that the Cosby Show is based on an upper-middle-class family and is completely disregarding poor black Americans.
However in 1992 when The Cosby Show ended the popularity of black sitcoms started to fizzle out as new sitcoms such as Friends came to light which had a predominately white cast. The only black sitcom that I can personally remember is The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air which began in 1990.

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