DAR TV: Which Network Had The Best Black Sitcoms

By @TrueGodImmortal

Once upon a time, black sitcoms were the best thing on television.  When I look back on the shows that made my childhood better, aside from a few cartoons, my go to programs were all black sitcoms. The beauty of that for me was that growing up, despite not really having cable, I was still able to experience a number of different shows through the networks that were available at the time. I could turn to FOX and watch my all time favorite Martin, or even check out ABC and watch the Urkel led Family Matters or even check out NBC to see A Different World or A Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. These networks were integral to my after school days, and with that being said, I wanted to do a comparison of all of the networks to see who had the better black sitcoms over the years. Was it FOX, CBS, WB, UPN, ABC, or NBC? Let's take a look at these networks and their shows.


Of all the networks, this might be my personal choice without thinking of the others really. FOX was never the greatest network to me, and as we can see, it still isn't that, but one thing that I enjoyed a lot about this network during their heyday was the freedom they seemed to give their shows, preferably the black shows. Through the 90's, you could watch Martin, Living Single,  or Roc, all of which were cutting edge black sitcoms in their own right. The most cutting edge of them all is of course In Living Color, which always pushed the envelope with their comedy and skits. As I mentioned earlier, Martin is my all time favorite sitcom, so every week I would be tuned in to FOX and their particular lineup, which if I'm not mistaken, included Living Single as well. This would make for a great night of TV watching. Other sitcoms in the schedule over the years for FOX include The PJs, The Sinbad Show, and the underrated Bernie Mac Show, all of which were good for their own reasons. It's hard to argue against FOX as the best network for black sitcoms on the strength of Martin and Living Single alone, but let's take a look at the other networks and the shows they would produce.


In retrospect, one of the most underrated networks for black sitcoms was the WB. Think about how many great sitcoms came from this network and the reality becomes quite clear: WB has a claim to some of the best black sitcoms ever. Whether The Jamie Foxx Show, The Steve Harvey Show, or the popular Wayans Bros., this network would deliver with shows that brought us more laughter than any of us could have expected. For me, the best sitcom on the network was The Jamie Foxx Show and that remains one of my all time favorites, regardless of network. The Steve Harvey Show helped turn the titular star into a bigger name and set the tone for the mainstream career he has now. The Wayans Bros. Show would introduce the comedic talents of Shawn and Marlon to an even larger audience after their small roles in films and In Living Color. There were other sitcoms on this network like Smart Guy, Sister Sister, and the Robert Townsend starring The Parent 'Hood, all of which were more family friendly, but still solid overall. All in all, WB gave us a number of classic sitcoms and they also present a convincing case for the network with the best black sitcoms.


This network is often criticized, and for good reason, but in actuality, the network wasn't that bad. It would feature a number of solid shows alongside some disappointments, but the good seemingly outweighed the bad. For every Homeboys In Outer Space, there was Moesha. For every Good News or Sparks, there was Girlfriends and for some, Malcolm and Eddie. I think the sitcoms on UPN all come down to personal preference and for many, the shows weren't that good, but the truth is, the network is more so in the middle. The network might cancel itself out from being in the final running for the best, but when it is all said and done, for better or worse, UPN gave us Moesha, Girlfriends, Malcolm and Eddie, alongside acquired taste favorites like The Parkers, Eve, and some others. Is UPN truly the best network for any type of programming? Probably not, but it was a network with more black programming so it deserves a mention at least on this list, even if it doesn't take the title of the best.


Of all the networks here, CBS is one of the lesser networks in terms of quantity for black sitcoms. They have three noteworthy shows, most of which were before the heyday of black sitcoms in all honesty. Those three shows are Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids, The Jeffersons, and Good Times. Of those three, two of them are referenced as classic sitcoms, but the era they were in perhaps made their legacy better than it really should have been. Still, the aggressive comedy in The Jeffersons worked pretty well for the time and the show was a fun watch often, but of course, the anchor of the CBS network in terms of black sitcoms is definitely Good Times. A top 10 black sitcom of all time, Good Times was one of the most entertaining shows during its prime, but in all honesty, I think the show's legacy is a bit inflated. Still, it is seen as a top sitcom and alongside The Jeffersons, it gets CBS on the list. Although CBS doesn't make the list, it isn't seriously in the running for the title of the best network, as the shows featured on the network weren't the greatest and there wasn't enough quality or variety.


I'll be honest. During the heyday of black sitcoms, ABC really only had two big sitcoms, one of which would have their own legacy, while the other was popular but not as impactful as the biggest sitcom on the network at the time. The first sitcom, Hanging With Mr. Cooper, had some hilarious elements to it and some good episodes, but it isn't included as much on the list with the best of the best in black sitcoms. The same could be said for the most important black sitcom on the network, Family Matters, which introduced the world to Steve Urkel, but it still lacked something. Honestly, my favorite sitcom from the network was My Wife And Kids, as the Damon Wayans and Tisha Campbell led show embodied the spirit of prior black sitcoms while having their own spin to it. Another important sitcom from the network is the popular late 70's show What's Happening, but is that enough to really push ABC to be considered one of the best networks for black sitcoms? Not really. While I did enjoy some of the shows listed, the most popular and important black sitcom from ABC was Family Matters, and that says something about the quality of the network to me. Still, ABC gave us shows that provided laughs on a high level, but just not as high as some of the other networks listed.


A dominant network during the 80's and some of the 90's, this might be the one that takes the cake. It's tough to really make this decision without thoroughly looking at each show that was on every network, so that's I took a look at each network and what they had for programming before making any tough decisions. The truth is, NBC excelled at the highest level when talking about black sitcoms and they did it in a manner that no other network could truly duplicate. First, years ago, the world would be intrigued by a sitcom starring legendary Redd Foxx titled Sanford and Son. The fact is, Sanford and Son is one of the more popular throwback shows and it already puts NBC at a high level in terms of quality sitcoms. Then, one could give credit to the Gary Coleman vehicle Diff'rent Strokes and of course, the Bill Cosby classic show The Cosby Show. The Cosby Show would leave us the basis for my favorite NBC sitcom A Different World, which was a spinoff that garnered a lot of viewers and attention. Just with The Cosby Show, Sanford And Son, and A Different World, NBC might take the title, but once you add in Amen, 227, In The House, and last but certainly not least, Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, it becomes clear. NBC has one of the greatest lineups in television history in terms of sitcoms, and if I had to pick a top choice, this would be at the very top and undisputed top 3. The question is however, which network has the best black sitcoms? Well... that leads me to the conclusion.

Of the networks we discussed, there are only three real frontrunners to narrow down to. Those networks are NBC, WB, and FOX. By process of elimination, I'll get rid of WB, because although they have some amazing shows, the absolute best of the best shows have come from FOX and NBC. So, between these two networks, which is the best? Well, Martin and Living Single makes me lean towards FOX personally, but when you look how NBC gave us Fresh Prince, A Different World, and The Cosby Show at the same time and during the same era, it becomes clear. NBC gave us the best black sitcoms in terms of the networks and they did it consistently and at the highest level possible. FOX, WB, ABC, CBS, and UPN all put up a convincing argument in their own right, but there has been no better network for black sitcoms quite like NBC.



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