Last week we witnessed the cancellation of the popular CW series, also one of the last black sitcoms, The Game. Now that a few days have gone by and we’ve had a chance to “simmer down” a bit, it seems high time for a serious discussion about the state of television and the representation of African Americans on the small screen.
Yes, representation on television has been an issue for decades but, has been eyed more closely since the curtain closed on staples like ‘Good Times,’ ‘227,’ ‘The Jeffersons,’ and ‘The Cosby Show’. While each of the aforementioned shows were representative of different facets of the “Black Experience,” if you will, it seems that today’s marketplace is simply not accepting of similar or more in depth projects. Most important, it seems that well written sitcoms like ‘The Game’ have trouble with staying power and are often thrown to Friday (aka ‘The Graveyard’ or ‘last stop before cancellation’ slot). How many shows have been canceled on major networks and how many have featured primarily African American or minority casts in recent years ?
In order to provide some prospective let’s run through a few: All of Us, My Wife and Kids, Girlfriends, Second Time Around, Cuts, Eve, One on One, The Bernie Mac Show, The Steve Harvey Show, Everybody Hates Chris, The Hughleys, Half & Half and the list continues. In fact, for those who watched “Half & Half” you, like I, wanted to know who Mona picked -or- for ‘Girlfriends’ wanted to have at least a decent finale after eight seasons with Joan, Toni, Lynn, Maya and William!
Stepping away from that digression, you have to admit the television landscape has changed and reality television, as controversial as it may be, is winning the race. Yes, we all enjoy the American Idol’s and Big Brothers but a lot of us are sitting down with our friends, nachos and all, to find out who Flavor Flav, Ray J, New York or Chance and Real are going to eliminate. Even better we’re calling or texting our friends before, during and after the show to comment on women nicknamed Thing 1 and Thing 2, Deelishis, and Buckwild or men named Tailor Made, Punk, and The Entertainer. You know you’ve done it and we all have â the proof is in the record ratings.
Dating shows aside (as VH1 is not the only network sporting record reality ratings), look no further than BRAVO’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” or BET’s “Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is” and MTV’s “Making The Band,” each of these shows have landed record records nearly every season. So as we fire off about ‘The Game’ being axed, a lot of us are changing that TIVO, DVR or similar device over to watch re-runs of New York(VH1) at work at a pig farm or Irv Gotti dealing with the changing landscape of the music industry. Does this effect representation and portrayal of the black community on television ? – that ultimately is up to you to decide but the overwhelming answer after thinking for a few minutes could be a resounding yes !
For now, it seems that reality television is representing “us,” aside from diverse casts on ‘Greys Anatomy,’ ‘Ugly Betty,’ and a decent amount of ‘big three’ (CBS, ABC, NBC) primetime series.
With the above said, this article is not intended to begin a reality bashing craze, it is in fact to aid in establishing dialogue about a changing dynamic. Most important it is a way for you to think and decide whether supporting a reality show that, while not necessarily reflective in your eyes of you and your family, might just effect the perception and resulting attitude from people you might just encounter at work, the grocery store, gas station, hospital or any public place. Beyond that, it proves that the power is in numbers. If we support it (or better yet own it), the “powers that be” will also support it because after all this is a business…
* As an aside, there are a few television series that are attempting to “represent” and they are: Lincoln Heights (ABC Family), House of Payne (TBS), and Meet The Browns (TBS)
—— By: Njai Joszor