Let’s take it back a moment. You and your family are crowding around the TV right after dinner, maybe an hour or two before everyone heads their separate ways to end the night, and a rerun of “Good Times,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” or the comedic display of “The Bernie Mac,” show appears on your TV screen.
It’s shows like this that in that moment, and even now, we remember for their relatability and family values, issues and lessons we learn through the characters presented to us. As much as you would get your dose of drama, there would be times of comedic relief or mental notes implemented in your head from the delivery of these talented black actors, who, fortunately, looked just like you.
To name and bring back a few who gave us just that, Kontrol is remembering eight of the most influential black TV families and their impact on our culture.
Good Times- The Evans
First and foremost, this show gave us one of the best theme songs we’ve EVER been blessed with on TV.
“Good Times,” was the foundation of the strength and love that navigates through a black family. James and Florida Evans, are a happily married couple, with three children living in the inner-city projects of Chicago in the 70s. Despite their struggle to stay afloat, this family does whatever it takes to remain consistent in their efforts to be better than their surroundings, such as James working two jobs to put food on his family’s table and Florida’s warm and hopeful outlook and wisdom, to make sure her family stays intact. We loved the goofiness from James “J.J.” Evans Jr., who’s always butting heads with sophisticated little sister, Thelma, along with their ambitious, aspiring activist of a little brother, Michael. It was relative enough to see the Evans’ neighbor and Florida’s best friend, Winona, who stayed over the families’ home, all too familiar to that close friend or relative who’s at every social gathering you host or when mama’s cooking Sunday dinner. We appreciate “Good Times,” for their continuous effort to be real and glorify the state of black families and their issues, inside and out of their homes. More importantly, this series started the engine to work harder, especially when we were just starting to maintain being on our own two feet, in a world that can be against us.
Everybody Hates Chris
Let’s go ahead and address this sitcom as one of the best comedies to ever grace our TV screens. Got it? Good.
Set in Brooklyn, New York in the midst of 80s black culture, comedian Chris Rock, used his personal experiences and stories of his teenage years to create the Emmy nominated series, “Everybody Hates Chris.” Chris is the oldest of two siblings, snarky and spoiled Tanya and heartthrob, Drew. As his family made the big move to Bed-Stuy, Chris is stationed in an all-white school, where he’s constantly harassed by his peers and awkwardly embraced by racist math teacher, Ms.Morello, who we’ve all came across wanting to be down with the swirl, wanting to be black until it’s actually time, to be black. But what was the most dominant factor of Chris’ family, was his parents Rochelle and Julius, who made us feel as if we were at the dinner table or being consoled with threats and “mama don’t play,” lingo of each episode. Rochelle’s tough love tendencies to her children with the slight jabs are what made her gain my love. To hear a “I’ll slap you into next week,” or “If I ever catch any of y’all spray-painting on anybody’s wall, I’ll put my foot so far up your behind that you’ll have toes for teeth,” and we can’t forget the infamous reminder of nobody better not be bringing no babies in her house. And every time I think about swiping my card or wasting the last few french fries of my meal, I think about Julius telling me how much that’ll cost me or scolding me or how I better be figuring out how to get another job. This was all classic, sometimes controversial but all real-life humor, that caused us to enjoy and laugh with this family.
The Proud Family– The Prouds
You and me will always be tight, proud family every single day and night, and even when you start acting like a fool, you know I’m lovin’ every single thing you do…
Couldn’t have put it a better way to describe the unconditional love and tolerance you have for your family, no matter what. “The Proud Family,” was probably one of the first times I saw a family that looked like mine in an animated TV series. I loved the ambitious and free spirit Penny carried, one of the many personalities in her friend group that showed diversity, and a layout of how the youth operated. Trudy’s calm and collected demeanor, with her soothing motherly tone and love for her husband and kids, reminded me a lot of my mom and her characteristics. Oscar’s humor and odd intelligence, the way he never gave up in what he believed in, took me back to my dad’s endless support, how his humor was something that was a precious gem that not a lot of people saw. Suga Mama was probably my favorite, if we’re being honest, she invented “shade,” and “clapbacks,” with the way she stayed on Oscar’s butt, but ultimately, minded her business while watching her stories, something my grandmas did all too well. With the twins and also Suga Mama’s little poodle Puff, who tolerated their mild abuse, the Proud house was as dysfunctional as it gets, but it taught me a lot about who I am and how I see the world and the different people around me. Then again, what family doesn’t have a few bumps in the road?
My Wife and Kids– The Kyles
What I admired about the Kyle family, is it was a completely no judgment zone.
This family was centered around the concept of “laugh to keep from crying,” and not even in a way where they avoided problems that brewed in their home, but no matter what that problem was, they would eventually find a positive way, to get through it. I saw a lot of my parents in Jay and Michael, they benefit off of one another equally and could laugh endlessly, while also being aware of times when it’s time to communicate effectively, to make sure they’re on the same page in terms of their commitment to marriage. Between Claire’s usual ditsy approach, Jr.’s big head that carries so little and Katie’s intelligence beyond her years, siblings viewing this family on TV could relate all too well to the little or bigger force they shared parents and a household with.
The Bernie Mac Show– The Macs +3
After taking in his sister’s three kids due to her being unable to care for them, in the time of her addiction to drugs, Bernice Mac and his wife Wanda, have to adapt to maintain a family of many unexpected happenings.
Not a lot of people would be willing to take on raising someone else’s kids, but props to Uncle Bernie for stepping up to the challenge. I thought it was interesting to see this comedian, happily married with no children, most likely because he’s still in his prime, have three show up at his door and although hesitant at first, take the chance. Bernie and Wanda implemented a specifically strict code of conduct under their roof and to Vanessa, Jordan and Baby Girl, but not because they wanted them on a leash, but out of tough love and providing the feeling they may have missed out on, due to their mother’s trouble. That’s the thing about family, you may not always see them but more than likely, they’ll always be there when you need them. I would take seeing Bernie hit up the confession box one more time with his signature address to America, any day. R.I.P. to the legend himself, Mr. Bernie Mac.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air- Will and The Banks
Our favorite bad and boujee family of Bel-Air, and damn sure did they own it. But it took Philly native Will, to bring some energy into this uptight abode with his charming and mischievous energy.
After getting into a fight back home in Philadelphia, spunky and egoistic teen Will Smith, is sent to live with his aunt in uncle in the sophisticated side of California, Bel-Air. He almost immediately contrasts on almost everything, with his Uncle Phil, who is hard on Will because of his ulterior motive to make him into a man. Although they seem to disagree, Uncle Phil takes the place of Will’s father, who we seen let him down for the last time in “Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse,” and the embrace and Will’s ability to finally release his emotions and let go in front of his uncle, was validation that their bond was to grow stronger over time. And we all have a Carlton in the family, as corny as they come and a bit out of tune with their culture, and it’s your job to make sure they stay as inclined as possible. Or Hilary Banks, the bougie cousin or aunt that comes around to show their $3,000 shoes and mink fur, while their nose sticks up at everyone they think is “beneath” them. But you gotta love the Geoffreys, the longtime family friend who’s been around for so long, they permanently solidify their spot within it. Will was the oddball out of the family but brought fun and a different onlook to life for the Banks. So those outcasts out there, who seem like their place in the family tree is missing a branch, you’re probably the little pieces keeping it all together.
Family Matters- The Winslows
The Winslows represented a middle-class African American family living in Chi-town during the 90s. As a spin-off of an earlier sitcom, “Perfect Strangers,” “Family Matters,” followed the life of police officer, Carl Winslow, strong-willed wife Harriette and their three kids, Eddie, Laura and up until the fourth season, youngest daughter, Judy. But the star of the show, was really their geeky and annoying neighbor Steve Urkel (Did I do that?) and alter-ego Stefan Urquelle, who viewers immediately latched on to as the highlight of TV entertainment.
Although centered around Urkel as the series progressed, we couldn’t help but admire the bond the Winslows shared and endless support for one another. Harriette opening up her home to sister Rachel and son Richie, amongst losing her husband and pretty much the entire family dealing with Urkel’s antics, especially Laura, there was always room for acceptance.
The Cosby Show- The Huxtables
Not only did “The Cosby Show,” birth one of the greatest spin-off series of all time with “A Different World,” but it also birthed and put into perspective, the significance of size in black families, having enough love and protection to last you forever.
Cliff and Clair Huxtable were the epitome of black excellence built on being one another’s backbone, providing stability for their big family positioned in Brooklyn, New York. I aspired to be like Clair Huxtable once I got that point in my life. She was well educated, a loving mother, gracious and elegantly confident and it reflected through her relationships with her children and entertaining marriage, to Cliff. A lot of young women could relate to Denise, an open-minded and warm-hearted individual, one of the original black hippie and sister keeper, to Vanessa. Theo was technically everyone’s big brother, typical ladies man embracing all of the benefits his masculinity brought to him and curious cutie, Rudie who kept us laughing with her youthful charm and snarky comments. “The Cosby Show,” set the standard following strong black sitcoms such as “Good Times,” and “The Jeffersons,” keeping the importance and value of African-American families indented in our mind.