Monday, June 2, 2008

Hey Look! A Black Girl on TV - 90s

I don't know if it's because it's Monday or if I was busy doing something other than watching TV in the 90s, but coming up with a list of memorable black women on TV from that era has been really tough. I guess this was the decade when we started going out of style.

Whereas, the 80s had a number of sitcoms centered around black actresses like A Different World, it seems the slow decline of the black themed sitcom started taking a toll in the 90s.

Here is what I came up with:

"Maxine Shaw" - Living Single

Might as well start at the top. Many people, myself included, believe that Living Single, was the inspiration for a certain other sitcom with two groups of professional singletons living together in the same building. I just bought the first season on DVD and I can tell you that it is just as much fun to watch the second time around. The disks are worth the price for the theme song alone. I have based my life on the teachings of sarcastic queen Maxine Shaw. Not only was she sexy and smart but she ate constantly and, unlike the other girls, had her own apartment.

"Judy Hoffs" - 21 Jumpstreet

The inspiration for these lists. She one was a rarity. Not only was Holly the sole woman in the cast but she was hot too. I will always envy her for getting to work so closely with Johnny Depp while he was still bathing regularly.

"Rhonda Blair" - Melrose Place

Poor Rhonda. All she ever got to do on that show was say hello/goodbye and go to her aerobics class. Then, all of a sudden, she got married and was written off the show. Aaron Spelling has not been good to black people.

The Black Chicks of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Okay, so lets get this all out of the way...Kendra the Vampire Slayer was a wuss and left a LOT to be desired with that Ja-fakin' accent, Phina Oruche was wasted as Giles' girlfriend Olivia, the First Slayer had a ratty weave and was often referred to as "The Primitive," Ashanti was woefully miscast as "Lissa," Rhona the slayer trainee was annoying, and finally flashbacks of Nikki the Vampire Slaying single mom made us long for another show just centered around her. Whew! That said, I still loved this show more than cake and ice cream so I had to work it into the list somehow.

T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh and Kim Wayans - In Living Color

It's hard out there for the black female comic who has to deal with the racism and sexism while trying to be funny yet these two women did it with did it with élan. T'Keyah was the cute and funny girl next door while Kim Wayan proved with the Grace Jones sketch that she would do (or wear) almost anything for a laugh. Wayans was suspended from the show at one point for refusing to appear in a skit she found degrading. In the end, The Fly Girls probably got more attention but these two ladies definitely paved the way for another variety show funny lady...

Debra Wilson - "MADtv"

A lot of the sketches on MADtv are just plain unwatchable but Debra Wilson has always been the show's standout performer. Her impersonations are hilarious. I don't know why Saturday Night Live hasn't tried to steal her away. Fred Armistand's Obama is weak and Kennan Thomson is too heavy to pull off Michelle. What's Lorne going to do come election time?

"Lisa Turtle" - Saved by the Bell

Okay, technically this show started in 1989 but I forgot to add Lark Voorhies character to the last segment. Truthfully, I was only a casual viewer of SBtB but I watched enough to know that the only thing Lisa Turtle seemed to do on that show was shop and avoid the advances of Screech. Further proof that TV execs don't know what to do with pretty black women on the tube.

Honorable Mention

Vivica Fox from that episode of Beverly Hills 90210 where Brandon dates the town black girl.

Whatever became of poor forgotten Sherice Ashe? Was her family run out of the Hills? Did she moved in with her auntie and uncle in Bel-Air? Whatever the story Sherice, you made an impression on me and girl, you were too fly for Brandon Walsh anyway.


lapetitediva said...

Garcelle Beauvais was on Aaron Spelling's "Models, Inc." for one season. I know it won't come as a suprise when I mention she was the only Black character on the show.

Speaking of which, Tyffany Hayes filled the same slot on Sweet Valley High. I recall seeing her character(Cheryl Thomas) on a couple of later episodes.

Brigitte said...

lpd said: "Garcelle Beauvais was on Aaron Spelling's "Models, Inc."

I remember that. I think I watched one episode before it was cancelled.

lapetitediva said...

I thought of another one, although I think the series aired in 1988 or 1989: Halle Berry on Living Dolls, a Who's The Boss? spin-off about four or five models in NYC. Needless to say, Halle didn't have much of a role.

lapetitediva said...

Oh, and the actresses on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but I can't remember if it debuted in late 80s or early 90s. Anyway, Tatyana Ali, the chick who played Hillary Banks, and Tyra Banks was added to the cast later on, when Will went to college.

I keep randomly thinking of these people, more so than when the shows were on the air :)

Brigitte said...

I should have included Hillary for sure and Khandi Alexander from NewsRadio. I just shouldn't blog on Mondays, my mind is too fuzzy!

CHIC NOIR said...

Phina Oruche was atop black model back in her day. I remember seeing her walk in Channel in the 90's, back when Karl was using black models. At one point he had a black assistant/righthand man but I am not sure what happened to him.

n.roberts said...

Oh! Brandon also 'dated' Maia Campbell in one episode of 90210. I think his car broke down in another town and he spent the day with her. Anyhoo, she was also in "In The House." I think that was the nineties...

n.roberts said...

Love your blog btw!

Brigitte said...

I don't know how I missed Maia on 90210. Thanks n.roberts.

QueenK.D.W.-BK86 said...

Living Single was the business! As for Lisa on Saved By the Bell she confused me, but maybe it was character reversal to make her vapid and make Jesse the perpetually angry one. Watching it later its also funny how black male characters pop up out of no where to be her date at school dances and stuff. When they started doing those weird Saved By the Bell, "The New Class" they switched it up and the black girl was he smart one who graduated and went to Stanford.

There were so many teeny bop black shows of the 90s. And that's what I was optimistic pre teen. Between what was left of A Different World characters (Whitley,Lena,Jaleesa,Charmaine, Kim, Freddie and even Gina) and the emergence of Laura Winslow and Aunt Rachel on Family Matters and the first Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince, I definitely had my share of ladies that I actually admired (so Aunt Rachel not so much, but I liked when she sang). I really thought Laura was great. She and Max reminded me of what I assumed my older sisters were doing.

There was also Sean's black girlfriend on Boy Meets World, which only makes sense for anyone who was young enough to be at home watching TGIF on a Friday night instead of out. But she was cool and still culturally( if you can define that)black. Ill never forget watching her make the random black joke about soap opera names and everyone looking at her strange and her then declaring she needed to get some black friends. But to think about it, Tony on Blossom also had a black gf. Why did all the dysfunctional characters end up with black girls? (Maybe that's why I was always confused as to why Pacey on Dawson's Creek never ended up with one.)

Stacey Dash on Clueless the tv show was like a modern cooler Lisa. And there were black characters so they didnt have to bring random ppl in to make it even.

Then there were the Moesha and Sister,Sister years. I have to admit that got me hooked to the bad crack that was UPN and the WB. Lovita Alize Jenkins, Principal Grier, and the repeated incarnations of 80s stars defined the decade. There was Holly Robinson Peete and Dawnn Lewis on Cooper. Debbie Allen on In the House. Gina and Pam on Martin. And Dee on the Wayans Brothers, but let's ignore that. Garcelle Beavauis on the Jamie Foxx show.

There was also Out All Night. Which Patti LaBelle used as her own diva vehicle.
Hmm so I guess this is just the younger, bad television pov of the nineties.