The 30 Best Black TV Shows Ever

Clear your schedule. You have some binge-watching to do.

i may destroy you, insecure, atlanta screengrabs
(Image credit: HBO/FX)

In 2020, Netflix announced the only thing that could possibly save the year from hell: They would bring Black sitcoms from the '90s and the early aughts to the streaming platform. Now, thankfully, Sister, Sister, along with Moesha, The Game, Girlfriends, The Parkers, Half & Half, and One on One grace us with their presence on the small screen. Gone are the days of watching old episodes of our favorite shows—especially the TV shows that deserve a reboot and never got them—through low-quality YouTube videos as we attempt to take back any piece of childhood we can grab.

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 of the best TV shows like it's nothing. 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.

'Sister, Sister'

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.

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Original run: October 9, 2016 — December 26, 2021

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.

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'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.

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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.

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'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.

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'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.

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'Family Matters' 

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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).

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'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.

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'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.

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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.

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'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!

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'Living Single' 

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.

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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.

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'The Jeffersons'

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.

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'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.

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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.

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'Lovecraft Country' 

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.

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'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).

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'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.

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'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.

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'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.

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'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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Original run: July 12, 2020 — Present

Starring: Brandee Evans, Elarica Johnson, Nicco Annan, Shannon Thornton, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Parker Sawyer

Premise: Based on creator Katori Hall's play of the same name, P-Valley follows the workers at Mississippi strip club The Pynk, showing the glamour and hard work that fuel the stripping industry.

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'The Proud Family'

Original run: September 15, 2001 — August 19, 2005

Starring: Kyla Pratt, Jo Marie Payton, Tommy Davidson, Karen Malina White, Alisa Reyes, Paula Jai Parker

Premise: This early-aughts cartoon is beloved among '00s Black kids for showing a family that looked familiar to them, while also airing episodes about Black history traditions like Kwanzaa and the Tuskegee Airmen. (The updated Disney+ revival Louder Than Prouder is also great.)

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'Abbott Elementary'

Original run: December 7, 2021— Present

Starring: Quinta Brunson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tyler James Williams, Janelle James, Lisa Ann Walter, Chris Perfetti, William Stanford Davis

Premise: The best new comedy of 2022 is this mockumentary comedy about the staff at an underfunded Philly public school, that makes us want to give all teachers their much-deserved flowers.

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'Queen Sugar'

Original run: September 6, 2016 — Present

Starring: Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Kofi Siriboe, Omar J. Dorsey, Nicholas L. Ashe, Tina Lifford, Bianca Lawson

Premise: The second Ava DuVernay series on this list, this melodrama follows three siblings from rural Louisiana who all have very different ideas on how to run their family's sugarcane farm after their father falls ill.

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Original run: September 14, 1985 — May 6, 1990

Starring: Marla Gibbs, Jackée Harry, Hal Williams, Alaina Reed-Hall, Regina King, Curtis Baldwin

Premise: This iconic comedy expands the idea of a family sitcom to include all of the zany members of a Washington, D.C., apartment building, dealing with issues that affected middle class families across America at the time.

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