A Ranking Of The 25 Best Black Television Shows Of All-Time » VSB

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A Ranking Of The 25 Best Black Television Shows Of All-Time

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Two things:

1. There’s no real science to determining what makes a show “Black.” For instance, Scandal has a Black creator and a Black star, but it’s not a Black show, while The Wire had a White creator and the closest that show had to a protagonist (in the first three seasons, at least) was a White guy, but it’s a Black show. Basically, a Black show is like good potato salad. You know it when you see it.

2. I (obviously) created the list, so the list is (obviously) right. Still, feel free to disagree.

25. Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry 

24. South Central

23. Roc

22. Living Single

21. Soul Food

20. The Boondocks

19. Sanford and Son

18. The Bernie Mac Show

17. Rap City

16. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

15. Everybody Hates Chris

14. Key & Peele

13. Martin

12. Soul Train

11. Girlfriends

10. A Different World

9. The Arsenio Hall Show (first run)

8. The Corner

7. Def Comedy Jam

6. The Jeffersons

5. Frank’s Place

4. The Cosby Show

3. The Chappelle Show

2. In Living Color

1. The Wire

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Treme is top 5 too though.

    • She Who Reads

      Treme was lukewarm dishwater.

      • Damon Young

        ice cold! (pun intended)

    • I liked Treme but I wouldn’t call it black.

  • He who thinks before he speaks

    Key & Peele above Sanford & Son? Negro is you crazy?!

    • Damon Young

      No. I’m just right. It’s a better show.

      • Guest

        Fred?

      • HR Paperstacks

        Gotta give some of them classics a re-look, not all of them aged well…

  • SuperStrings

    New York Undercover. Also, Homeboys in Space (KIDDING!)

  • st george doesnt exist

    someone’s high on in living color I see? A good nod to everybody hate chris. The show was canceled too soon. And ROC… good stuff. when Fox wasnt afraid of black shows and they didnt have to be bufoonish. Key and peele is black and damn near horror/scii fi this season… really dark but funny comedy.

    • st george doesnt exist

      what no tyler perry presents :blah blah etc.?

      • Tyler sold those episodes to TBS and they were airing 4 at a time to get rid of em

        • Val

          Lol. That’s funny because it’s true.

        • sounds like 1-ply toilet paper.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      FOX didn’t have a choice back then; you had to put the know on U and then goto 45 to get to the channel.

  • Val

    My additions;

    Video Soul
    Teen Summit
    Yo MTV Raps
    Sister Sister

    edit: it’s really a shame that there have been so few Black dramas on TV.

    • GemmieBoo

      omg Teen Summit!! man i remember the days i wished i was on that show smh

      • Val

        Yep, everyone wanted to be on that show. That was back when BET still had a soul.

        • kidvideo

          Shout out to Ananda & Prince Dajor…I forgot
          the name of the first host.

    • miss t-lee

      Video Soul!!!!! Who can forget Donnie Simpson and Sherry Carter?

      • Val

        And Rachel.

        • miss t-lee

          I thought she did the Reggae show, which name escapes me right now.

          • Val

            Caribbean Rhythms was her show but she used to guest host Video Soul.

            • miss t-lee

              Ahhh!

    • BlueWave1

      Yo! MTV Raps was everything! I used to rush home from school every Wednesday to see Ed Lover do his dance. That show did more to spread Hip Hop than any other.

    • Damon Young

      “Video Soul
      Teen Summit
      Yo MTV Raps”

      It was tough for me to leave these three and Caribbean Rhythms off the list.

    • towninc

      Video Soul, yes. Whatever happened to Donnie Simpson?

      • Val

        I think he’s still on the radio in D.C..

        • Tentpole

          No he is not.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      Generations?? The first black soap opera??? Kristoff St. John was doing his thing

  • I don’t comment often (read barely at all) but I must agree this list is beyond sound with one exception (of course). I would swap In Living Color’s sport with Martin’s mainly because I think Martin was funnier for a longer amount of time (the first 3 seasons v. ILC first 1-2 seasons) and Martin created a lot of references that made its way into “melatious vernacular” (for example: G.T.D.!, Jerome’s in the house, Keep the lie alive, junk in the trunk, etc.). As always, I tip my had good sir.

    • BlueWave1

      My brother and I were talking about “King Beef” the other day. Martin’s first two seasons are still funny.

    • Damon Young

      i get your point, but in living color doesn’t get enough credit for how groundbreaking it was and the fact that it was a springboard for maybe a half dozen legitimate stars. no other Black show — not cosby, not martin, no one — can say that

    • Detroit Skater

      i have a friend i call tommy to this day b/c of martin…..”you ain’t got no job maaannn!’

  • GemmieBoo

    pretty good list but how did Good Times miss the cut??? def a top 5 Black show. also not entirely sure how Frank’s Place made it.

    i’d also add…
    -227
    -What’s Happening!!!
    -Living Single… def over Girlfriends, which i loved but it wasn’t Blacker or better than Living Single
    -Moesha… her name being Moesha is reason enough. plus so many Black stars had recurring or guest apperances
    -The Steve Harvey Show

    • Val

      What’s Happening definitely deserves to be on the list. I forgot about that show.

    • What the h*** is “Frank’s Place”?

      • GemmieBoo

        exactly.

      • Jaeda Laurez

        It was a great show from the 90’s with Lightskinned Aunt Viv doing actual acting, instead of just being wallpaper.

        • miss t-lee

          Yup. CBS.

        • If I acknowledge Frank’s Place as a thing I’ll eventually have to acknowledge Ray J’s humanity and the fact that Jay Electronica is a real person. Not happening.

      • Andrea

        A show his parent’s clearly liked. My parents too.

        • Damon Young

          I actually got my parents into it. convinced them to start watching it

          • Andrea

            I agree with it on the list. Even where it is. But you got your parents into it??? Huh?

      • Sigma_Since 93

        The one show where we were given creative control. Gotta give props to the Reids.

    • KKay

      -227.

      That brings back memories. Amen used to come on right after. Saturdays on NBC.

      • GemmieBoo

        omg how could i forget about Amen?!?!

        • Vanity in Peril

          Still holds up.

      • I hated Amen. It reminded me that I had to go to church the next morning.

        • KKay

          LOL.

      • miss t-lee

        Yup…that good old Saturday lineup. Didn’t Golden Girls come on before, if memory serves me right?

        • KKay

          I think Golden Girls came on after. **Check on Wikipedia** – Yep, after.

          Saturday night lineup in 1988: 227, Amen, Golden Girls, Empty Nest and Hunter. Geez I forgot about Hunter.

          I watched the sh!t out of all of those shows.

          • miss t-lee

            You took me back with Hunter and Empty Nest!!!
            Yup…this was exactly what we were watching on Saturdays.
            *sniff* memories.

        • Asiyah

          The Golden Girls! I know this is a list of black shows but this show should be on this list anyway lol

      • PunchDrunkLove

        I could never get past the deacon being crooked and the pastor being too good to take a wack at it….IJS

    • Damon Young

      Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was the first cut off. Good Times was second, which makes it 27th. Only ranks that high because of historical relevance. The actual show was depressing as a motherf*cker (How many times did James get a “promotion” in the first five minutes of the show, only to find out 15 minutes later that he didn’t get the job? 23? 56?), and I can’t get past James Amos and Ester Rolle as husband and wife when they were like 30 years apart in real life.

      • Amber

        Yeah that was one black show that I couldn’t watch – Good Times. That family had the worst luck like my goodness can they catch a break. It was like they had a root put on them

        • Wild Cougar

          It was the 70s. There was a recession.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        Champ living in the Steel City streets, times were tough for black laborers any old head from the mills can attest to that. #lastinfirstout

    • Asiyah

      227! What a great show! I love Jackeé!

    • miss t-lee

      227!!!!
      YASSSSS.

      I also agree, I’ll take Living Single over Girlfriends any day of the week.

    • b sweet

      227 does not get the recognition it deserves. Jackee Harry was the first and only black actress to win an Emmy for her role as Sandra. A smart, sexy, unapologetic single woman was never seen on TV before 227. She was Samatha before SATC was even a notion.

      • GemmieBoo

        YES!!!

      • Jay

        She was Samatha before SATC was even a notion.

        Never thought about that but… you’re right.

  • dangeruss

    sigh @ Key and Peele. When will folks learn that those guys really hate black people.

    • miss t-lee

      I’m also not a fan, but what the hey.

  • miss t-lee

    You took me back with “Frank’s Place”–I remember my parents watching that.
    I loved Roc and South Central–Fox really was letting us all up over the network in the 90s and I’ll forever love them for that.
    The Corner was also solid.

    I would have loved to see New York Undercover on the list.

    • Val

      New networks always have a lot of Black shows because they know we crave seeing Black folks on TV and we’ll tune in right away. Then once the network is established they unceremoniously drop the Black shows. (Girlfriends, Everybody Hates Chris as examples)

      • miss t-lee

        I haven’t forgotten how UPN and WB did.
        Trust.

      • Girlfriends had 100+ episodes and 8 seasons Val. Chris ended his show by choice too.

        • miss t-lee

          I’m in the minority of ladies who didn’t exactly see it for Girlfriends–so I have no dog in this fight.

          • Cut u hate all things bougie

            • miss t-lee

              You might be onto something.

              • Bougist.

                • miss t-lee

                  I’ll bee dat.

            • No shame in that.

          • Val

            I didn’t love the show. I watched mainly because I had a crush on Joan/ Tracee. Still do.

            • miss t-lee

              Well…there was no one on there for me to crush on, maybe that’s why I couldn’t get interested?
              LMAO

            • b sweet

              Fair and pear Val. Fair and Pear. Own it!

              • Val

                Since when is Tracee fair? She’s brown-skinned. So, don’t start that again because it’s not true.

                http://photos-c.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xpa1/10249124_612139448894642_1392075952_n.jpg

                • b sweet

                  ummm, ma’am, she would pass the paper bag test with flying colors. Remind me never to go shopping for foundation with you.

                  • Val

                    Nah, you’re just one of those Black people that thinks anyone who isn’t darkskinned is lightskinned.

                    • Neptunes presents The Clones

                      COLOR WARZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Shout out to my homie P.A

                    • b sweet

                      Not at all.
                      You’re not getting serious on me, are you? I’m just being silly, but your response is implying I’m saying something to offend. Did I say something offensive?

                    • Val

                      You’re calling me colorstruck, again. I just don’t know where you got that from. Because I crush on AK? That’s just one person.

                    • Neptunes presents The Clones

                      Stand down soldier,i doubt thats what she meant

                    • b sweet

                      Val, that’s a leap. I’m absolutely not calling you colorstuck. I wanted to rhyme while being funny because i saw something in common with AK, Draya, and T. E. Ross. It’s too bad you took the offended route instead of the LOL route.

                    • Val

                      Okay.

                    • Plenty of brown skin women are on her Tumblr. She’s no more of a colorist than I am.

                    • b sweet

                      Take it. No please, I insist take it. Nonsense, I have plenty more, just take it. It’s only a joke.
                      Why don’t we talk about the real elephant in the room? Am I talking bosc pear or Asian pear? Are they really pear shaped, or more ackee or mangosteen? These are the real issues.

                • She’s like a shade lighter than me.

                  • Val

                    That’s what I’m saying.

                • Damon Young

                  this might the darkest picture of her in existence and she’s still lightskinned.

        • Val

          Girlfriends ended without a finale. It just stopped.

      • I think the Parkers was like the last black show to get a proper finale

  • panamajackson

    This whole list is fugazi b/c it doesn’t include the greatest Black show of all time: Cops.

    Also, My Wife and Kids was a good damn show.

    Damon’s list is the worst ever.

    • Val

      Cops? Stop it. Lol

      • panamajackson

        Cops taught me a lot about life. If I didn’t know my dad, Cops would be like my dad.

        • Val

          I always wanted to see the outtakes from Cops.You know, all the criminals that ran on foot or in their cars and got away or who got into it with a cop and beat the cop’s azz. Now that would be the number 1 show on TV all over the world.

          • kidvideo

            First few seasons of COPS, they stayed getting their a@@ whipped.

        • Barbie

          Can I nominate the First 48? Or is it too diverse?

    • GemmieBoo

      for once i actually disagree with you – MWAK was zzzzzz

      • miss t-lee

        It really was. I think I watched a few episodes and no longer cared.

      • panamajackson

        No.

    • My Wife and Kids was okay until they brought that little boy on the show.

      • Val

        Mane, Franklyn was funny as heck.

        • miss t-lee

          funny=annoying as all heyll right?

        • He was the dad’s best foil.

        • I cannot stand fake cute/smart-a** kids on TV shows.

        • Brandon Allen

          And he rocked Blinky Doos…

      • miss t-lee

        Always the beginning of the end for any show. When they add a kid…straight downhill on ice.

        • It’s the death roll for a sitcom.

        • Damon Young

          this is true. little kids never, ever, ever improve shows. i can’t think of any show i’ve ever watched where I thought “damn, i wish they gave little johnny more screen time”

          • miss t-lee

            Look at Cosby–the minute they added Olivia, and Cousin Pam and the rest of them random azz characters? Basura.

            • A supertanker filled with molten dumpster juice.

            • Olivia and her lame-a** daddy bothered me more than Cousin Pam.

              • miss t-lee

                Martin was horrendous. And then he went on to be in that movie Strictly Business.

                • Amber

                  Oh NO. I can’t believe any person would say this. I loved Martin at least the first 3 -4 seasons.

                  • miss t-lee

                    Only episode I remember loving is the Nino Brown Roundtable episode.

              • Val

                Yeah, Olivia’s dad was lame. Dude is a Republican in real life…so.

              • PaddyfotePrincess

                Martin Kendall and Dabnis Brickey were the corniest and driest characters on the Cosby Show. Just….no.

                • I actually did a ballad of Dabnis Brickey on twitter back in the day. He was lame but he was ultimately a pawn in Vanessa’s bougie rebellion against her bougie-a** parents.

                • PunchDrunkLove

                  I can’t lie, Denise’s hubs was fione.

              • That episode when Pam was on birth control and they treated it like she was a meth addicted pr0stitute…..ahh, the 90’s lol

                • PaddyfotePrincess

                  Lol, they sure did. I can’t remember if she was with Sly or Aaron.

                • They reacted like I suspect the Huxtables would in real life.

          • miss t-lee

            Exactly.

          • raven symone made the cosby show a lil bit cuter(my childhood crush on her may cause bias). but she ain’t black no more so idk if that counts.

            • Val

              “but she ain’t black no more so idk if that counts.”

              And shade makes an appearance. Lol Love it.

              • she’ll always be my first love. and clearly i’m not her type but…we go together. she has my heart.

            • Epsilonicus

              “. but she ain’t black no more so idk if that counts.”

              She a part of that New Negro League

              • …right along with Don Lemon.
                The new Negro League was founded in 1968, on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel by Jesse Jackson.

                • Val

                  Don’t forget Pharrell

            • miss t-lee

              Yep you’re biased than a mofo, because…NOPE.

            • PunchDrunkLove

              She definitely brought a “lil cuter”

          • kidvideo

            Another good show was “Hangin wit Mr.Cooper”.
            I liked the “There’s Company” angle…until they added the kids.

      • panamajackson

        It definitely took an odd turn. But Junior was a classic dumb kid. I mean he’s epic with his non-sense. He’s Eddie Winslow in the first season of Family Matters fully realized.

        • personally i got mad when they made the son super dumb. i don’t think he was that stupid during the first season.

          • Amazonian Midget

            I was just telling my mom this the other day. Claire wasn’t that dumb during the first couple of seasons either. She was just your typical suburban teen girl. As she got older though…

            • kidvideo

              Claire was darker in the 1st season.

              • Amazonian Midget

                …and dull. Which is why she was replaced. New Claire in the 2nd season wasn’t as dumb as New Claire when the show ended. It’s like she lost her brain when they went to Hawaii.

      • Jay
      • Franklin would come there every day just to stunt on the family…light privilege man

        • Barbie

          I hated Franklin. He was so annoying.

      • Paradigm

        Why you make him sound special tho Wu?

    • Damon Young

      my wife and kids wasn’t bad. but i wouldnt call it good either. it was the according to jim of Black shows

      • KKay

        I can see that. Good description.

      • I think it got wackier cut ABC likes that screwball comedy

    • Epsilonicus

      I have never watched an episode of My Wife & Kids. I did not even know there were Black people on there until just now.

      • Wild Cougar

        also

    • i was gonna say first 48

      • towninc

        LMBO!

    • BreezyX2

      The only thing Damon is accurate about now-a-day is talking about his *loses signal*

      • Neptunes presents The Clones

        Just to remind all VSS. No lose of signals in 2015

        Management

    • kidvideo

      My wife/kids was great,until they made the son dumb.

    • Brandon Allen

      My Wife and Kids gets love for having Terry Crews and Katt Williams on network tv…

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