African-American shows could be headed in a positive direction.
Black TV is rising again. That may sound like an arbitrary statement, but things were looking bleak for African-Americans on TV quite recently. In 2008, network TV cancelled Girlfriends and the other good Black-centric TV shows, like Everybody Hates Chris and The Game,followed suit.
Viewers were only left with Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and TV Land re-runs of The Cosby Show. Everyone loves The Cosbys, but it’s pretty bad when you can recite the lines of an entire episode of a show simply because it’s that redundant in re-runs. And we all know how polarizing Tyler Perry can be. Some people love him, but for those who either dislike him or find themselves somewhere in the middle of appreciation and disdain (like me), it’s not appealing to tune in to TBS for painfully cheesy dialogue and preachy moral messages badly disguised as comedy. So what did we do? I can’t speak for everyone, but I gave up hope and simply reminisced on what used to be thanks to TV on DVD.
But then The Game ushered in a positive tipping point when it received a record-breaking 7.7 million viewers, while Let’s Stay Together debuted right after and received 4.4 million viewers. Even VH1 has decided to take a chance on scripted programming with Single Ladies. And there’s still more to come for BET with shows like Reed Between the Lines, starring Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Tracee Ellis Ross.
In addition to new shows seeing ratings, network TV has revived some of the aforementioned cancelled shows via syndication. According to Entertainment Weekly (from the week of May 20, 2011), the ratings are still phenomenal. So, Black viewership holds weight after all. Even though the tube could use more diversity, we’re moving toward a better place in pop culture’s lexicon. As long as we continue demanding more stories of substance, we force TV execs to listen and we inspire future Black actors, writers, producers and filmmakers to keep moving forward in the process.