Alyssa has some fears about VH1's upcoming black sitcom, Single Ladies:
But I'm worried that the character on this show are going to be reduced rather than built up. Maybe I'm wrong to think of this as a pattern … But it makes me a little anxious. I don't want this show to be a joke.
There are two critical facts that we need to acknowledge to have this conversation: 1) Girlfriends is our "black Sex and the City* " and 2) SATC was actually just a better promoted, produced-on-cable-so-could-get-away-with-more version of a show that had been made very well a bunch of times before (from Golden Girls to Designing Women to Living Single).
Knowing those two things makes it easier to not put so much weight on this new show. Girlfriends is particularly instructive here because it's precisely the show that Alyssa is hoping Single Ladies will be. Mara Brock Akil, the show's creator and producer, did exactly what SATC did. She made a show about four fully realized, complex, flawed black women who during the run of the show grew to be so much more than what we were introduced to in the pilot.
But Single Ladies can get away with its promotional campaign because Girlfriends averaged about 3.4 million viewers per season and has already become a television footnote despite being, as I've said a few times, one of the finest black sitcoms ever produced. Why not create a promo campaign that erases its existence?
Ultimately, if Single Ladies ends up being more caricature than character, it will not be a pattern. It will just be a tangent from a long line of shows about black and white women alike that endeavor to create complex women on TV.
All of which means that you all just need to netflix Girlfriends. All 8 seasons are on DVD now**.
*Talk to a black person and they'll likely tell you that Sex and the City is just a "white Living Single" though.
**Seasons 1-6 are essential; Seasons 7 and 8, less so (they do not feature Jill Marie Jones, the show's greatest asset, who left after the switch to the CW).