When Larry Willmore still hosted his show on Comedy Central, he had an ongoing joke during the 2016 Presidential campaign called the UnBlackening, which referred to how our country would do all it could to make sure President #45 would not be a Black person. Although this UnBlackening is happening to The White House, what has been happening on television lately is the opposite. Yes, there have never so been so many acclaimed shows led by African American actors, producers, and showrunners, and/or featuring predominantly African American casts. I couldn't be more excited about this. Right now, I'm all about Luke Cage, Insecure, Atlanta, & Queen Sugar. I still love Empire & black-ish. And, I support two Shonda Rhimes shows with Black female leads: Scandal & How To Get Away With Murder. Another ABC show, John Ridley's American Crime, has been fearless when focusing on race in this country. But, there are more. Shows such as Underground, Rosewood, and BBC's Undercover are also making some noise. And then there's Emmy winner Master of None and Fresh Off the Boat bringing some new and much needed Asian narratives to the forefront.
To have shows focusing on aspects of Black life and culture is not only essential, but a long time coming. I grew up changing the channels to find a face that looked like mine starring on a network show, reading the fall previews hoping there would be shows focusing on stories like mine. 2016 is the first year where I finally have multiple shows to choose from that display Black life in a complex, realistic fashion. The subjects these shows are discussing resonate with so many of us. I did not think I'd see them as focal points on television. Ever. black-ish had an episode that focused on Black fear of police brutality. Empire hasn't shied away from that topic as well. Insecure has two characters that are showing the challenges so many Black folks face when they work in a predominantly White work place. In Luke Cage, Harlem seems to not only come to life on screen, but it's almost a character in the show. Some white people actually complained that Luke Cage was too Black!
ABC's Scandal once featured this conversation between Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope and her father, which lots of Black parents have had with their children.
Watch How to Get Away With Murder and see Viola Davis portray a Black woman (Annalise Keating) who is more real than just about any we've seen on a major network show. And I'm not talking about the insane murder plot points. I mean scenes like this one. 'Cause we just havent't seen this on tv until now. Seriously.
Atlanta just had its season finale and is arguably the most unique and well-crafted show on television. It doesn't follow any traditional sitcom standards and is unapologetic. Exhibit A: This commercial which aired during an episode. Yeah, they went there, and did so hard.
Queen Sugar is a show by Ava Duvernay on the Oprah Winfrey Network, which pretty much says it all.
These shows are diverse, poignant, humorous, compelling, inventive, and relevant. But, it can't stop there. Some channels are way behind in diversifying and need to catch up quickly. They need to remember that there are more marginalized voices out there that need to be heard and celebrated. So, I hope this is finally a start of something beautiful.
Here are some more show clips, trailers, and interviews. And the first episode of Issa Rae's Insecure which is damn near perfection.