TV Shows That Highlight Black Excellence

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FOX's "Empire" - Season Five
Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in the "My Fault is Past" spring premiere episode of EMPIRE. (Photo by FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)

What is your favorite TV Show Highlighting Black Excelllence?

Hollywood is often home to productions that show the immense suffering endured by African Americans due to slavery and racism. While these TV shows can certainly be a powerful source of learning and knowledge, it's important to recognize that there are still other forms of Black entertainment worth celebrating too.

 From uplifting rom-coms to documentaries that delve deeper into African American culture and fun coming-of-age stories, there is no shortage of cinematic content that celebrates the spirit and richness of the Black experience.

Black excellence is exemplified by the presence of shows which not only provide a positive portrayal of Black people but also introduce characters that offer a refreshingly nuanced approach to our lived experience. These titles have affected many people. They inspire us to reach our goals, put in the effort necessary to realize them, and embrace our humanity along the way.

1. Insecure 

Explore the journey of Issa Dee (Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji) in "Insecure". They take on relationships, career ambitions and everyday life in Los Angeles. This modern-day show provides an insight into being a confident Black woman, dealing with different social challenges along the way. Its uplifting soundtrack featuring both popular and lesser-known artists will make you feel energized.

At HBO's TCA session in 2016, Issa Rae, showrunner Prentice Penny, and executive producer Melina Matsoukas discussed how their series would explore the intricate facets of African-American culture and the unescapable truth of being Black. Moving forward, Rae declared that their aim was to demonstrate that people of color are all too familiar. This, she clarified, is not an inner-city narrative but rather a portrayal of ordinary individuals striving for their dreams.

2. Black-ish

Dre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) enjoys a wealth of blessings. He is blessed with a rewarding career, his beautiful wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), and four children. His family lives in a luxurious neighborhood, enabling them to achieve a certain level of status. 

However, as he increasingly recognizes his own cultural assimilation, Dre turns to his father (Laurence Fishburne) for guidance on how to successfully meld ethnic identity with the prospects of a bright future for his entire family. With his father's help, Dre sets out to ensure that his family reveres its rich cultural heritage. Even as it looks ahead towards a promising future.

This is one of the most captivating TV shows that strike a perfect balance between being both enlightening and entertaining. It provides insight into the life of a typical black person and shines a spotlight on subtle yet significant aspects of racism that are often overlooked by mainstream education.

3. Empire

Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is a hip-hop mogul, former drug dealer andCEO of Empire Entertainment. With his own life prematurely ending due to ALS, he has no choice but to select a successor who will be the future ruler of his dynasty. 

He starts the process by supervising the development of one of his three sons, who are - Andre (Trai Byers), the CFO of Empire; Jamal (Jussie Smollett), an R&B singer; and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), a rapper. The rivalry between all of them adds fuel as Lucious works to figure out which one deserves to reign after he passes away. Furthermore, his ex-wife Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) is released from prison after serving 17 long years, wanting control over Empire and her sons.

The TV show had its premiere episode watched by nearly 10 million viewers when it debuted in January 2015. It also received positive reviews from critics. Acclaiming its brilliant acting, particularly that of Taraji P. Henson's, spectacular direction, soundtrack, writing, costumes, editing, and overall tone, many called it a ‘refreshing twist to music entertainment.’ The subsequent series also gained immense admiration, with season 2 being celebrated most.

4. The Proud Family

Tracing Penny Proud's footsteps as she faces the challenges of school, family, and connections, this classic show deserves its spot in the spotlight.

Not only did it tackle matters affecting African American society, such as racism and social class differentiation, but it also offered an accessible lens for many Black children. Disney+ revitalized the program to reflect Penny entering adolescence and the difficulties of growing up.

5. Our Kind of People

In Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, a group of African-American elites comes together each summer for decades. It sees Angela Vaughn, a determined single mother, take charge in restoring her family's name and make an impact with her hair care line which emphasizes the true beauty of Black women.

As she does this, she unexpectedly finds out a horrifying truth about her mother, which will dramatically disrupt her life and the community forever. By exploring racial and class issues in America, this show gives an honest ode to Black excellence and strength.

6. Dear White People

Exploring the realities of discrimination experienced by individuals of color at predominantly White Ivy League Schools, Justin Simien’s powerful series “Dear White People” follows the dynamic characters of Winchester University as they grapple with the racism and bigotry that has become entrenched in their school. 

Anchored by a podcast hosted by Samantha White (Logan Browning), who strives to give a voice to the voiceless, the TV show captures the struggles of the Black student experience while celebrating its triumphs, offering a perspective on the current climate of our educational institutions.

7.  Bel-Air

The newly reimagined version of the classic sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" will captivate viewers with its dramatic narrative and striking portrayals of the power of second chances.

Set in today's America, this adaptation follows Will's journey from West Philadelphia to Bel-Air's gated mansions. As these two worlds clash, the cast captures the conflicts, emotions, and biases that exist between them. This 2022 remake presents a story of black excellence, sure to leave audiences longing for more.

8. Grown-ish

Grown-ish is an inspiring spin-off of black-ish, featuring Yara Shahidi's character Zoey Johnson as she steps into college and adulthood. It offers a unique take on A Different World's depiction of young adults navigating their way through the challenges of life. Particularly Black college students in white spaces.

This TV show is an ideal watch for all college-goers who need something that speaks to them. It's perfect for anyone looking to resonate with relatable content.

9. Being Mary Jane

BET's first hour-long scripted drama is a sequel to the same-named TV movie. The movie premiered on the network back in the summer of 2013. Gabrielle Union is back in the lead role of Mary Jane Paul. She is an cable news anchor with a closet full of designer clothes and shoes, a beautiful home, a nice car, and a determination to reach greater heights. 

Despite all this, something seems to be missing in her life. As Mary Jane embarks on her quest to start her own family and embrace life's greatest joys, she unlocks her true self and the loved ones who help define her.

10. Living Single

When considering the TV series of the '90s, Living Single cannot be overlooked. Starring acclaimed performers such as Queen Latifah, Kim Fields, Kim Coles, and Erika Alexander - among many others - we witness a beautiful circle of friends living their lives in New York City. They face career endeavors, explore matters of love and handle each other's personal relationships. 

What is particularly amazing about Living Single is that it offers an opportunity to observe African Americans in positions that were not ordinarily featured. Khadijah, brilliantly portrayed by Queen Latifah, is editor-in-chief at a cultural magazine. Max, wonderfully performed by Erika Alexander, is an attorney in a predominantly white, male-dominated field. Regine, depicted by Kim Fields, works as a wedding planner.

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