Published on February 22nd 2010 by Leon Shepherd

 The following is my list of the Top 10 Black Sitcoms of all time. But before we get to the list, let’s define black sitcom.  A black sitcom is a situation comedy that features a primarily black cast. Though many of the black sitcoms were targeted for black audiences, there were several that appealed to a multiracial audience. My Top 10 Black Sitcoms are based upon three components; ratings, longevity, and the ability to be outright funny. I’m sure many of you, after reading the list will have differences of opinion, so leave your comments, and let the Top 10 debate begin.

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10. Family Matters

 

 

Family Matters is an American sitcom about a middle-class African American family living in Chicago. The series was spun off from Perfect Strangers and revolves around the Winslow family. Midway through the first season, the show introduced the Winslow’s’ nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White), who quickly became its breakout character and eventually a main character. Family Matters aired from September 22, 1989, to September 19, 1997, on ABC and moved to CBS from September 19, 1997, to July 17, 1998. Having aired 215 episodes, Family Matters is the second-longest-running U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast, surpassed only by The Jeffersons.

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9, The Bernie Mac Show

 

The Bernie Mac Show is an American sitcom featuring comic actor Bernie Mac and his wife Wanda raising his sister’s three kids: Jordan, Bryana and Vanessa. The show debuted in its time slot on November 14, 2001 with great ratings in its first season, but a weak lead-in Grounded for Life may have hurt the show’s ratings. Nonetheless, the critically acclaimed show had a very successful rookie season and in the process won a handful of honors including an Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series’ and the prestigious Peabody Award. Bernie Mac also received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor in a Comedy Series respectively. The Bernie Mac Show ran from November 14, 2001 – April 14, 2006.

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8. Girlfriends

 

 

Girlfriends is an American sitcom that premiered on September 11, 2000 on UPN and aired on UPN’s successor network, The CW, before being cancelled in 2008. The final episode aired on February 11, 2008. The theme song to Girlfriends is sung by R&B musician Angie Stone. The show was created by Mara Brock Akil and produced by Kelsey Grammer. When Girlfriends returned in fall 2007 for its eighth season in the same time slot, it became the longest-running live-action sitcom on network television at the time, as well as one of the highest-rated scripted shows on television among African American adults and women 18-34, including its spin-off The Game. The show’s original premise centered around the lives of four African American women in Los Angeles, California.

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7. Martin

Martin is an American sitcom produced by HBO Independent Productions that aired for five seasons, from August 27, 1992 to May 1, 1997 on FOX.  The series stars Martin Lawrence in the role of Martin Payne, and centers around his comic misadventures with his closest friends. Reflecting the rising popularity of the FOX network throughout the 1990s, Martin was one of the network’s highest-rated shows during the sitcom’s five-season run. In contrast to the popularity of NBC s “Must See TV” on Thursday nights in the 1990s, many African American viewers flocked to FOX’s Thursday night line-up of Martin, Living Single, and New York Undercover. In fact, these were the three highest-rated series among Black households for the 1996-1997 season. 

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6. The Steve Harvey Show

The Steve Harvey Show (also known as Steve Harvey in syndication) is an American sitcom that aired for six seasons from August 25, 1996 to February 24, 2002 on The WB Television Network. The synopsis: Steve Hightower (Steve Harvey) is a has-been 1970s Funk legend who is now a music teacher/Vice-principal at Booker T. Washington High in Chicago. Budget cutbacks meant Steve also had to teach drama and art, much to his surprise. Cedric Robinson (Cedric the Entertainer) is a coach at the high school, and Steve’s long-time best friend. The principal of Booker T. Washington High is Steve’s former classmate, Regina Grier (Wendy Raquel Robinson), who Steve affectionately calls “Piggy”, due to the fact that she was overweight as an adolescent.

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5. Living Single

 

Living Single is an American television sitcom which aired for five seasons on FOX from August 1993 until January 1998. The show centered on the lives of six African American friends who share personal and professional experiences while living in a Brooklyn brownstone. Throughout its run, Living Single became one of the most popular African-American sitcoms of its era, ranking among the top five in African-American ratings in all five seasons. The series was produced by Yvette Lee Bowser in association with Warner Bros. Television.

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4. The Jeffersons

 

The Jeffersons is an American sitcom that was broadcast on CBS from January 18, 1975, through June 25, 1985, lasting 11 seasons and a total of 253 episodes. The Jeffersons is the longest-running comedy (or series of any genre) with a predominantly African American cast in the history of American television. The show focused on George and Louise Jefferson, an upper middle-class African American couple. The show was launched as the second spin-off of All in the Family, on which the Jeffersons had been the neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker. The show was the creation of prolific television producer Norman Lear.

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3. Good Times

Good Times is an American sitcom that originally aired from February 8, 1974, until August 1, 1979, on the CBS television network. It was created by Eric Monte and Michael Evans and produced by Norman Lear. Good Times was a spin-off of Maude, which was itself a spin-off of All in the Family. While the series was set in Chicago, all episodes of Good Times were produced in the Los Angeles area. Episodes of Good Times dealt with the characters’ attempts to “get by” in a high rise project building in Chicago, despite all the odds stacked against them.  Being a sitcom, the episodes were usually more uplifting and positive than they were depressing, as the Evans family stuck together and persevered.

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2. Sanford and Son

 

Sanford and Son is an American sitcom that premiered on the NBC television network on January 14, 1972, and was broadcast for six seasons. Sanford and Son starred Redd Foxx as Fred G. Sanford, a 65-year-old junk dealer and Demond Wilson as his 30-year-old son, Lamont Sanford. Sanford and Son was enormously popular during most of its run, and was one of the top ten highest-rated series on American television from its first season (1971-72) through the 1975-76 season. With its coveted 8pm Eastern Friday night time slot, Sanford and Son put enough of a dent into the middling audience of ABC’s The Brady Bunch to drive it off the air in 1974. Sanford and Son peaked at #2 in the Nielsen ratings during the 1973-74 season, and stayed there for three years in a row. The series was second only to All in the Family in terms of ratings. The show was still quite popular when it was canceled (due entirely to Foxx’s departure from the show) in 1977. In 2007, Time magazine included the show on their list of the “100 Best TV Shows of All Time”.

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 1.  The Cosby Show

  The Cosby Show is an American television situation comedy starring Bill Cosby first airing on September 20, 1984 and running for eight seasons on the NBC television network, until April 30, 1992. The show focused on the Huxtable family, an upper-middle class African-American family living in Brooklyn, New York. According to TV Guide, the show “was TV’s biggest hit in the 1980s, and almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC’s ratings fortunes”. Originally, the show had been pitched to ABC, which rejected it. Entertainment Weekly stated that The Cosby Show helped to make possible a larger variety of shows based on African Americans, from In Living Color to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The Cosby Show was also one of the first successful sitcoms based on the subject matter of a standup comedian’s act, blazing a trail for other programs such as Roseanne, Home Improvement, The Drew Carey Show, Seinfeld, and Everybody Loves Raymond. The Cosby Show is one of only three American programs that have been #1 in the Nielsen Ratings for five consecutive seasons, along with All in the Family and American Idol. The show spawned the successful spin-off A Different World. Having aired for 197 episodes, The Cosby Show is the third-longest running U.S. comedy with a predominantly African American cast, surpassed only by The Jeffersons and Family Matters.

Entertainment | Comments (49)


49 Responses to “Top 10 Sitcoms”

  1. Roy Says:

    Very good job and outstanding on the follow up of each show. You act like you know what you are doing.

  2. Diane/Roys wife Says:

    Very impressive site. This is great.

  3. Shack Says:

    Good list but I judge Black sitcoms by how funny they are. Unfortunately, as we have discussed before, The Cosby Show was one of the least funny shows although it was chock full of family values and very watchable.

    As far as being funny, I have a tight 1/2 race between Martin and Sanford and Son. Cosby would most likely fall where you have Family Matters.

    Bernie Mac would be third – great show with a new and excellent format then Steve Harvey.

    Need an Honorable Mentions category that would have included shows like Girlfriends (not a TT). It would included the Waynas Bros. Show, Whats Happening, Thats My Mama, Sister Sister, 227, Amen,Temperatures Rising and other commedies.

  4. Shack Says:

    All,
    Just rmembered A Different World which in my opinion, was a little funnier than TCS. Girlfriends should fall out and be replaced by ADW.

  5. Leon Says:

    Thanks Mr. Finney.

  6. Leon Says:

    Thanks Diane. I appreciate your positive feedback.

  7. Leon Says:

    Can’t really argue with the originality of Bernie Mac. What’s Happening was edged out by Family Matters because F. Matters had a much longer successful run. Wayans was more silly than funny. And I use to feel the same way about Girlfriends until I watched a few episodes. That’s when I discovered that in addition to great acting & writing, it’s a very funny show.

  8. Joi :-) Says:

    Hello All. :-) Great job Leon! :-)

    I agree with alot of what both you (Leon) and “Shack” had to say. I also think that some of the “Shows” that he mentioned in one of his postings could be in the TopTen’s as well. For me, I think Martin and S. & Son would be my number one and two. I actually think S. & Son would be my number one. Followed by Martin. #3 would be 227. #4 – Amen. #5 A Different World. #6 Steve Harvey Show. 7 – Cosby Show/Bernie Mac Show. 8 – The Jeffersons/What’s Happenin’ 9 – Girfriends. and 10 Living Single. My choices have nothing to do with ratings or longevity though. Just memories of laughter… :-)

  9. Leon Says:

    Hey Joi, I like your top ten. I think that you and Shack may have a point regarding Different World.
    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Trisha Says:

    The only thing The Cosby Show has over Sandford and Son is that it was the first sitcom to portray a successful upper middle class African-American family. As for laughs, Sandford and Son wins hands down. Do you not remember Aunt Ester and Grady, not to mention hand over heart and “Elizabeth I’m comin to going join you Honey”? That show even knocked the Brady Bunch off tv.

  11. Leon Says:

    Nice post Trisha.

  12. Shack Says:

    All,
    Bombshell…An Anglo had to come in my office and remind me about Fresh Prince of Belair – It Meets ALL criteria and is clearly in the TT. Girlfreinds is definitley out. This show may even be a Top Fiver.

    Trisha on your earlier comment, what about the Jeffersons??

  13. Leon Says:

    The omission of Fresh Prince was not an oversight, because the show was more corny than funny.
    The standout on the show was Carlton, because he was funny!

  14. Trisha Says:

    Shack…the difference between The Cosby’s and The Jefferson’s is that the Jeffersons were “movin on up”. Even their black maid let them know they didn’t really belong in a penthouse. The Cosby parents were educated and successful, their kids were educated. The shows portrait of a black family in that light was a first of it’s kind. As for The Fresh Prince, take away Carlton’s dance moves and what are you left with?

  15. Shack Says:

    Oh, a couple of FPOB Haters…okay thats cool, but the show had a range – element Leon likes to use(remember the episodes where Will was shot and the one where Been Vereen played his absentee dad) plus a GREAT cast with the exception of K. Parsons. Great guests Queen Latifa, Don Cheadle, Tyra Banks, R. Roundtree,Quincy himself (could go on).
    Beleive consensus would be with me that FPOB was funnier/better than GirlFriends!

    Could debate TCS vs. Jeffersons and easily blow that away but I won’t…ISN”T THIS Great stuff!!

  16. Leon Says:

    Yes, Will showed great range in the episode where he was shot. But, we’re talking comedy, not drama.
    Girlfriends is tied for 3rd longest running black sitcom of all time, eight years.
    Guest stars included: Isaac Hayes, Al Sharpton, Melvin Van Peeples. Kenya Moore, Michael Warren, Dawnn Lewis, Anne-Marie Johnson, Jill Scott, Kadeem Hardison, Loretta Devine, Joan Pringle & Demond Wilson to name a few. Girlfriends is very deserving of top-ten recognition. Trust me, I’ve done the research.

  17. Shack Says:

    Most of the Great comedies had serious episodes both Good Times (JJ Shot/jail) and the Jeffersons (Flo kidnapped)so don’t go there. The Vereen episode was very well done. Carlton was the corny one rest of the cast (forgot Jazzy Jeff)& the butler awesome. Don’t know what anyone would have against this show most consider it a classic.
    Think most guys will go with FPOB and most women will side with your show

  18. Shack Says:

    Okay, I’ll go a new direction and reluctantly give you Girlfriends as a TT show but attack Living Single.. It should be dropped in place of FPOB.

    Here are the facts (using your logic):
    FPOB = Nominated for 2 G. Globe Awards, 13 wins & 21 nominations.
    L. Single = Nominated for 2 Emmys, 4 wins & 16 nominations.
    FPOB ran six years (Primetime – NBC)
    L. Single ran five (Syndicated)
    Shack Rests

  19. Lenora Dorsey Says:

    I watched all of these shows and laughed alot. Thanks for the memories. LOL!

  20. Leon Says:

    Thanks for sharing Lenora!

  21. Grapevine Grady Says:

    My top-ten sitcom list: Comments
    1. Martin, consistently funny from start to end.

    2. Sanford And Son, excellent cast, got a little stale the couple of years.

    3. Good Times, best sitcom of all, until James died. Dam Dam Dam.

    4. Jeffersons, cast was okay, but Sherman Hemsley was brilliant.

    5. Stevey Harvery, if Terri Vaughn (Levita) had joined the cast earlier, this might be #1.

    6. Family Matters, Jaleel White made this show. What happened to the baby girl? Think her name was Judy. Did she disappear?

    7. Fresh Prince, great cast especially Carlton and Jeffery.

    8. Different World, this show got much better once Lisa Bonet, Marissa Tomei, Whitley’s flunkie (Millie) was booted off the show.

    9. Amen, sorry, big Sherman Hemsley fan.

    10. Cosby Show, I liked the potrayl of black people in upper-middle class, the shoe wasn’t that funny.

  22. Shack Says:

    GG – Nice List But You mean to tell me you have The Cosby Show in and No Bernie Mac – Shack demands a recount!!

  23. Shack Says:

    GG – But Thanks for NOT including Girlfriends or Living Single

  24. Shack Says:

    GG – Believe it or not my understanding is that Jaimee Foxworth from Family Matters grew up to appear in a couple of pornographic films check IMDb

  25. Grapevine Grady Says:

    Yes Bernie Mac was funny, but the best part of the show was Kellita Smith for obvious reasons.

  26. Shines Says:

    We forgot a few…..
    1. Living Single
    2.Sparks
    3 Different World
    4.Fresh Prince
    5.The Hughleys
    6.Girlfriends
    7.Good News
    8. All of Us
    9.Smart Guy
    10.227

  27. Leon Says:

    Shines, thanks for sharing your top ten.
    By the way, Living Single & Girlfriends are on the original top 10 list.

  28. Shack Says:

    Shines – Your list is Whack – No Sanford & S, No Good Times, No Jeffersons, No Martin, None of the Great Black Sit coms…what are you a Gen Y or something? How long was Good News on – two weeks?
    Although I invited her in I’ll move she be booted off with lists like this!
    “Smile”
    Shack

  29. Marcus Says:

    This is an outstanding list. The Cosby Show definitely deserves the #1 spot; it was groundbreaking in its portrayal of a upper middle class African-American family.

    Watching The Cosby Show as I grew up was one of the most positive experiences of my childhood.

    Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad were exceptional on the show.

  30. Leon Says:

    Thanks Marcus. I appreciate your feedback.

  31. Shonee Says:

    I know Im adding my comments late but I have to agree with Grapevine Grady, Good Times IS the best sitcom of them all. Did anyone realize that Ned The Wino (Good Times) is same actor who portrayed Uncle Woodrow (Sanford & Son)?

    I agree that Carlton was the funniest character on Fresh Prince of Bel Air..

    What’s Happenin! shouldve made the list..Haywood Nelson what a cutie and Danielle Spencer and that mouth, lol!

    As noted above, Martin/Living Single/New York Undercover was an excellent line-up on Thursdays. Friday nights was a favorite when Martin Lawrence hosted Def Comedy Jams/HBO..that show introduced alot of today’s comedians.

  32. Leon Says:

    First of all, welcome to the site Shalona! Secondly, it’s never too late to add or share your views/comments on any top 10 list.
    Now, let’s get to your comments. I’m aware that Ned The Wino is the same actor who portrayed Uncle Woodrow on Sanford & Son. But great observation, because I’m sure that many people are unaware of that fact.
    And we’re definitely in agreement that Carlton was the funniest on Fresh Prince.
    And yes, I must admit that “What’s Happenin!” should’ve made the list.
    I also agree with you regarding the Thursday night line-up with Martin/Living Single/New York Undercover.

  33. Shack Says:

    Ms. Shonee – Again as Leon stated, welcome to the site and please pass along to others. I have a question for you. I have always compared the characters Steve Urkel (F.M.) to Carlton Banks (F.P.O.B.) Which do you believe wss the funniest?

    And another comment- Sorry but in my opinion, WH falls just outside the TT!

  34. Shonee Says:

    Thanks for welcoming me Leon and Shack!

    Carlton Banks was funnier in my opinion..Steve Urkel was funny in a situation.

    And I will respect your comment on WH!

  35. Karen Says:

    I have watched all these shows and enjoyed them. I still watch the reruns
    of The Cosby Show, The Jeffersons Sanford and Son and Family Matters
    They are classic’s

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    I hope you visit again.

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  43. TMACK Says:

    Where the hell is will smith???

  44. Shack II Says:

    TMACK – Thanks for asking and Good Question! – some who follow this blog don’t believe the Fresh Prince is a Top Ten sitcom. Some even believe that Carlton and yes even Jeffrey were funnier than W.S. THEY FORGET IT WOULD be NO SHOW WITHout W.S. The two I reference may have had their moments but there was ONLY ONE STAR of that show and he is now the No.2 Black Actor in Holloywood!

  45. B/ Says:

    What abt Diff’rent Strokes.

  46. Leon Says:

    Brandon, even though the show had 2 African American stars, it still wasn’t considered a Black Sitcom.

  47. Walt Says:

    Everyone will have their different opinions for different reasons but I do appreciate the fact that there are great Black sitcoms that we can still watch and discuss. The Cosby show is the best to me, hands down, because of the combination of being funny, values, originality, popularity, longevity and the fact that it produced a great spin-off, A Different World. The Cosby Show is actually the most popular of all if you look at how many times it was #1 in TV ratings. A Different World would be my second favorite, but all of the shows are good in their own unique way.

  48. Leon Says:

    Thanks for sharing Walt.

  49. Shack II Says:

    Walt – I’m not a betting man (well to a degree) but I dont think you’re over forty. You most likely missed out on some great Black comedy starting with Amos & Andy (in the 50′s) ridiculed and sequestered from us forever, then having to wait D-near another twenty years for a show like Sanford & Son, Good Times, The Jeffersons etc. The Cosby Show is definitely a top ten show. However, I have an issue with it being “FUNNY!” Most episodes have some comedic moments but the Great William H. Cosby Jr.(Ph.D),was trying to instill much more than fuuny lines. As you stated, this show was great more for the family values and historic appreciation for our culture and a hopeful uplifting future. While there were some great episodes of this show I, (as a near 30 year old at the time) laughed less during this show than I did during many others. At the same time, its Greatness and standing as an ICON of AA sitcoms cannot be denied. Food for thought YOUNG MAN!!