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Blast From The Past: Top 5 Urban TV Shows Of The 90′s

Submitted by on October 2, 2009 – 2:46 pm13 Comments


I’ve noticed something lately. Other than a few shows, namely Heroes and The Boondocks (which won’t air until early next year) I don’t like much that I see on TV (forgive me, True Blood fans – we don’t get HBO on campus).

I’m only 20 years old but I realize that during the marginal downtime I have set aside for watching television, I wish for younger days. Good characters, good stories, and well-written/well-timed jokes and punchlines were a staple back when I was coming up. Plus, things seemed a lot simple and more innocent back then.

Here’s my top five list of the shows that prove television today doesn’t quite cut it.  Let me caution you that I tried to stay away from the more obvious hit shows and focus on the less-celebrated (and less re-run) shows.

1. Martin

Television network USA’s slogan applies here: “characters welcome”. You’re sure to find at least one character you can relate to or laugh at when watching Martin Lawrence bring you the original house of Payne. From Jerome, Otis, Shenehneh, Bruh’man, and even Pam, Tommy, Cole, and Gina, everybody keeps you cracking up. And not just that; the content has a lot to say about gender relations in America and more specifically in the black community. Martin also had its fill of guests over its five seasons, with everybody from rapper Biggie Smalls to gospel singers Bebe and Cece Winans. Here’s to wishing this show never ended.

2. Living Single

Now you know this show was the ish. Featuring an all-star cast including Queen Latifah, John Henton, Erika Alexander and Kim Fields, this show was an urban masterpiece. It gets no better than watching six friends in the prime of their lives working their way through relationships and careers, arguments and disputes, together. From hookups to hangups, this show kept you laughing with near-perfectly timed jokes, dialogue and a “flava” all it’s own. Set in New York City, this one definitely had the attitude to match and lasted five successful seasons.

3. New York Undercover

Better than your run-of-the-mill cop TV show, New York Undercover (hmm, I wonder why there are no TV shows set in Mississippi?) arguably picked up where New Jack City left off. I say that because it focused not just on the crimes and arrests, but also the effects of both on the community as well as how these effects roused the demons of the main characters. Beyond that, this show dealt with a great deal of racial/cultural issues, as well as political and religious ones that most shows were afraid to touch at that time (and the world has gone crazy with political correctness since then). Starring Malik Yoba and Michael DeLorenzo and later featuring Gloria Velez as well as Thomas Mikal Ford (aka Tommy from Martin), the show lasted four seasons.

4. A Different World

This series started as a Cosby Show spinoff, but eventually centered around the characters of Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert (played by Kadeem Hardison and Jasmine Guy). Taking place at the fictional Hillman College (which more closely resembled an HBCU after the first season), the show revolved around the awareness, learning, growing, and development experienced by the characters. It’s hard to turn on a television and see anything about minorities attending college; if you do, it’s even harder to find them nobly attempting to better themselves while there, which is why this show made my list. With all the humor, spirit, awareness, and pride actually found in our community – as well as the seriousness to deal with issues that were getting no press elsewhere – Hillman’s students had something to say. We might be a lot better off if today’s typical student body (at HBCUs and otherwise) resembled the one found within the six seasons of A Different World.

5. In Living Color

Uhh… Need I say more? Sketch comedy from a multicultural and urban perspective, further paving the way for shows such as Chappelle’s Show and Wildin’ Out. While the show prominently featured the genius and antics of the Wayans family, it also introduced several dynamic acting talents such as Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, Tommy Davidson, and even Jennifer Lopez. Besides being an outlet for all of these acting talents, In Living Color featured many of the top hip-hop acts of the day, their performances reminiscent of those seen on Yo! MTV Raps. Lasting for five seasons, it featured many characters and catch phrases that still are still resonant with the urban community to this day, including the ever-popular, “Like to hear it? Here it go!”

Those are my picks, but I want to hear from you.  Which shows make your top five?

Photo Credit – TreeHugger.com

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