The 1990's was a golden era for television, and black sitcoms played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of entertainment. It's hard to believe at least for me that the 90's are now 30 years ago when if feels like yesterday we were “Hanging With Mr. Copper”. These shows brought laughter, relatable experiences, and diverse representation to living rooms across the nation. We all remember Clair Huxtable talking to Vanessa about having “big fun with the wretched” and Rudy singing “Baby” mad hard for her grandparents' anniversary.
The shows literally made allowed us all grow up together. You could find your best friend at a new school within 10 minutes of asking what TV shows they watched.
They gave us unspoken unity in a broken world. Right now what we're gonna do is go back way back when life made sense and we saw our favorite actors in college sweatshirts and high top fades.
1. "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (1990-1996): Will Smith's charismatic portrayal of a street-smart teenager from Philadelphia, transplanted to a wealthy family in Bel-Air, created a cultural phenomenon that remains beloved to this day. No show will ever beat the time Will’s dad tried to leave without saying goodbye and Will collapsed in Uncle Phil's arms. I think we can all cry tears right now if we happen to catch the replay.
2. "Martin" (1992-1997): Martin Lawrence's hilarious antics as the eccentric DJ Martin Payne, along with his colorful cast of characters, had audiences in stitches with their outrageous comedy and unforgettable catchphrases. All Ima say is we all know you can’t leave birds by an open window for too long due to this show.
3. "Living Single" (1993-1998): This series followed the lives of four friends living in a Brooklyn brownstone, navigating careers, relationships, and the ups and downs of urban life. It set the stage for future ensemble comedies. Maxeen Shaw, attorney at law, had me carrying my nana’s sunday school bad around the house slamming it on tables making serious faces in case I ever ran into Kyle Barker.
4. "Family Matters" (1989-1998): While it started in the late 80s, this show truly thrived in the 90s. Steve Urkel's quirky charm and catchphrase "Did I do that?" became iconic, while the Winslow family provided heartwarming moments. If I'm at somebody's house and they start acting up, I just stand up and say “I don't have to take this, I'm going home” and walk out. I guarantee they will be on the porch screaming before you make it to the sidewalk.
5. "A Different World" (1987-1993): Another one that began in the late 80's, it made a significant impact in the 90's. This Cosby Show spin-off followed the lives of students at a historically black college, addressing important social issues. I was always Freddy. I guess I knew something everybody else is just finding out to this day.
6. "Sister, Sister" (1994-1999): Twins Tia and Tamera Mowry starred as long-lost sisters reunited in a delightful sitcom filled with humor, sibling dynamics, and the challenges of teenage life. I remember the episode where they were describing their birth mother and the pieces of the photos made Whitney Huston’s face. It was epic at my age.
7. "The Jamie Foxx Show" (1996-2001): Jamie Foxx brought his comedic talent to the small screen, playing a struggling musician working at his aunt and uncle's hotel in Los Angeles. As a huge Luther Vandross fan my favorite episode was Jamie on the piano singing “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” I can literally hear him in my ear as i'm writing this
8. "The Wayans Bros." (1995-1999): Brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans delivered non-stop laughter as two siblings trying to make it big in the Big Apple, blending slapstick humor with witty banter. Pops (John Whitherspoon) was my favorite character in everything he was ever in.
9. "Moesha" (1996-2001): Brandy Norwood starred as Moesha Mitchell, a teenager navigating the challenges of high school, family, and friendship in this coming-of-age series. It wasn’t until I watched as an adult that I realized Moesha was a spoiled brat!!!
10. "The Steve Harvey Show" (1996-2002): Steve Harvey's comedic genius shone as he portrayed a former musician turned high school teacher, balancing work, love, and his hilarious students. It was Steve Harvey’s wigs and Lavetta’s voice that threw me every episode.
These black 90's sitcoms not only entertained us but also provided much-needed mirror reflection on the tv screen. As we look back, their impact on television and popular culture remains timeless, reminding us of a decade filled with laughter, camaraderie, and unforgettable moments.