Growing up, I wasn't allowed to watch television on the weekdays.(My dad was African, reading was king.) Throughout elementary school I would sit on the school bus and listen to my friends go on and about what had occurred on any given show. (Did I mention we didn't have cable?......It was a pitiful existence.) I’d heard about the various cable shows of course but, I only had access to the basic networks and only on Friday evenings and Saturdays, if we were home.
On the weekends, I was as thirsty as possible. Parched for some screen-time I often raced down the stairs to beat my sister to the tv. I watched a ton of shows those blissful Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons of my childhood. After all, Black faces were aplenty. (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, The Cosby Show, A Different World, Martin, Living Single, Hangin’ With Mister Cooper, The Steve Harvey Show, The Jamie Foxx Show, Good Times, etc.)
And as I got older, I got into more current shows like Moesha, Sister Sister, One on One, Half &Half, The Parkers, The Bernie Mac Show, Everybody Hates Chris, Girlfriends and The Game (pre-BET).
I watched a lot of other things too. However, I gravitated towards these particular shows because of the familiarity of the brown faces that appeared on screen. They looked like my family, like my Mama and them. As Black people, we are not a homogenous group but there are moments, certain particularities that remain timeless and relatable.
As I moved into high school and then through college, Blackness had nearly vanished completely from both the big and small screens. Tyler Perry of course kept actors on the big screen, while period pieces and bio-pics, always found room for Black faces. (And yet as we all know, being restrained in these particular roles suffocates the black actor.)
Television however, was in even worse shape. As I struggled with girlhood and then when puberty. I was desperate to find girls who looked like me. There was Breanna(Kyla Pratt) from One on One, Moesha (Brandy) and Vanessa (Camille Winbush) The Bernie Mac Show. However, those girls were just a bit older, a bit more refined, just a tad out of my reach. We had Raven to go along with Lizzie McGuire, but was that enough? Not when you’re bombarded with images that are the antithesis of who you are.
I was constantly digging through the archives, working backwards to find old images of Angela Bassett or Erika Alexander. Their images weren’t always readily available; I had to be purposeful in seeking them out. It was as if we’d once again reverted to the 1960’s when everyone in a Black household went running to the television when someone Black was on screen.
Shonda Rhimes and ABC changed that first with Grey’s Anatomy(2005-) and then when she got us all together by delivering queen Olivia Pope in Scandal (2012-) And finally it seems other networks begin to follow suit. Though it was a very short run, Megan Goode starred on NBC’s Deception(2013), and things have seems to go from there. As a television lover, I’m super excited about some of the things coming out.
I have argued with many about Black images on screen, Many people take issue with Olivia Pope’s position as a mistress, they feel that because she is one of the only Black women on screen she should be prefect (ala Claire Huxtable). However, I argue that the perfect image argument is even more tiresome then being called “chocolate” as I walk down the street.
But here’s what’s coming up in fall television.
8PM EST Fox’s Gotham
This new series is a prequel to Batman. I’m not really super into the superhero world unless the man character is fine but Jada Pinkett is on TV again and that in itself is worth the look.
9PM EST Fox’s Sleepy Hollow.
Nichole Beharie is stunning; I’ve seen it for her since I was first introduced to her in Shame (2011). Though I ‘m obsessed with Buffy The Vampire Slaver and The Vampire Diaries, Sleepy Hallow isn’t necessarily my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I watched nearly half of the first season and its very well done but I guess being “grownish” I need something a tad sexier. Definitely worth the watch though.
8PM EST NBC’s The Mysteries of Laura.
Now this doesn’t exactly fall in line because Laz Alonzo plays Deb Messing sidekick in the show. But I shall excuse it because I live for Deb (if you haven’t seen Will & Grace then just give up on life now.) and hell I’ll watch Laz for an hour. I’m not mad at all.
9PM EST Fox's Red Band Society
Based off a memoir, the story surronds a group of kids who bond during their stay at an LA hospital. Octavia Spencer stars as one of the nurses at the hospital. The story line feels a bit cheesy to me if I'm going to be honest, however Octavia can be great as long as shes not relegated to the role of "sassy" Black helper. We've seen The Help already.
9:30PM EST ABC’s Blackish
Now, though I’m excited about this theoretically because I live for Tracee Ellis, I’m not really sure about this show. Maybe its because I feel away about Anthony Anderson, but I think the themes surrounding the show are definitely worth discussing. I’ll give it a look for sure.
8PM EST ABC’S Grey’s Anatomy
The first of Queen Shonda’s Thursday night shows. Now I haven’t watched the show since Loretta Divine was still the Chief’s wife. I lived for it in high school but it just got to be too much for me. Anyways’ the show is a multicultural spread . Plus there’s Jesse Williams so…yeah.
9PM EST ABC’s Scandal
Ms. Olivia Pope! When I first stumbled across this series fairly early on I knew it was something special. The fashion, the storyline, Kerry Washington herself, it was and still is all of the things. Don’t get me wrong, last season was a hot boiling mess but I’ll just chalk it up to Kerry being preggers and the writers trying to wrap things up in an eighteen-episode season. Anyway I’m still hype about it come back. (Also thank God they got rid of Columbus Short’s ridiculous ass.)
10PM EST ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder
Ya’ll Auntie Viola has her own show. She slays in general (I just saw her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and she was the best part of that entire fiasco of a film.) I don’t know much about the series other than it looks amaze and Dean Thomas from Harry Potter is on it but that enough to draw me to the tv.
I would say that overall, the current fall line up is not looking too shabby. It's looking much better than last year that’s for sure. I will say this however, as Viola Davis said recently, this marginalization of Black people on screen has got to stop. We shouldn't have to go seek out premiere networks like HBO, Showtime and Starz to see images. They should be ever present ever available, just as we are in real life. Images reinforce the fact that we are real, that we are human and that our existence is just as relevant and just as valuable as others.
xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxox
Will you be watching?