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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is There an Audience for a Black Sitcom Today?

On the TV landscape there are dramas, reality shows animated programs and sitcoms. But over the past decade ninety nine percent of those programs have featured predominantly White casts. I have to wonder: Is there a market for a Black sitcom today?

The United States is becoming Blacker, Browner Redder and Yellower. America has its first African-American President. African-Americans have grown into a very large demographic of reliable consumers with lots of disposable income. Television networks could reap billions selling airtime for commercials if they targeted Black audiences with an African-American sitcom today. Viewers in the African-American community are starving for fresh content, and haven’t had programming targeted to them in close to fifteen years.

What constitutes a “Black” Sitcom? According to most television executives a television program featuring two to three African American performers in lead roles. A series that details stories about the African-American experience and African-American culture. Programs like The Cosby Show, A Different World, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin, Sister, Sister, and Smart Guy.

While there is a market for a new African-American sitcom, most television executives are hesitant to greenlight it. Many state that “Black” programs are risky and are alleged have the highest potential to fail. Even some in the black community are apprehensive regarding African-American programming citing the quality issues regarding recent programs such as House of Payne and Meet the Browns which were full of racist stereotypes.

However, looking at the ratings for African-American programs over the years Black sitcoms consistently do well in competitive timeslots and maintain larger audiences of viewers than comparable teen dramas, police procedurals, and even some sitcoms with predominantly White casts on broadcast networks. Moreover, African-American sitcoms retain higher syndication values than teen dramas and police procedurals which often lose their audience in the rebroadcast market in less than a year.

Is there a market for a new African-American sitcom? I believe there is. From what I’ve read on the message boards like IMDB and, and AOL BlackVoices, African-Americans viewers are chomping at the bit and would be eager to watch a sitcom with a predominantly black cast. Millions of brothers and sisters are waiting for that reason to turn on their television. During these tough economic times, people want to laugh at something that will allow them to escape their problems for a half-hour.

When I was writing All About Nikki’s first season I thought about all the great black sitcoms I used to watch. I feel bad that the African-American kids of this generation don’t have the opportunity to see people who look like themselves on television or a program that effectively exploring the African-American experience.

I feel if someone were to create an African-American sitcom that depicted African Americans as positive, intelligent and funny with a strong cast, top quality production values, and solid writing they could have the next big television hit.

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