The 1990-2000s garnered influential Black sitcoms, with humor so funny there was probably no need for the cheesy laugh tracks in the background. Not only were these shows hilarious, they broke ground during a time when diverse representation was few and far between. However, while these shows are heralded as classics in the Black community, they rarely gained the mainstream recognition they deserved. Before there was Friends, there was Living Single–a show about six Black 20-somethings living in Brooklyn. With plotlines so similar, many even believe that Living Single actually inspired Friends, Living Single never gained that same attention as its white counterpart–yet provided real-life breakthroughs for women and girls. We don’t have a time machine, but there’s still an opportunity to give these shows their justified recognition.
Last week, Netflix announced that they’ve acquired the rights to seven classic Black sitcoms–many of which are women-led. While there’s been a resurgence in nostalgic shows like Friends and Seinfeld piquing the interest of generations young and old, we hope the same will happen for these shows that have “changed the face of television as we know it.” Check out our list of Black sitcoms you should be streaming on Netflix and why they’re just as amazing and groundbreaking as ever.
Moesha – Available Now
You may have known Brandy to be an R&B songstress, but did you know she was also the star of her own teen sitcom? Moesha is about a young teenage girl as she comes “to terms with everything life throws at her.” If you’re seeking teen melodrama, comedy, and 90’s outfit inspiration–look no further. Fun fact: Emmy nominated actress and Insecure creator Issa Rae shared that Moesha inspired her to go into the entertainment industry. Representation matters!
Sister, Sister – Available 9/1
Most 90s kids are probably familiar with this hilarious series starring real-life twins Tia and Tamera Mowry. Sister, Sister follows Tia Landry and Tamera Campbell, “twins separated at birth who learn of each other’s existence and come together as teenagers (IMdB).” We don’t just love Sister, Sister for it’s catchy theme song but also for its ability to tackle issues that most young women face. One writer says, “What resonated with me, watching these shows, was how much they focused on things I struggled with at that age. Sister, Sister focused a lot on low-self-esteem and insecurities.”
Girlfriends – Available 9/11
Girlfriends is often called the “Black Sex and the City”–but such oversimplification doesn’t do the show justice. Girlfriends delves into the experiences of Black women, exploring subjects like relationships, racism, and workplace gender bias. While Sex and the City severely lacked diversity, Girlfriends creator Mara Brock Akil wanted to shine a light on Black women’s friendships. Akil says, “Sometimes being black in America, being a black woman in America, that is a part of your experience – except when you are with your own, you are allowed a safe place to be, and your girlfriend is a really rich relationship for you, and nuanced. It was meaningful on a very deep level, and I wanted to express that.”
The Parkers – Available 10/1
Before her dramatic acting chops earned her an Oscar for her role in Precious, Mo’nique starred in the 90s sitcom The Parkers—a show about a mother and daughter pursuing their degree at the same community college. Last year, Mo’nique bravely spoke out against the racism and sexism she experienced while negotiating a deal for a comedy special with Netflix.
One-on-One – Available 10/15
We love when a sitcom doesn’t rely on gender tropes! One-on-One defied stereotypes about Black fatherhood–showing a tight knit relationship between a father and daughter. “A sportscaster must take on the responsibility of being a full-time dad when his teenage daughter moves in with him.” (IMdB)
Half & Half – Available 10/15
We’re suckers for multidimensional characters! “Mona and Dee Dee are half-sisters who share the same father. They are completely unlike each other, but they live in the same apartment building, so disagreements are common (IMdB).” Starring two Black women as leads, Half & Half not only provided important representation but also captured how complicated sisterhood can really be.
Take Action! Stream these classic Black sitcoms when they hit Netflix!