By The Editors published
Last year, Netflix announced the only thing that could save 2020: They were bringing Black sitcoms from the '90s and the early aughts to the streaming platform. Sister, Sister, along with Moesha, The Game, Girlfriends, The Parkers, Half & Half, and One on One once again graced us with their presence on the small screen. Gone would be the days of watching old episodes through low-quality YouTube videos as we all attempted to take back any piece of childhood we could grab. Now, we had the world at our fingertips, and all felt right again.
But as much as I wish this weren't true: the bliss caused by Netflix is only temporary. Many of us have a binge-watching problem and can go through seasons like it's nothing. So while we were reliving the glory days, thoughts kept creeping up: what would we do after we were done? So we created this list to narrow things down for you (and us), so that the next time you stare at your TV screen in a panic, unsure what to watch, you can turn to this handy-dandy list. If you're looking for a top-notch Black TV show, you've come to the right place.
Original run: April 1, 1994 — May 23, 1999
Starring: Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Tamera Mowry-Housley, Jackée Harry, Tim Reid, Marques Houston
Premise: Twin sisters separated at birth wind up meeting each 14 years later by chance at a Detroit mall. Not wanting to separate the twins any longer, their (conveniently) single adoptive parents agree to move in together so they can be a family. It's as lovely as well as laugh-out-loud funny as it sounds.
Original run: October 9, 2016 — Present
Starring: Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis, Natasha Rothwell, Amanda Seales, Lisa Joyce
Premise: Best friends Issa and Molly aren't as confident as everyone makes them out to be, but they know how to fake it 'til they make it. Part comedy, part drama, Issa Rae writes a world that accurately mirrors the Black woman experience, no sugarcoating needed.
'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'
Original run: September 10, 1990 — May 20, 1996
Starring: Will Smith, James Avery, Alfonso Ribeiro, Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell
Premise: If you know the famous theme song, you kinda already know what this show is about. But if you've been hiding under a rock, we can break it down for you. A kid (Smith) from West Philadelphia moves in with his wealthy uncle Phil (James Avery) and crew in California at his mother's request. He has a hard time adjusting to the new lifestyle, but with the help of his new family, he'll figure things out.
Original run: September 24, 2014 — Present
Starring: Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, Marsai Martin, Yara Shahidi
Premise: Family man Andre "Dre" Johnson (Anthony Anderson) awakes one day with the fear that his family could be getting too used to their lives in their very white, upper-middle-class neighborhood. Not wanting his family to lose their cultural identity, Dre sets out to teach his children various aspects of Black culture.
'A Different World'
Original run: September 24, 1987 — May 8, 1993
Starring: Lisa Bonet, Kadeem Hardison, Jasmine Guy, Darryl M. Bell, Charnele Brown, Dawnn Lewis, Jada Pinkett Smith
Premise: This spin-off from the world of The Cosby Show followed Denise Huxtable (Bonet) and her times at Hillman College. It was one of the first shows to accurately portray historically Black fraternities and sororities, while covering topics from HIV to the 1992 LA riots.
'I May Destroy You'
Original run: June 7, 2020 — Present
Starring: Michaela Coel, Weruche Opia, Paapa Essiedu, Stephen Wight
Premise: Londoner Arabella (Michaela Coel) arrives back in town with an inbox full of messages from her publisher on her book's status and tempting texts from her friends to go out for the night. She chooses the latter, and something happens that changes her forever.
Original run: September 22, 1989 — July 17, 1998
Starring: Reginald VelJohnson, Jaleel White, Kellie Shanygne Williams, Darius McCrary, Jo Marie Payton, Rosetta LeNoire
Premise: It's the show that gave us the infamous nerdy next-door neighbor Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) that America couldn't get enough of, yet the Winslow family wished he and all his silly antics would just go away.
Original run: September 6, 2016 — Present
Starring: Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, LaKeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz
Premise: This two-time Emmy winner tells the story of cousins Alfred "Paper Boi" Miles (Brian Tyree Henry) and Earnest "Earn" Marks (Donald Glover). With the help of their friend Darrius (Lakeith Stanfield), they'll set out to try and make their way to the top of the Atlanta rap scene.
Original run: January 23, 1996 — May 14, 2001
Starring: Brandy Norwood, William Allen Young, Marcus T. Paulk, Lamont Bentley, Terrance Harvey, Shar Jackson
Premise: South Central Los Angeles teen Moesha (Brandy Norwood) is used to being the head of her household. That all changes when her father remarries, leaving her and her little brother to adjust to the new addition. Thankfully, they have a great group of friends to help them along the way.
Original run: April 5, 2012 — April 19, 2018
Starring: Kerry Washington, Tony Goldwyn, Darby Stanchfield, Katie Lowes, Bellamy Young, Guillermo Diaz
Premise: Hollywood queen Shonda Rhimes does it again, this time about a former White House communications director who opens up a crisis management firm to make sure what secrets happen in Capitol Hill stay there. All hail Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington).
'Everybody Hates Chris'
Original run: September 22, 2005 — May 8, 2009
Starring: Terry Crews, Tichina Arnold, Tequan Richmond, Imani Hakim, Vincent Martella, Tyler James Williams, Chris Rock
Premise: Comedian Chris Rock brings his childhood in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood to the small screen. Its ability to tackle race and class in America through comedy earned the show Golden Globe and Emmy nominations.
'One on One'
Original run: September 3, 2001 — May 15, 2006
Starring: Kyla Pratt, Robert Ri'chard, Flex Alexander, Kelly Perine, Sicily Johnson
Premise: When her mom accepts a job out of the country, teenager Breanna Barnes (Kyla Pratt) has to move in with her former athlete-turned-sportscaster dad. She has bigger problems, though, like her relationship with her boyfriend Arnaz (Robert Ri'chard) and dealing with the pain that is high school.
Original run: September 11, 2000 — February 11, 2008
Starring: Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White, Reginald C. Hayes, Jill Marie Jones
Premise: Before Black-ish, Tracee Ellis Ross played California girl Joan. She and her close-knit girlfriends went through their 20-somethings problems together, tackling issues from interracial relationships to parenthood all while wearing elite '00s fashion.
'That's So Raven'
Original run: January 17, 2003 — November 10, 2007
Starring: Raven-Symoné, Orlando Brown, Anneliese van der Pol, Kyle Massey, Rondell Sheridan, T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh
Premise: The ability to have brief psychic visions of the near future was every kid's dream because of this show. If you grew up watching Disney Channel, you wanted to be Raven Baxter (Raven-Symoné). PERIOD!
Original run: August 22, 1993 — January 1, 1998
Starring: Queen Latifah, Kim Coles, Erika Alexander, John Henton, Kim Fields, Terrence 'T.C.' Carson
Premise: A group of six 20-something friends trying to make it in the hustle and bustle that was New York in the '90s? Sign us up, Also, can't forget to mention it has the best theme song, like, ever.
Original run: January 7, 2015 — April 21, 2020
Starring: Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Y. Gray, Gabourey Sidibe, Ta'Rhonda Jones
Premise: When hip-hop artist and CEO of Empire Entertainment Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) finds out his days are numbered, his three sons battle for control over his multi-million dollar company. Another problem? His ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) is back in town, and she's out for revenge for taking the fall for the drug-running that financed his early career.
Original run: January 18, 1975 — July 2, 1985
Starring: Isabel Sanford, Sherman Hemsley, Marla Gibbs, Roxie Roker, Franklin Cover, Paul Benedict
Premise: After coming into a lot of money, the Jeffersons ditch Queens for a space in a high-rise in Manhattan. Isabel Sanford, who played Louise Jeffersons, became the second Black actress to win the Emmy for Best Actress.
'Dear White People'
Original run: April 28, 2017 — September 22, 2021
Starring: Logan Browning, Brandon P Bell, DeRon Horton, Antoinette Robertson, John Patrick Amedori, Ashley Blaine Featherson
Premise: Based on the 2014 film of the same name, this Netflix original focuses on a group of students of color at the prestigious Winchester University as they try to make their predominantly white Ivy college more inclusive.
Original run: August 27, 1992 — May 1, 1997
Starring: Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Thomas Mikal Ford, Carl Anthony Payne II, Tichina Arnold
Premise: Martin Lawrence plays Martin Payne, a DJ for Detroit radio station WZUP. His on-off relationship with Gina Waters (Tisha Campbell-Martin) proved that true love does exist, but it doesn't come without a couple of mishaps.
Original run: August 16, 2020 — October 18, 2020
Starring: Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Courtney B. Vance, Aunjanue Ellis, Wunmi Mosaku, Abbey Lee
Premise: After receiving a concerning letter from his father, Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) sets off on a road trip across 1950s America to find him. There's terrifying monsters, people, and twists you won't see coming.
'Half & Half'
Original run: September 23, 2002 — May 15, 2006
Starring: Rachel True, Essence Atkins, Telma Hopkins, Valarie Pettiford, Chico Benymon
Premise: Estranged half sisters Mona (Rachel True) and Dee Dee (Essence Atkins) start bonding after they move in to the same apartment building, to the dismay of their moms, single Phyllis (Telma Hopkins) and second wife Big Dee Dee (Valarie Pettiford).
'When They See Us'
Original run: May 31, 2019
Starring: Asante Blackk, Jharrel Jerome, Michael Kenneth Williams, Niecy Nash, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman
Premise: Ava DuVernay's miniseries tells the true story of the Central Park Five, a group of kids who were wrongfully convicted for attacking a female jogger in late '80s New York.
'Blood & Water'
Original run: May 20, 2020 — Present
Starring: Ama Qamata, Khosi Ngema, Thabang Molaba, Natasha Thahane, Dillon Windvogel, Arno Greeff
Premise: At a party, South African teen Puleng (Ama Qamata) runs into Fikile, a rich girl whom she believes to be her long-lost older sister, who was abducted at birth. She then transfers to the ritzy high school Parkhurst College to get closer to Fikile and uncover the truth.
'A Black Lady Sketch Show'
Original run: August 2, 2019 — Present
Starring: Robin Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, Quinta Brunson, Laci Mosley, Skye Townsend
Premise: Think Saturday Night Live for Black women. A Black lady sketch troupe, led by Robin Thede and produced by Issa Rae, acts through several hilarious sketches with guest appearances by stars including Angela Bassett, Gabrielle Union, Patti LaBelle, and more.
'The Underground Railroad'
Original run: May 14, 2021
Starring: Thuso Mbedu, Aaron Pierre, William Jackson Harper, Chase Dillon, Joel Edgerton, Sheila Atim
Premise: This gorgeous adaptation of Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows Cora (Thuso Mbedu), who escapes from slavery aboard a literal underground train system.
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