With Black trauma etched into American pop culture like a tattoo, it can be hard to find Black media that lifts you up rather than bringing you down. Below are eleven comedic Black TV shows that are about way more than the struggles of being Black.
What’s your favorite Black sitcom?
Many television shows bring the long history of racial injustice and violence against Black people to the small screen, including HBO’s Watchmen and OWN’s Queen Sugar. The existence of these shows is very necessary, as many American audiences are unaware of the struggles that impact the Black community every single day. But I often ask myself: Where is the other side of the Black experience on television? Where is the Black joy?
In this handpicked list of hilarious Black TV shows, we will showcase television from the past 40 years that brings much more smiles than frowns or tears. Below, you’ll see shows that showcase Black people succeeding, loving, thriving, and living.
We also have a collection of diverse Netflix shows starring women of color. Be sure to also read that.
Black TV Shows From The 1980s
1. 227 (1985-1990)
Adapted from a popular 70s play, 227 surrounds the lives of three Black women living in a Washington D.C. apartment building. The comedy stars a talented ensemble cast including Marla Gibbs, from The Jeffersons, and Jackee Harry, later on starring in the 90s sitcom Sister, Sister.
The light-hearted sitcom aired on NBC for five seasons. In 1987, Jackee Harry won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of 227’s Sandra Clark. Harry is the first and only Black woman to take home the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, as well as the only woman of color.
Where You Can Find It: Streaming on Crackle
2. Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1986)
Diff’rent Strokes showcased the everyday life of a New York family, who was brought together in a very unfamiliar way. A rich white businessman, played by Conrad Bain, takes in the children of his deceased housekeeper, played by Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges.
The popular sitcom readjusted the family structure and showed audiences that a loving family can look a million different ways. Diff’rent Strokes was one of the first American sitcoms to discuss difficult topics, otherwise known as the “very special episodes.” Some of the many topics covered throughout Diff’rent Strokes’ eight seasons include alcoholism, child abuse, and drug abuse.
Where You Can Find It: All seasons streaming on Starz
Black TV Shows From The 1990s
3. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
Starring uber-mega star Will Smith in his first acting role, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a happy marriage of the hip hop generation and the family sitcom tropes we know and love. A classic fish-out-of-water tale, the show focuses on a quick-witted West Philadelphia teenager moving in with his wealthy uncle and aunt in Bel-Air.
From its countless celebrity guest stars to it being unafraid to discuss current events, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a direct product of its time that remains relevant to this day. With Will Smith supposedly working on a reboot of the series, now is the perfect time to dive back into the hilarious lives of the Banks family, if only to see Jazz get thrown out one more time.
Where You Can Watch It: Reruns on BET, VH1, MTV
4. Living Single (1993-1998)
Living Single shows the lives of six single Black professionals living in Brooklyn. The main cast features Queen Latifah as Khadijah, the editor and publisher of an independent magazine, Kim Coles as Synclaire, an aspiring actress and Khadijah’s receptionist, Kim Fields as Regina, a boutique buyer, and Erika Alexander as Maxine, an attorney.
Their laughter, their love, their heartaches, and their careers are all documented on screen. Its three-dimensional views of the main cast and comedic chemistry between them are some of the many reasons why Living Single is a diamond among the many gems of 90s television.
Where You Can Watch It: All seasons streaming on Hulu; Reruns on BET, TV One, MTV2, BounceTV, and VH1
5. The Wayans Bros. (1995-1999)
Starring the next generation of the wildly successful Wayans family, brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans, The Wayans Bros. is about the lives of the two brothers and their father (played by the late, legend John Witherspoon).
During the series’ five-season runtime, there is surely not a shortage of hilarious moments. From the show’s iconic theme song onward, The Wayans Bros. turns assumptions on their head about what an “urban” sitcom looks like.
Where You Can Watch It: Reruns on MTV2, VH1, and BET Her
Black TV Shows From The 2000s
6. Everybody Hates Chris (2005-2009)
Everybody Hates Chris, starring Tyler James Williams as the title character, brings the childhood life of comedian Chris Rock to the small screen. The show takes a funny, yet thought-provoking look at the subjects of race and class.
Each member of the family is hilarious in their own way, from Terry Crews as Chris’s hard-working, penny-pinching dad Julius to Tequan Richmond’s heart-throb, too-cool-for-school younger brother Drew.
Where You Can Watch It: All seasons streaming on Hulu; Reruns on BET, MTV2, and TV One.
7. Chappelle’s Show (2003-2006)
Undeniably hilarious and culturally on-the-nose, Chappelle’s Show is a showcase of comedic genius that wasn’t afraid to tell it exactly like it was.
Although Chappelle’s Show only lasted three seasons, many of its sketches are considered classics and remain to inspire the aspiring comedians of today. The show featured rising black comedic talents like Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings.
Where You Can Watch It: Streaming on Comedy Central
8. The Proud Family (2001-2005)
With a talented voice cast including Tommy Davidson and Kyla Pratt along with a theme song sung by Solange and Destiny’s Child, The Proud Family really couldn’t lose. The series centers around the lives of the Proud family, mostly following the life of the oldest daughter Penny Proud.
The Proud Family remains Disney Channel’s only animated TV series to star a Black family. A positive perception of the Black family structure, The Proud Family is perfect for families to watch together, or for anyone who’s looking to catch some laughs before the Proud Family reboot on Disney+.
Where You Can Watch It: Streaming on Disney+
Black TV Shows From The 2010s
9. Real Husbands of Hollywood (2013-2016)
BET’s Real Husbands of Hollywood takes the popular reality TV show format and turns it upside down. Starring Kevin Hart and Nick Cannon, the mockumentary features a star-studded cast playing exaggerated versions of themselves as they live in the shadows of their successful wives.
The cast members of this show aren’t afraid to make fun of themselves and their entertainment personas, which makes Real Husbands of Hollywood an even more hilarious watch.
Where You Can Watch It: Streaming on BET+
10. Black-ish (2014-Present)
Following the lives of middle-class Johnson family, ABC’s Black-ish takes a modern take on family sitcoms, with a side of Black culture. From its Prince tribute episode to the 2016 presidential election, Black-ish offers an on-point cultural commentary that never forgets to remind us of the bright side.
The popularity of the series produced two equally as good spin-offs, including Grown-ish, centering around the oldest daughter’s college days, and Mixed-ish, a coming-of-age tale following the life of the family’s matriarch as a child.
Where You Can Watch It: Airing Tuesdays at 9:30 on ABC; Streaming on Hulu
What Black TV series are you going to watch?
The TV shows above don’t offer a rose-colored view of the Black experience, but there’s also no shortage of Black joy. The characters featured are allowed to live and experience the full spectrum of emotions, just as any other television character would be able to.
From the 1980s to the present day, these TV shows will add a dose of laughter and light to your TV time. Whether you are a single business professional looking for someone to relate to or are in search of a family that’s just as crazy as yours, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
What are your favorite shows to watch when you need a good laugh? Let us know in the comments below!