More Black TV, Please

 

This is all kinds of good. More black tv is a good thing. More choices for black television viewers is a good thing.  

Since MLK III and Andrew Young are behind Bounce, the programming is likely to be "positive," but I hope it's not bourgeous Talented Tenth uplift the race cartoonish positive or, worse, class mobility as deracination positive.  

While we need more "positive" images of black people, what we really need is more human portraits of black people. Most of the black folks on The Wire were awful human beings, but they were human beings.  

We can't be afraid to show full portraits of black people, warts and all. 

Aymar Jean Christian puts it better than I can:

To date, BET, TV One and Centric have yet to produce any of the kinds of buzzy shows other cable nets have been making: from the scripted fare of AMC and FX to the crazy reality shows of A&E and E!.

What I think we need is a black TV network willing to assert that black programming can be as provocative, smart and engaging as the many experimental shows out there.

How about adapting the UK show The Misfits with a mostly black cast? Or creating an historical narrative along the lines of Mad Men or Downtown Abbey — perhaps of the Harlem Renaissance? What about those aspects of the black community traditionally left hidden on TV: gay/SGL/trans people, single mothers, and the like? How about a reality show like Sundance’s Brick City, exploring in complex detail the racial and day-to-day politics of managing a city?

It’s rather startling how some of the best “black” programming over the past decade or so has not appeared on black networks — The Wire chief among them, but also The BoondocksOz — and the primary culprit is BET, which has the cash to push boundaries but has traditionally played it safe.

Will these new networks push black TV to beyond the status quo? So far the odds are against them, but the first one to surprise us (and critics) will reap huge rewards.

There have got to be visionary black writers and producers looking to redefine what it means to make a black television show. We already had Mara Brock Akil. She can't be the only one.

9 thoughts on “More Black TV, Please

  1. PBG

    I welcome this with open arms…err…eyes.
    I love TV and I’d love it if I saw more of the diversity that is the Black Experience portrayed on the small screen. Hopefully it will be available in all the major markets and on basic cable packages.

    Reply
  2. tigger500

    Bounce is an over-the-air network like ABC and NBC, so presumably it will be automatically available, but rolled out slowly in markets (i.e. Fox, The WB, and UPN).

    Reply
  3. Chanda Causer

    Here is a useless comment: That commercial made me think about that horrible show Kojo was on last fall. and the Bounce ad seemed like a spoof – I was awaiting the punch line
    Worthy comment: Sure – bring on the diversity! I would love to see more folks of color and the under-rep Asians on TV

    Reply
  4. Hal

    The call for more black targeted television programming has got to be one of the most ridiculous advertisements for racial equality I have ever witnessed…considering African Americans watch more television than any other race. No wonder the percentage of African Americans that visit National Parks is lower than any other group (13%). Then there is the dropout rate of inner city African American students. If there are any racial equality issues that need to be addressed, let us start there; or overcrowded prisons.

    Reply
  5. tigger500

    You know, Hal – I go back and forth on this question. Sure the prison industrial complex and education are probably the two single most important issues facing our community, but I think we underestimate the degree to which media representation undergirds both of those broken systems. And because we do, we fail to understand the reality how Black Americans are portrayed for the entire world population.
    In other words, you can make the case that the prisons should be disproportionately filled with black and brown faces if the images that most people see of criminality are black and brown.
    I also think there is something more profoundly important about black people, it seems, finally taking some real ownership of their images. We still largely cede who we are and what we can be in the public space to large white media conglomerations because that’s the fastest way to wealth.

    Reply
  6. LaWanda

    Hey! Interesting. I will start by saying, yes, I do think there should be more black tv shows. I don’t like to refer to entertainment as negative or positive. As long as the story lines and the portrayals are honest and interesting, that’s all I care about. The one thing I wish some of the most prominent African American creators will get away from is melodrama. Give me a strong script and an ensemble cast that is wonderfully complexed as well as engaging.
    I don’t understand why African American shows have to be so preachy, political or dramatic.

    Reply

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