Phat Tuesdays executive producer Kelsey Grammer is bringing the stories of Black comedians to the forefront in his new Amazon Prime docuseries. But before Phat Tuesdays was part of Grammer's producing resume, there was Girlfriends, the classic sitcom by Mara Brock Akil about Black women navigating adulthood and love starring Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White, Jill Marie Jones and Reginald C. Hayes.
For Shadow and Act, Dantee Ramos spoke with Grammer about Phat Tuesdays for Shadow and Act, and during the interview, Grammer talked about how Girlfriends came to be at a time when getting shows starring all-Black casts was harder than it is today.
"In the early '90s, I started my own production company and NBC, ABC, CBS, we'd all get together and start talking about how we've gotta bring a little more diversity to our shows and 'Let's get some Asian, let's get some Black, let's get this, let's get that,'" he said. "And I always thought, 'What the hell, they're talking about every year but we never do it.' So I said, fine, let's [do it] and we started [searching] for writing talent and, of course, met Mara [Brock Akil]. We were very impressed with her and [thought] 'This is a good show. This is a show that should be done.'"
Grammer said he shopped 'Girlfriends' around but to no avail, despite the conversations he'd had with networks supposedly wanting diverse content.
“I went to NBC, at the time I had a pretty good relationship with NBC at the time for obvious reasons [referencing Fraiser]…They were sort of not really interested still,” he said. “Finally we found a home for UPN.”
The show lasted for eight seasons until the writer’s strike sent the show off the air. Grammer said that he wanted the show to have its proper due before leaving the airwaves.
“It didn’t get it’s proper sendoff. It should have been given some honor because it was kind of a breakthrough show and something I was proud of,” he said, adding that the cast did excellent work.
“Mara did a hell of a job,” he said.
Phat Tuesdays is a docuseries chronicling the importance of the early ’90s showcase of the same name created by Guy Torry that launched the careers of some of the biggest names in Black comedy. The series will drop Feb. 4 on Amazon Prime.