DAR TV: The Best And Worst Black Shows Of Today

By @TrueGodImmortal

Today, black stars are taking over the TV like it's the 80's and 90's all over again. It's a surprise for many of us, as we never expected the big resurgence to come so swiftly in both film and television. The reality is, there is a lane and a path for black television to exist whether on TVOne, BET, NBC, CBS, Comedy Central, or wherever. It doesn't matter where the shoes are, what matters is that they exist and provide a viewing experience for us, whether good or bad. With that being said, we've had the pleasure (and displeasure) of seeing a number of shows hit the small screen over the last few years and today, I wanted to take a brief look and list them. Whether they're entertaining, awful, or great, here's a look at the best and worst black TV shows today.

(Starz, 4 Seasons)

-The 50 Cent executive produced crime drama is coming back for the 4th season in a few weeks and it's one of the best, if not the best show on television. With Omari Hardwick in the lead role as Ghost, along with Joseph Sikora as Tommy, Naturi Naughton as Tasha, and 50 himself as Kanan, this show documents the underworld, the pitfalls, and keeps a slightly realistic street balance whole executing the episodes. Power is one of the more promising shows, and with 4 seasons already filmed, along with a 5th season likely on the way, the show might be solidified as one of the best black crime drama shows ever based on ratings, story, and longevity. If it continues beyond the 5th season, I'll be surprised, but make no mistake, Power is one of the best shows on cable TV. Period.

(HBO, 2 Seasons)

-Issa Rae is extremely talented. She's a great writer for the most part with equal parts sarcasm and wit to help drive her scripts and screenplays. The moment she got her own show on HBO, I was certain it would become a hit and sure enough, it was. The Awkward Black Girl creator came with a show that sort of mixes that arc with a more in depth and darker story, as she touches on dysfunctional relationships, cheating, betrayal, and many other topics within the first season of the show. The first season saw the whirlwind between two unhappy people in love with Issa's character and her boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis). Their entire dichotomy leads to some interesting scenes and moments, and come July 2017, fans of the show will be able to watch the 2nd season and find out how the story truly finishes (or at the very least how it continues).

*Queen Sugar
(OWN, 2 Seasons)

-Ava DuVernay is one of the more acclaimed directors of this era whether on TV or movies, and she struck gold with this show. Now, to be fair, it's not a show I personally enjoy, but it's been gaining rave reviews and with a strong cast that includes Rutina Wesley, Kofi Siriboe, and more. Based around a novel of the same name written by Natalie Baszile, the show centers around the life of two sisters and their brother, and their personal struggles in Louisiana after a huge death in their family leaves an inheritance and forces them all back around each other. I'm sure there's a compelling element to this show that draws people in and with the 2nd season already on the way, there will be enough familial tension and stories to keep their audience engaged I'm sure.

(ABC, 4 Seasons)

-This smart yet well balanced sitcom has been considered one of the better black shows in some time, but is it really? I'd like to think that for all of its over the top nonsense that the messages they pack into the episodes resonate enough with the viewer. It's hard to really be cutting edge and real while on a national network like ABC, but Black-Ish at least makes a solid attempt to. Created by Kenya Barris, with executive producer duties handled by two of the actors on the show in Laurence Fishburne and Anthony Anderson, the show has earned awards and nominations all over the board. Starring alongside Anthony Anderson and Laurence Fishburne is the hilarious Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays her role perfectly on the show. While the comedy itself is hit or miss, this portrayal of an upper class middle america Black family is one that still can be felt by all, if you pay attention. Is Black-Ish the best show on this list? Probably not. Is it one of the best? I'd say so.

(FOX, 3 Seasons)

-The truth be told, I've always hated the idea of anything produced or directed by Lee Daniels, and honestly, this is a prime reason why. Despite the "drama" and outlandish moments that drive this show, it's horribly written and the music is awful. I know, I know, if you are one of those who love the Lyon family, you're probably reading this shaking your head. Well, continue to shake your head at yourself for being a fan of this overly dramatic and sometimes ridiculous show. Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson star in what I felt was an extension of Hustle And Flow initially, but not even Hustle And Flow suffered from piss poor writing as much as this one. The Lyon family goes through moments of betrayal (usually on each other), dysfunction, and of course, drama. There couldn't be a Lee Daniels show without over the top and unnecessary drama and it's definitely full of that. If you're up for a good laugh, you might want to watch this show for some of the more hilarious acted emotional scenes, because they don't pull you in, instead they make you laugh hysterically. At least I did when I watched the show.

*Shots Fired 
(FOX, 1 Season)

-If you know me, you know I'm a fan of Sanaa Lathan. She's a beautiful woman and a solid actress. However, this show just doesn't do it for me. It feels like it's forced and I hate when movies or shows feel that way. Because of that, I don't have much to say about the show besides the fact that it was recently cancelled already, which says more than enough. It was a decent concept and a nice try I guess, but the show was doomed from the start and the actual quality of the show didn't do it any favors as well.

*The Quad 
(BET, 1 Season)

-In a way, this show had no business being any good. Yet, I found myself surprisingly not hating it when I caught a few episodes of it in passing. Based around a black college, this is yet another over the top show, but its tempered in a manner that doesn't feel notoriously over the top...... because it's college. College itself is over the top, so while a few moments of the show might feel a bit exaggerated, the stories told don't seem so foreign. It tackles tough topics in the first season like rape, discrimination, betrayal, and the differing lives of black students from different background and class. Starring Anika Noni Rose, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jazz Raycole  (the original Claire from My Wife And Kids), Sean Blakemore, and Jasmine Guy, this show follows the black college experience at the fictional Georgia A&M University, and while it's not a perfect show, it's got some good moments surprisingly. It will be back for a 2nd season, likely in late 2017 or early 2018.

(BET, 1 Season)

-Although I think John Singleton is a good director, and it's clear that perhaps his directorial prowess might have been needed for this one, instead of just attaching his name as an executive producer. This show is certainly one that makes little sense to me, not because I don't understand it, but because it feels extremely forced with terrible dialogue. Perhaps that's the point, but if it is, it still weighs down the show immensely. Starring Danielle Mone Truitt as the lead character, the show centers around a cop who watches her brother murdered in cold blood by fellow officers and goes rogue essentially. Method Man is in a prominent role, as are other great actors like Giancarlo Esposito and Mykelti Williamson, but they feel wasted in this show. It attempts to be a smart and fun show, but that might fall on Amani Walker, who doesn't direct the show like I expected at all. It has a few decent moments, but as I said, it seems forced and the dialogue is beyond awful. This definitely would rank as the worst, or at least one of the very worst on TV.

*The Carmichael Show
(NBC, 3 Seasons)

-To be clear, I've never really watched this show minus a few episodes, but it's surprisingly entertaining considering the Network it is on. With comedians like Lil Rel and the legendary David Alan Grier, the show features smart yet dry black humor, and it all seems to flow very well. Starring Jarrod Carmichael, the lead protagonist of the sitcom, the show revolves around a fictional account of his real life family, who reside in Charlotte, North Carolina. There are quite a few societal issues discussed on the show in a rather humorous way, and as I get more acquainted with the program, I think I'll enjoy more episodes. The 3rd season starts in about a week from now, so if you wanted to dive right on in with new episodes, you will have your chance for sure.

*Being Mary Jane 
(BET, 4 Seasons)

-I've always had a thing for Gabrielle Union, as I think she's an honestly beautiful woman. However, I've never been much into her roles in movies or TV, and unfortunately Being Mary Jane didn't change that in any way, shape, or form. It's a show that I feel is personally geared towards women and that's fine. Not every show has to appeal to me or other men, and vice versa. With that being said, the director of The Game and Girlfriends is behind this one, and there's no surprise that this show follows what feels like her formula so to speak. It's witty in some spots, over the top and showcases women and their "beautiful flaws", but it doesn't flesh out a solid enough story for any of the characters in terms of love, relationships, or anything else for that matter. Essentially, the show is pretty shallow and lacks the depth of emotional complexity that the promotion of it hinted at. Still, it's always nice to see Gabrielle Union, it's just that this show does very little for me and probably most male viewers. However, I'm sure their targeted demographic loves this show and that's fine. Much like The Game and Girlfriends, the show is geared towards that demographic and it works for them. For me, it would be on the worst list for this article, and I'll stand by that.

*The Get Down 
(Netflix, 1 Seasons/2 Parts)

-I want to like this show more and while I don't hate it, I think I was a bit blinded during my first watch of part 1. This show is completely outlandish and a bit all over the place with the writing, but the story is fun. Based in New York during the inception of hip hop, the show focuses on the story of a successful MC who reflects on his roots and his upbringing before he became a star. The characters are interesting, in a good and bad way, as they showcase shallow thoughts, youthful innocence and naivety, while also showcasing how the love for hip hop pushed them further. If we're talking about the two "seasons" or two parts to the show though, I'm partially to part 1, as I felt it better displayed the story and the growth of the characters, while part 2 felt like an entirely new world with a forced narrative. Still, anytime a lead character on a show is called Shaolin Fantastic, how bad could it be? Right?

*Real Husbands Of Hollywood
(BET, 5 Seasons)

-In terms of Kevin Hart, it's clear his over saturation and peak of his popularity is done with. However, I actually find his sitcom "Real Husbands Of Hollywood" to be quite funny, though not as funny as the first two seasons. The show has been running for quite some time and shows no signs of ending, which is a big deal. For a star like Kevin Hart, who can come out and have 100 million dollar grossing films and successful comedy tours, as well as a hugely successful show, it showcases the run he was on. This faux reality show is essentially the actors on the show being a more outlandish version of themselves and for the most part, it works. Kevin, JB Smoove, Nick Cannon, Jackie Long, even Duane Martin and Nelly all shine at different times on the show and provide outrageous laughs. I'm sure a 6th season will come, and I can only hope it's as funny as the first few seasons were.

(FX, 1 Season)

-Donald Glover has truly had a career renaissance in the world as of late. Going from the proverbial "token" on Community and in other roles, he soon would come to embrace his "roots" perhaps, and he helped to create a show that took the world by storm. Right around the time he was enjoying the biggest momentum of his career, Glover would debut the little known about series Atlanta on FX, which didn't seem to carry an extreme amount of buzz with it, but many were intrigued just off the title. The show ended up being a hit, with fans identifying with scenes and characters. Not to mention, who could resist the sound of Paper Boi and his music? That combined with the guest stars and the admittedly true Atlanta vibe of the show just made it a pleasure to watch. It would rack up awards as well, and if I had to pick a show that stands as the best on TV, this would be the one. Atlanta is the best of the best in terms of black television and hopefully season 2 comes sooner than later. We need it for the culture (culture).

*Luke Cage
(Netflix, 1 Season)

-Marvel made an extremely black TV show exclusively for Netflix. Based around the nearly invincible hero Luke Cage, this show was a pleasure to watch.... for the first 8 episodes or so. I thought it was a fun watch, and while I definitely was a fan of Luke Cage, the best character on the entire show was Cottonmouth, who was played by now Oscar award winning actor Mahershala Ali, along with the beautiful Misty Knight played by Simone Missick. I think Mike Colter does a great job as Luke in the series, and I also appreciated Rosario Dawson's role, as well Alfre Woodard in a rare villain role, but the biggest issue with the show comes when one of the favorite characters dies. The show recovers in the last two episodes so to speak, but it misses the mark in that 4 episode lull after the character's departure. Still, Luke Cage is one of those shows that not only works, it draws you in, the mark of a pretty good TV series.

You might wonder where are some of the others that take over Centric, TVOne, and others, but they just missed the list, for various reasons. These 14 shows are essentially the cream of the crop (for better or worse) in black television, and this is what they represent. Some are great, some are good, some bad, but this is black representation on your TV screen (or your tablet or laptop), and it's always welcome. Always.



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