When you think of the classic teen sitcoms with Black-led casts that aired during the childhood of millennials and/or cater to youth and teens, only a few come to mind. The most popular is probably Kenan & Kel, which ran from 1996 to 2000. It was pretty much a catalyst for the genre, leading to a plethora of similarly-themed shows, including several on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, including The Famous Jett Jackson, Romeo!, Cousin Skeeter, The Nick Cannon Show, That’s So Raven, and True Jackson, VP -- up to television's most recent output, Cousins for Life.
However, one series, in particular, deserves all of the respect for basically putting everyone else on -- and that show is My Brother and Me. Millennials born in the mid-to-late ‘90s may not remember the show that clearly, and you can’t blame them, as it was taken from us way too soon. Not only was it taken from us too soon, the series literally made history as the very first series on Nickelodeon to be led by a predominantly Black cast.
What made My Brother and Me so important was the fact that there was no catch to it. Kenan & Kel was an eccentric buddy comedy with hijinks, Cousin Skeeter was...you know...a puppet, Raven was psychic and so on and so forth. My Brother and Me didn’t have a hitch or anything that made it seem anything different than ordinary -- which was a good thing. As we’ve seen through both television and film history, stories with white characters get to be just normal. We’ve lost track of how many shows with white casts that get to be simple comedies, with “simple” meaning that they get to have the most basic of premises and depict solely the situations in which their characters are going through. In just the past two years, we could probably count on two hands the number of comedies at ABC and other broadcast networks that are trying to capture the white, working-class experience. Black characters and experiences aren't afforded the same opportunity.
The Charlotte-set My Brother and Me was the quintessential comedy about a Black family that we all needed. The show starred Arthur Reggie as Alfie and Ralph Woolfolk IV as his younger brother, Dee-Dee. Jimmy Lee Newman Jr. played Milton (aka Goo), Alfie’s best friend. Aisling Sistrunk was Alfie and Dee-Dee’s older sister, Melanie and Karen Fraction and Jim Coleman played their parents. The show always had a flurry of recurring stars and guest stars, including Insecure star Amanda Seales, who played Melanie’s best friend. Other recurring stars included 90210 and Chicago Med star Mekia Cox, well as veteran actress Kym Whitley, appearing in one of her earliest recorded roles in film and television.
Though only 13 episodes of the series aired, it came an instant classic that has lasted the test of time. Series star Ralph Woolfolk, who attended Morehouse College in the late 2000s, reportedly told the Clark Atlanta University student newspaper years back that there was a second season planned, but a disagreement between producers and creators on the vision of the show led to its demise.
The show ran on and off until 2000. The last time it was seen on television was during a short stint on TeenNick’s The 90’s Are All That programming block, in which it aired for three days in 2013. The complete series was finally released on DVD in 2014, and it is available on Amazon. And if you don't mind low-quality viewing, several episodes are on YouTube!
Long live My Brother and Me!