Black sitcoms for years have been regarded as a cultural staple that have largely impacted our childhoods and upbringing. And with so many iconic shows we’ve all grown to love, there are also a lot more that have slipped through the cracks in our memory.
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Unfortunately, not every Black sitcom was made into a hit and for many of them, their time on the air was very short-lived.
Here are just a few of those shows that you’ve probably forgotten about:
The Royal Family (1991-1992)
The Royal Family had all the makings of what could’ve been a great TV series to rule on CBS, and all with comedic mastermind Eddie Murphy at the helm as creator and producer. The show’s star-studded cast featured seasoned veterans like Harlem Nights stars Redd Foxx and Della Reese as husband and wife, along with other blooming actors like Larenz Tate, Jackée Harry and the late Naya Rivera. The series chronicled the lives of Foxx and Reese’s newly-retired characters and their freshly-divorced daughter who moves back home with her three children. The network had high hopes for the show, but the tragic and untimely death of Foxx plus low ratings throughout its duration never allowed the show to recover, and in the end it was canceled.
Out All Night (1992-1993)
Out All Night, yet another sitcom-worthy show with a decorated all-star cast, was an NBC series about a former singer (Patti LaBelle) who opens up an L.A. nightclub and hires an NYU graduate (Morris Chestnut) and his irresponsible buddy (Duane Martin) to manage it. Others who starred on the show include Vivica A. Fox and Smart Guy star Tahj Mowry. While the show – brought to us by the same people who created The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – was poised to be another hit series from the network, NBC pulled the plug on it after just one season.
The Sinbad Show (1993-1994)
Comedian Sinbad was at the height of his career in the 90s, coming off a fruitful stint on NBC’s A Different World and his slate of HBO specials. He later ventured back into the sitcom world, and this time leading his own show. The Sinbad Show premiered on Fox back in 1993 with notable cast members like TK Carter, Ray J and others as it followed the comedian in his role as a newfound foster dad to two kids. Due to low ratings, the network didn’t pursue a second season with the show and canceled it the following year, leaving two episodes unaired.
Before Brandy made history with her show Moesha, there was Thea – a sitcom that for the first time on TV centered around a Black woman comedian, Thea Vidale. On the show, Vidale played a “tough, no-nonsense widow” tasked with raising four children while working various odd jobs. Outside of the comedian’s own humor, she also got assistance from her cast that included Jason Weaver, Brenden Jefferson, the late Yvette Wilson and Brandy herself. Some would say this show – which ended up getting canceled after a single 19-episode season – paved the way for the famed R&B singer to lead her own show, one that allowed us to see a Black teenage girl claim such a role for the first time in television.
Me and The Boys (1994-1995)
Back in the early 90s, up-and-coming comedian turned King of Comedy Steve Harvey was looking for his big break. Though it came years later in his own sitcom, he first sought out TV fame on an ABC series about a widowed father raising his three sons with his mother-in-law, Mary (Madge Sinclair). The show only ran for 19 episodes in one season, but Harvey found redemption in his classic 1996 half-hour comedy that starred actors like Cedric The Entertainer, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Terri J. Vaughn and the late Merlin Santana.
On Our Own (1994-1995)
Jussie and Jurnee Smollet were considered childhood stars before they broke barriers in their respective TV and film roles. In September of 1994, their show, On Our Own, premiered on ABC following the lives of a family of seven coping with the loss of their parents. The show featured all the siblings of the entire Smollet clan across 20 episodes before ultimately being canceled.
Between Brothers (1997-1999)
Years after his successful run on classic HBCU sitcom A Different World, Kadeem Hardison joined a Fox buddy comedy about four men living in Chicago together starring actors Tommy Davidson, Dondré T. Whitfield and Kelly Perine. Though Hardison and Davidson had already been a part of shows that reached primetime status, their Fox show didn’t quite meet that benchmark as the series only survived on air for 17 episodes after moving to UPN in its final year.
Damon Wayans was everybody’s favorite TV dad on My Wife & Kids, but before he played the family man he starred in his own namesake sitcom about his life as a Chicago detective covering up his undercover work. The comedian acted alongside his former In Living Color co-star David Allen Grier, who played his best friend, and actress Melissa De Sousa, who played his love interest. The show aired 13 episodes on Fox before low ratings caused it to tank. Fortunately, the famous Wayans brother earned his sitcom-worthy fame years later in an unforgettable family comedy.
The Big House (2004)
Before Kevin Hart became a global comedic and acting sensation, he was a budding star still trying to find his footing in Hollywood. Just before his cult classic film, Soul Plane, released in theaters in 2004, the Philadelphia comedian starred in his own sitcom that same year called The Big House with notable actors like Keith David, Faizon Love and Yvette Nicole Brown. Described as a reverse storyline of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the show follows Hart – a spoiled rich kid turned broke from California – who moves in with his working-class Philadelphia relatives after his wealthy father is jailed and drained of his fortune from embezzlement. It only lasted a mere six episodes but was considered memorable enough to release on DVD back in 2015.
Following Marques Houston’s success as a member of boy band Immature and Roger on ABC’s Sister, Sister, the R&B singer found his stride on TV once again in his own spinoff. Cuts, a product of UPN’s hit series One On One, found Houston (Kevin Barnes) managing his father’s old barbershop alongside the new owner’s spoiled daughter who’s never held a solid job. The show held real potential with much promise of being a successful series on the network, but only lasted two seasons before it was cancelled after the merger between UPN and The WB formed The CW.