Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

Watching Me on TV 2015: Reflections of Blacks on Prime Time Past

I’m not old, but I am mature. I’m still in the coveted demographic that advertisers like. I’m old enough to remember when vampires were scary—not “hot.” And I have memories of boxy television consoles as pieces of furniture, only three major networks and local stations with really bad programming. Color television shows were such a major big deal that announcers would actually tell you—“The F.B.I.— in color!

Color TV. That held a different meaning for me. I’m on the cusp of being called “colored” right before we sequed into being called “black.” Back then, it was so rare to see a black person on TV that when we did, we’d get on the phone and call relatives. “Aunt Shirley, quick, there’s a colored woman on channel 2!” In the late 60s I loved watching Diahann Carroll in Julia, a show about a widowed single nurse and her young son Corey. That was a first— to have a black female lead. Bill Cosby had a self-titled show that came on Sunday nights. He was a gym teacher. There was Room 222, where there were several positive black characters in the fictional Walt Whitman High School, like Mr. Dixon the teacher, Ms. McIntyre the guidance counselor, and Richie, whom all the girls had a crush on. Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) graced the small screen weekly informing Captain Kirk “the communication channels are open.

In the mid 70s, things took a stupid turn. Gone were the positive images. We had to endure the likes of Good Times, Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons. It still was slim pickings for us, so we laughed at JJ and his endless “dynomite” rantings, and Fred Sanford always calling Lamont a big dummy. George Jefferson may have lived on the east side, but his worldview was Ghetto Ave. I guess TV was reflective of the movies, which at the time was the “blaxploitation” era. The shows were funny then, but as many back-in-the-day reruns that I now watch, those three are and will NEVER be on my TV.

The 70s did bring us arguably the most spectacular mini-series of all time, Roots. Anybody who was anybody in black Hollywood was in it, and the show was grand to see. There were no VCRs or DVRs, so everybody made sure they were in front of the television to not miss a second. (And woe to the person who dared call while Roots was on…) Roots dominated conversations for days afterward in school. And in classes where there was a black teacher, we’d spend the whole class period discussing it.

Bill Cosby was our TV liberator in the 80s. The Cosby Show was loved by all. There were those in the beginning who felt that such a show with black leads was “unrealistic”—we simply did not have two-parent households where the couple was loving towards each other, had professional careers, normal kids and lived in a nice house. ABC passed on Cosby. NBC flourished because of the show. In my frame of reference, Cosby, not Good Times, was the reality. I also loved A Different World, the Cosby Show spin-off. It was fun seeing young black adults in college, and their shenanigans were my life.

The 90s had some decent comedies. At least they portrayed us positively, like Roc, Living Single, and Family Matters. (Urkel was pushing it!)

My beef with programming is there are very few black dramas. Black people are in dramas, but they are not the cast majority. Black-cast shows always had a one-way ticket to Cancelville, hence Under One Roof (1995), City of Angels (2000) Lincoln Heights (2007–2009) and Undercovers (2010).

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Scandal, starring Kerry Washington, is doing very well and now in its fourth season. I absolutely love How to Get Away With Murder, and there are not enough superlatives to describe Viola Davis. But why aren’t there more of us in those casts? The jury is still out for me about Empire. Yes, it’s a black drama. But why, in our shows, is it always Profanity as a Second Language? I like Terrance and Taraji, and the dynamic their characters have. I like the Lucious Lyon storyline and the comic relief. But I have yet to develop an affinity for any of the characters, and I hate that youngest son the most. I watch it if I have nothing else to do, and I’m always busy. It doesn’t have the exalted series recording on my DVR, and it gets watched in real time. I not apologizing that I’m in the minority of black folks who doesn’t watch this show. I feel a little guilty, but that’s how it is.

I have resigned myself to accept that there is always going to be a small number of black folks on television. We may not be the stars in most, but there are excellent black actors on the small screen now and in really good roles. We are savvy newswomen, hospital chiefs of staff, forensics experts, fire chiefs and ghost busters. I tell my friends about the shows I like and call relatives.

Even now, I still get excited about watching “me” on TV.

 

(Photo: IMDb.com)

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Summer Shows We Hope Will Not Disappoint

Yay, summer’s here! Yet, with the summer comes a drought. The drought of the regular programming you’ve grown accustomed to over the last few months. Like when your childhood best friend moves away, you feel empty inside. What’s a TV-holic to do when there’s nothing to watch?

First, one should actually get out of the house and spend some time with friends and family doing interesting things besides kicking back in front of the flat screen. But, oftentimes, we’re tired because we still have to work, make runs, do laundry and stuff whether it’s summer or not. So TV still remains the zone-out of choice.

With OnDemand and Netflix and even DVDs, you can binge-watch shows. Binge TV watching is a great new phenomenon. I think watching shows back-to-back is cool because you don’t have to hear all the goofy promos and teasers. This week, Someone. Will. Die.

TV seasons are so short now; we’re lucky if we get 20 episodes of a show. Bonanza had 34 episodes in a single season! But that was 50 years ago. And summer shows that were coming on in June are now coming on in March and April, so where does that leave us in July? And I was so looking forward to a summer of Mad Men. I have searched, researched and stumbled up on these shows. Any other suggestions you have will be welcomed.

Here’s what I’m planning on watching:

The Next Food Network Star—This is the only reality show I watch. 10 or 11 Rachel Ray/Guy Fieri wannabes compete for a chance to have their own Food Network show. They’re not as cutthroat as folks on other shows, but they have their moments. The food’s the thing. (June 1st Food Network)

Under the Dome—This will be the second season for this show based on a Stephen King novel. It was kind of interesting, about a small town that’s trapped, well, under a dome. (June 30th CBS)

Extanct—Halle Berry has a show coming out in July, but it’s not peaking my interest as of yet. I’ll watch the first episode because I’m a sucker for a good sci-fi show—good being the operative word. I’m also a fan of Miss Berry. Hmmm, Halle doing the small screen? Well, haven’t seen her in anything else for quite some time. Maybe this will help her career. (July 9th CBS)

Halt and Catch Fire—This is about the start of the PC wars back in the 80s. IBM against Hewlett-Packard, etc. It’s fun seeing the old desktop computers the size of actual desktops, the 70s and 80s cars, and no one has a cell phone grafted to their ear. The three main characters are the usual tech-geeks, and their backstories haven’t yet started to ramp up. The show is Mad Men-slow, and I’m waiting for the moment I get hooked. (June 1st AMC)

Dominion—Archangels Michael and Gabriel at war with each other? Here on earth? This is spiritually disturbing to me on so many levels. But the concept has intrigued me that I’m going to watch the first episode. Like I said, I like a good sci-fi show. We’ll see.(June 19th SyFy)

Murder In First Person—This is actually pretty good! I watched the first episode last week. I like Taye Diggs’ character Terry English, and the fact that his wife is dying makes him interesting. Ann-Marie Johnson does a good job on her deathbed. The show will focus on one case for the whole season. (June 9th TNT)

Chasing Life—I was flipping through the cable guide last week trying to find something to watch, and the title caught my attention. I sat through the entire show about a 24-year old woman, April, who finds out she has cancer. Her renowned-doctor uncle informs her. He’s estranged from the family because he was driving when her father was killed in an accident. April’s mother is starting to date, her sister is a train wreck, she herself just started to date a cutie from the office. As of yet, no one knows about the cancer. That element alone makes it just interesting enough to stick around and see how it all works out. (June 10th ABC Family)

The Last Ship—A pandemic kills off most of earth’s inhabitants and it’s up to the crew of this ship to find a cure. Guess they were out to sea when everything went down. (June 22 TNT)

You can easily catch up on these shows now since most I’ve mentioned have started and only aired 2 or 3 eps. We wait in high hopes for the rest. Anybody got any other suggestions for some good clean TV fun?

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There Is None Good! No, Not One!

Here’s what I wrote after the season finale of Scandal:

Why do we like Scandal? Why are we glued to the TV every Thursday, or refuse to watch it in real time as not to miss a single word or action? Those folks ain’t right—not a single one! Let’s break down their character traits, or the lack thereof, shall we?

President Fitzgerald Grant—He’s a killer. He killed a woman in season 2 by cutting off her oxygen supply as she lay dying on her hospital bed.

First Lady Mellie Grant—Plotted, planned and connived, along with others, to get her husband elected through nefarious dealings. She even induced labor to try to get Fitz to pay attention to her. However, Mellie is now emerging as a sympathetic character.

Chief of Staff Cyrus Beane—He, too, is murderous and has no conscious. He hired an assassin to put a bullet through the head of his lover, but thought better of killing the poor guy at the last literal second. Although never actually committing crimes, Cyrus throws the rock and hides the hand.

Vice President Sally Langston—Supposedly the voice of moral purity and devout piety, she literally stabbed her down-low husband in the back and covered the murder up. With the help of Cyrus, of course.

Pops (Eli) Pope—The supreme being of underworld dealings, namely murder and torture.

Mama (Marie Wallace) Pope—Great-granddaughter of Satan. She is pure evil and has no love for anybody. With the possible exception of her daughter, but I’m sure for the right price, she would whack Olivia off too. I wonder what drives such a person.

Huck—Crazed, manic, murderous, yet an absolute technical genius. B6-13 has totally shredded the poor guy’s mind.

Other supporting characters and minions—Sociopathic and psychologically deranged individuals steeped in lies, scheming, conniving, torture and all things base. Oh, and I’m not happy that the perpetual checkered-shirt-wearing Jefferson got killed off by Eli. C’mon, not the brotha!!! I guess Jefferson was kind of expendible.

Olivia Pope—She, herself, is no saint. She’s messing around with another woman’s husband, i.e., President Grant. And Liv now has her panties in a bunch because Prez snapped on her because his wife is cavorting with another man.

Her relationship with Fitz, well, how can you really call it a relationship? It’s all based on sex. They don’t and can’t go out on real dates. They don’t laugh and talk about silly stuff. Most of the time she’s pissed at him.

When does poor Olivia smile? When does she genuinely laugh about anything that’s cleanly funny, like even the cartoons in the paper? Who are her friends? Guess in her line of work she can’t really get close to anyone. But what about the past? No school buddies? Now she’s had enough of the warped world she lives in and has flown the coop. She jumped on a plane, with Jake in tow, and has left everybody and everything. Supposedly. We know she’ll be back.

I think we watch the show, meaning a good percentage of the TV-watching black community, because of the beautiful Kerry Washington. It’s so refreshing to see a young black woman lead a top-rated TV show. Her character, although flawed, is strong and totally in control, yet feminine and sexy at the same time. There are times she employs the strong-arm method, like threatening to destroy the Governor’s life if he didn’t end the relationship with FLOTUS Mellie. Other times, she just wants to be held and comforted by one of the twisted men in her life.

Overall, we watch Scandal because it’s good television. Compelling plots, back stories, strong characterization, and an attractive cast makes for an hour of entertainment. I, for one, like the twists and turns. Who knew the prez’s son would get bumped off? And by a vial of a killer strain of bacterial meningitis that was stored away at the CDC? And it was the work of Eli Pope, and not ol’ Moms, as he wants people to believe.

So now we’re on summer break,  waiting for the fourth season to begin. And in the alternate reality of TV land, may these sordid people take a break from themselves.

scandal_season_2

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The Patron Saint of Television

The other day, WordPress had a writing prompt in their Blogging U. challenge that was pretty cool. If you could be a patron saint of something, what would it be? I didn’t have time to write it then, but I would be the Patron Saint of Television.

I don’t know if patron saints have powers, but that would the first thing I’d do— declare myself all-powerful. I’d be a powerful, benevolent and understanding being.

First, for the people:

  • Flat-screen HDTVs for everyone! The bigger the better!
  • Endless DVR space
  • A day off every month to catch up on shows—with pay
  • A zapper device to shut the mouths of those who talk while you’re watching your shows

Now here’s where I’d be a hard taskmaster.

These are my edicts for TV execs, programmers, and producers:

  • Original programming. NO remakes of long-dead shows.
  • Give shows a chance to find their audience.
  • Enough with the “winter finales” in early December and then not bringing the show back until late March
  • Understand that anything under 25 shows does not constitute a season.
  • Put a decent line-up on Saturday night.

That’s a good start, I think. Do you have anything to add?

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Summer TV Shows You Should Be Watching Now

Well, it’s that time a year when TV-holics across the land are feeling a bit high and dry and left to our own devices. Our favorite shows are either on hiatus or just plain kaput. However, in these days of online TV show availability, RedBox and OnDemand (depending on your cable provider), you can always find something to keep you busy. Here are my summer suggestions for shows you should be watching now. These are not just “chick” shows; these shows offer something for everybody.

DROP DEAD DIVA (Lifetime, Sundays 8p CST) Now in its 4th season, this is the story of Deb, a once dippy model who has died and is now inhabiting the body of Jane, a super-smart overweight attorney. (There was a mix-up at point of death.) Most of the action centers around the law firm and the partners, and Jane’s wacky best friend Stacy and her guardian angel. Drop Dead Diva has comedy, law and courtroom drama, and a bit of romance and fantasy.

Note: I’m not happy to see that doggone Kim Kardashian as a current guest star. Will aliens PLEASE abduct this chick so she will GO AWAY. NOW. YESTERDAY.

NECESSARY ROUGHNESS  (USA Network, Wednesdays 9p CST) This is the second season for this show about Dr. Dani Santino, a divorced, single-mom therapist who works with a pro football team, which of course is filled with dysfunctional characters. This comedy-drama has the ups and downs of Dr. Santino’s less-than-perfect personal life, the obligatory teenage story line and some behind-the scenes football action.

ALPHAS (SyFy Channel) 5 ordinary people with extraordinary abilities–a woman who has serious power of suggestion, a man with super strength, a guy with enhanced hand-eye coordination, a woman with souped-up sensory ability, and a highly functioning autistic dude who can see radio waves in the air–work together as the good guys. They find others like themselves who have more sinister motives. This show will come back for a second season in July, so there’s lots of time to catch up on last season.

THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR (Food Network, Sundays 8p CST) This is the only reality show worth watching, in my opinion. The new season is 3 episodes in, but this show always runs at least 10 weeks. In true reality show form there’s some weeping and gnashing of teeth, but most of the contestants are not totally out to do each other in. You get those cool food challenges and the integrity of the Food Network, where the judges don’t get off on making the contestants feel like total morons.

BONANZA–The Lost Episodes (Encore Westerns) In July, Encore Westerns will be showing the Lost Episodes of Bonanza. I’m excited! Love those Cartwrights! It will be cool to see episodes I haven’t already seen at least 20 times. (I can watch the same reruns over and over again.) Bonanza is good, clean fun, and it’s amazing that they would go 30 episodes a season WITH NO CONTINUING STORY LINES. Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe are the coolest dudes, the James Bonds of the 1800s.

Do you have any shows you’d like to add to the list?

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The End–Dealing with the loss of a TV show

Every year you wait with bated breath to see the new television show line up in the newspaper TV section. You eagerly scan the list. “Hey, wait a minute. My show’s not here,” you may think with a sense of panic. Then, as the cloud of evil forebodings rises in your mind, you go online to see if you can get other information. Sure enough, they have CANCELED your show. The Television-Programming-Powers-That-Be have snatched your show off the line up without warning, apology, and even worse, NO CONCLUSION TO STORY LINES!

That’s just wrong. That’s a slap in the face of the faithful. It makes you not even want to get attached to TV shows. They could at least give loyal viewers a two-hour finale movie and tie up all those loose ends. In these days of continuing threads, it’s not right to end shows abruptly or with a cliffhanger. Networks  know they’re not bringing the show back, so they should end the show with some class.

This year, I started watching the mid-season show Awake, a really cool show about a police detective (Michael Britten) who, along with his wife and son, was involved in a fatal car accident. The premise was he lived in two alternate realities–one where his son was alive and his wife was dead, and another where his wife was alive and his son was dead. Every time he would go to sleep, he would wake up in one of each reality. He really didn’t know which world was real, nor did he want to let go of his wife and son. He also would get clues in each reality that would help him solve crimes. Michael’s partners would always be baffled about how he would get those leads, and of course they would never buy the truth. I thought this show was great, myself. Well-written and an imaginative concept.

Apparently, Fox didn’t care about my opinion and they canceled Awake. But I guess they were going to try to end this show the right way and give us viewers a finale. So I’m geeked up for this. The show was rolling along pretty well until we get to the end and it turns out…

IT WAS A DREAM.

A dream!!!!???? Seriously? C’mon, that’s the best they could come up with? After Michael solved the crime of who was trying to kill him (which was done well), he wakes up and both his wife and son are alive and well and in the kitchen eating breakfast. That is a cop-out at its highest level!!!! That is so early-days-of-TV scriptwriting! They could have at least said he was in a coma. He could have awakened and his wife and son were there at his bedside, looking like they had been in an accident. I’m sorry, a DREAM doesn’t cut it.

Fox also canceled Alcatraz, about the inmates who were supposed to have been transferred to other prisons after Alcatraz closed but now are back and still in their 1963 bodies. We’ll never know where have been for the last 49 years.

My advice to you who love TV and get hooked on shows–don’t fall in love. Accept that your heart may be broken. Always have a back-up plan, because The End will always be near.

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The Fall of the Great American TV Theme Song

What happened to it? A cool, sing-a-long theme song used to be part of the fun of watching a show. A great theme song could get you excited and in the mood to watch a show. Sometimes the theme song was the best part of a bad show. A theme song that caught your attention could get you to check out a show you weren’t normally watching. Theme songs used to tell what the show was about, like The Brady Bunch. The opening was the only way viewers knew that show was about a stepfamily. We would never have known WHY Gilligan and the gang were on the island or HOW those Hillbillies made it to Beverly Hills were it not for the theme songs. (Those two shows also had cool closing theme songs  B.H.— Sit a spell. Take your shoes off! Y’all come back, now, ya hear?).

The 60s, 70s, and 80s were bastions of great theme songs for TV shows, but the 2000s saw a trend developing where the 30 to 60 second theme song has been whittled down to a few seconds of music—a la the Seinfeld bass line—to only a quick slate, like Grey’s Anatomy. Grey’s had an opening theme when the show first aired in 2005, but now it’s a 4-second “slate,”  which is my term for it.  A Gifted Man, Once Upon a TimeThe Good Wife, as well as many other shows all have slates. Another trend was shows using well-known pop songs from as their theme music, such as the CSIs, The Sopranos, Joan of Arcardia and Smallville.  Both Alcatraz and Person of Interest have ominous voice over openings that tell what the show is about. If you look closely at the openings of Once Upon a Time and Person of Interest, you’ll see a quick peek as to what a particular episode is about. P.O.I. will show the subject of that week’s episode, and for example, when O.U.A.T. featured the 7 Dwarfs, you saw them hi-ho-ing off to work. But other than that, there’s no theme song fun anymore.

“[The theme song] is a rarity today,” TV historian Tim Brooks said of the catchy, tuneful opening. “It’s kind of like the Broadway musical producing hit songs — it just doesn’t do that anymore.”… And Tara Ariano, co-founder of Television Without Pity.com and a contributor to MSNBC.com, isn’t sweating it. She thinks a “full-on opening credit (and) theme song is kind of a waste, from a business perspective.”

“The networks sort of assume we watch the show, so we don’t need to have the premise explained to us each week … In the era of the DVR, half the people watching the show are just fast-forwarding that anyway,” she said.1

Because of this sad little chapter in television land, I want to salute some of the TV theme song gems of the past. They’re instantly recognizable, we quote them in our everyday language, and somehow we just can’t get these tunes out of our heads. Many of these shows currently are on the air in syndication, so if you’re not totally familiar, you can catch up. I’m sure you have your own favorites, so don’t hesitate to weigh in! By all of us fondly reaching back into our TV pasts, the noble TV theme song will live on.

Friends (NBC 1994–2004)  http://www.televisiontunes.com/Friends.html

Cheers (NBC 1982–1993) http://www.televisiontunes.com/Cheers_-_Short.html

Why they’re cool: We can all relate.

The Addams Family (ABC 1964–1966) http://www.televisiontunes.com/Addams_Family.html

Why it’s cool: The finger snaps, and the closing theme’s sound effects.

Gilligan’s Island (CBS 1964–1967) http://www.televisiontunes.com/Gilligans_Island.html

Why it’s cool: People still question why they had so much stuff for a 3-hour tour.

Laverne and Shirley (ABC 1976–1983) http://www.televisiontunes.com/Laverne_And_Shirley.html

Why it’s cool: It’s fun to do their opening  “schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated” bit while walking down the street with your best friend.

Green Acres (CBS 1965–1971) http://www.televisiontunes.com/Green_Acres.html

Why it’s cool: You can sing it as a duet.

The Flintstones (ABC 1960–1966)

http://www.televisiontunes.com/Flintstones_-_1965.html

Why it’s cool: EEEEE yabbadabbadoo!

BTW—Cartoons also had great theme songs back in the day!

Honorable Mentions:

The Odd Couple—Love the music, and the opening VO of how they came to room together.

Star Trek (original)—C’mon, admit it, you know you can quote this famous VO! Space… the final frontier…

The Jeffersons—Every time a person gets a promotion of any kind, someone has to say, “You’re movin’ on up!”

Dishonorable Mention:

Good Times

This is a terrible theme song! Temporary layoffs? Easy credit rip-offs? Scratching and surviving? How are any of these, and the rest of the stuff mentioned in this song good times? The Broken Punch Bowl Award goes to the writers who penned this little aria. (For the punch bowl reference, get the DVD. It was featured in part two of the episode where James, the father, died.)

Great Instrumentals

Bonanza

The NFL on CBS

The Twilight Zone

1. Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15320031/  © 2007 Associated Press

Photo credits: ABC.com; lucywho.com; crazyabouttv.com

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Watching Me on TV: Reflections of Blacks In Prime Time Past

I’m not old, but I am mature. I’m not in the let’s-go-clubbin’-this-Saturday-night set, but I’m still in the coveted demographic that advertisers like. I’m old enough to remember when vampires were scary—not hot. And I do have those wonderful memories of big, boxy television consoles with three major networks and some local stations with really bad programming. Color television shows were a major big deal, so much so that announcers would actually let you know—“The F.B.I.— in color!” That was probably because not a lot of folks had a color TV. It’s also cool to see how the physical television itself has evolved. I was part of the generation that sat down with the whole family in front of a huge TV as a piece of living room furniture.  We didn’t have a remote control—well, the adults did.  We kids served as the official channel changers. No VCRs. That would be Video Cassette Recorders. If you missed your favorite show, too bad. Now there’s a sleek, flat screen in every room—connected to a DVR, of course.

Color TV. That held a different meaning in my neighborhood. I’m on the cusp of being called “colored” before we sequed into being called “black.” Back then, it was so rare to see a black person on TV that when we did, we’d get on the phone and call relatives. “Aunt Shirley, quick, there’s a colored woman on channel 2!!” I was not born when Amos and Andy was on, and I’m too young to remember Bill Cosby in I Spy, but in the late 60s I loved watching Diahann Carroll in Julia, a show about a widowed single nurse and her young son Corey. That was a first— to have a black female lead. (It’s still a first.) Julia lived in a very nice apartment building. There was Clarence Williams as Linc on The Mod Squad. Bill Cosby had a self-titled show that came on Sunday nights. He was a gym teacher. There was Room 222, where there were several positive black characters in the fictional Walt Whitman High School, notably Richie, whom all the girls had a crush on. Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) graced the small screen weekly informing Captain Kirk that “the communication channels are open.”

In the 70s, things took a stupid turn. Gone were the positive images. We had to endure the likes of Good Times, Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons. It still was slim pickings for us, so we laughed at JJ and his endless “dynomite” rantings, and Fred Sanford always calling Lamont a big dummy. George Jefferson lived on the east side, but his worldview was Ghetto Ave. I guess TV was reflective of the movies, which at the time was the “blaxploitation” era. The shows were funny then, but as many back-in-the-day reruns that I now watch, those three are and will NEVER be on my TV.

The 70s did bring us arguably the most spectacular mini series of all time, Roots. Anybody who was anybody in black Hollywood was in it, and the show was grand to see. Like I said, there were no VCRs or DVRs, so everybody made sure they were in front of the television as to not miss a second. And woe to the person who dared call while Roots was on… Roots dominated conversations for days afterward in school. And in classes where there was a black teacher, we’d spend the whole class period discussing it.

Bill Cosby was our TV liberator in the 80s. The Cosby Show was loved by all. There were those in the beginning who felt that such a show with black leads was “unrealistic”—we simply did not have two-parent households where the couple was loving towards each other, had professional careers, had normal kids and lived in a nice house. ABC passed on Cosby. NBC flourished because of the show. Now in my frame of reference, Cosby was the reality. That’s how I grew up. Good Times definitely was not the norm. I loved A Different World, the Cosby Show spin-off. It was fun seeing young black adults in college, and their day-to-day shenanigans too were my reality.

The 90s had some decent shows, albeit they were comedies. At least they portrayed us positively, like Roc, Living Single, and Family Matters. (Urkel was pushing it!)

My beef with network programming is there are no black dramas. There are plenty of jivey comedies to go around, especially on the CW and the WB, but they don’t interest me. It may be heresy to say, but I don’t like Meet the Browns and House of Payne. Love and admire Tyler Perry; hate his shows and the farcical characters. Soul Food (1997) was very good, but if you didn’t have Showtime, you couldn’t see it. Black people are in dramas, but they are never the stars. If so, it’s a one-way ticket to Cancelville, hence Under One Roof (1995), City of Angels (2000) and just recently, The Number One Ladies Detective Agency (2009), Lincoln Heights (2007–2009) and Undercovers (2010).

I have resigned myself to accepting that there is always going to be a small number of black folks on television. I try not to get too attached to a black-centric show because I know the shelf life is very short and it will not be given the chance to find its audience. Being a TV-aholic, I have my favorite shows and it can’t matter whether blacks are in them or not. We may not be the stars, but there are lots of excellent black actors on the small screen now in really good roles. There are powerful  attorneys, like Anika Noni Rose in The Good Wife, hospital chiefs of staff, detectives, forensics experts and presidents.

Certain actors will cause me to give a show at least one look. I started watching Memphis Beat because of Alfre Woodard. I came back to CSI because of Laurence Fishburne.  I checked out Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior because of Forest Whitaker. I tell my friends and family about the shows.

Even now, I still get excited about watching “me” on TV.

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Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now

It’s the end of January, and we’re pretty much back in the TV swing of things. The Holiday Lull is over and the DVRs are humming again. That said, here are some shows you should be watching on a regular basis–(I have my nerve, don’t I? Dictating your TV life…) These shows are chosen based on entertainment value, originality and ingenuity.

ONCE UPON A TIME

I first caught the October premier, but it didn’t strike me. Then my best friend started raving about it, so I decided to give the show a closer look. I caught up during the Holiday Lull, and now I’m totally on board with the denizens of Storybrooke, Maine.

Why you should watch

The worlds of the present and the Fairy Tale. We get the backstory from the Fairy Tale, and you can’t help but root either for or against the characters in their present form. Some plots are self-contained and wrapped up within a show, and the ongoing threads–the evil queen/mayor who is at the cold heart of the matter and whether Emma/child of Snow White and Prince Charming will get closer to setting things right and breaking the curse–are very easy to follow. And you gotta love sincere, 10-year old Henry–Emma’s birth son and adopted son of the Evil Mayor, and purvey0r of all things fairy tale. He holds the book. (You have to have someone in these types of shows who has a clue, although it’s never explained HOW Henry knows what’s going on. Just go with it.)

GRIMM

This show reminds us that you never know who truly lives among us. Who knew the Fairy Tale world was so…grim? If you never read the real Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which are not pretty, this show is closer to what I guess the Brothers Grimm were talking about.

Why you should watch

Likeable Nick, who’s a detective and one of the last remaining descendants of the Grimms, and all the crazy stuff he has to deal with since he found out about his true calling. The “historical” information about and the weapons and equipment used to combat the dark side of the world of monsters would make the Pawn Stars guys squeal with delight. Gotta love Monroe, the resident know-it-all and Blutbod (werewolf) with a heart of gold fills in the blanks for Nick and adds comic relief. (See? Didja know a werewolf is actually a species called Blutbod? You can learn things from this show!)

How cool would it be to have a cross-over between Grimm and Once Upon a Time!! I could see Henry and Monroe comparing notes while Nick, Hank (Nick’s partner), and Emma butt heads with Mayor Queen.

PERSON OF INTEREST

Why you should watch

You are being watched. And if your number ever comes up, you will want the cunning Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson) and ultra-cool and tough John Reese (Jim Caviezel) on your side! These two guys work in secret by a machine that Finch built to save innocent lives and catch perps. By use of technolgy, weapons and plain ol’wit, street smarts, they try to prevent crimes from taking place. When I watch that ruggedly handsome Jim Caviezel, it’s  hard to imaging him playing Jesus (The Passion of the Christ) when he’s kicking tail as John Reese. What a range, huh? And Taraji Henson brings her brand of class to the table as Detective Carter, the cop who’s on Reese’s trail.

ALCATRAZ

Love the concept of this show! When Alcatraz closed in 1963, the prisoners were supposed to have been transferred of the island. Only they disappeared. Where did they go? And why are they back now? Who are they? Guess we’ll find out!

Why you should watch

Twists and turns! The sci-fi element! Jorge Garcia! This show captured my devotion from the very first episode. It also made me want to learn more about Alcatraz, the island where only the most notorious and nefarious crooks ended up. In a post-Lost world, this is the show that hopefully will have us speculating for quite a while.

Photo credits: IMDb; fox.com; cbs.com

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Hardrock, Coco and Joe–Dudes of Black and White Christmas Past

While ol’Ebeneezer Scrooge was cowering over the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future, high atop the North Pole were three little elves helping Santa get ready for the Big Night. Hardrock, Coco and Joe –The Story of the Three Little Dwarfs, always signaled the beginning of Christmas excitement for us Chicago-area kids.

Hardrock, Coco and Joe was a short featurette that ran every Christmas season on Garfield Goose and Friends, a children’s show produced in Chicago. Although the effects are crude–they used puppets and stop-motion animation–the singing is dated and it’s in shadowy 50s black and white, it’s such a sincere little piece. If you are of the Chicagoland generation that segued from black and white TVs to color, you’ll fondly remember these guys.

Joe

Hardrock, Coco and Joe had a couple of friends that they hung out with–Suzy Snowflake…

and ol’ Frosty the Snowman!

All three shorts ran every Christmas season on Garfield Goose, Bozo and Ray Raynor in Chicago in the early 60s and 70s. They conjure up wonderful memories and warm feelings. In these days of “hot” vampires, spaced-out gamers and kids being way too sophisticated than they should be, it’s nice to go back to another day. I hope that you’ll watch these shorts and just enjoy them for what they are. Merry Christmas!

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