25 TV Shows About Black Life and Joy – Plus, Where to Watch Them
While series like Friends, The Office, and Parks and Recreation – shows in which white characters simply exist for the sake of escapism and laughs – have existed since the advent of television, similar series depicting life in Black America are few and far between. Too often, Black TV characters come from broken families and violent backgrounds, while scripts read at those they’re attempting to explain Blackness to a non-Black demographic. Watching shows written about you but not for you is exhausting. Just like everyone else, Black people experience love and loss, makeups and breakups, high school crushes and friendship drama. Yet, our stories are stripped of any depth, left only to revolve around what non-Black people think Black life is like.
So, because we are celebrating Black Joy, Black authors, and Black creators this Black History Month, here are 25 sitcoms, dramas, and anime shows about Black people just . . . being – no explanation needed.
A Different World
A 1993 spinoff of The Cosby Show, A Different World follows young adults as they navigate the world on their own for the first time at historically Black college and university Hillman College. Ahead of its time compared to its counterparts, the sitcom tackled political, ethical, racial, emotional, and social issues from the perspective of educated Black youth.
Being Mary Jane
BET’s first hourlong scripted drama, Being Mary Jane features Gabriel Union as a successful news anchor discovering who she is and what is important to her.
A superhero drama from The CW network, Black Lightning follows Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) as he makes the tough decision to return to his past life of vigilantism in order to protect his family.
Devout 24-year-old Tracey Gordon is on a mission to better discover herself and the world . . . starting with losing her virginity. (If you only know Michaela Coel from her brilliant series I May Destroy You, please go back and watch this.)
Class of 3000
Created by rapper André 3000 of OutKast, this short-lived animated series chronicles the adventures of a group of music students and their whimsical teacher, Sunny Bridges.
Everybody Hates Chris
An American sitcom based on the experiences of a teenaged Chris Rock, Everybody Hates Chris follows the comedian and his unconventional family as they survive 1980s Brooklyn. With his popular brother Drew (Tequan Richmond), spoiled sister Tonya (Imani Hakim), frugal father Julius (Terry Crews), feisty mom Rochelle (Tichina Arnold), and best friend Greg (Vincent Martella) by his side, Chris navigates public school, girl troubles, and the plight of being a young, Black man from the projects.
Over the course of its nine-season run, Family Matters brought the reality of the Black, middle-class family to masses. The series introduced us to the Winslow family, following them through hilarious misadventures largely caused by their nerdy (and iconic) neighbor Steve Urkel.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Four friends tackle the ups-and-downs of life together. Featuring an ensemble cast of talented Black women (Tracee Ellis Ross, Persia White, Jill Marie Jones, and Golden Brooks), Girlfriends celebrates the dynamic female friendships that keep Black women afloat when the rest of the world lets them down.
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts
A mutant attack forces the sheltered Kipo Oak to brave a post-apocalyptic world in search of her father.
Starring My Wife and Kids‘ Tisha Campbell, Everybody Hates Chris‘ Tichina Arnold, and half of Bad Boys duo Matin Lawrence, Martin is a quintessential ’90s sitcom following a wise-cracking radio host, his loved ones, and the shenanigans they find themselves a part of.
A teenager dealing with school, boy trouble, and everything else life throws her way, Moesha (Brandy Norwood) must adjust to the an addition to the household: her teacher-turned-step-mom, Dee (Sheryl Lee Ralph).
One on One
Running only two seasons, One on One follows newly single father (Flex Alexander) and teenage daughter Breanna (Kyla Pratt) as they settle into their new family dynamic.
The Proud Family
An Disney Channel original sitcom, The Proud Family is an animated series about 14-year-old Penny Proud (Kyla Pratt) and her quirky family. Though the series wrapped up over 15 years ago, now is the perfect time to catch up, because the sequel, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, is set to make its debut on Disney+ later this year.
One of few science-fiction stories with a primarily Black cast, Raising Dion is the story of a single mother’s quest to keep her superhuman son’s powers under wraps. Much like Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Raising Dion allows kids of color the opportunity to see themselves as superheroes, too.
She's Gotta Have It
Based on director Spike Lee’s 1986 film of the same name, She’s Gotta Have It follows artist Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) as she balances her work with her friends with her lovers. The only challenge? She’s got three of them.
Identical twins separated at birth, Tia and Tamera (Tia and Tamera Mowry) run into each other at a popular clothing store in the mall. Under persistent pressure from the girls, their reluctant adoptive parents agree to move together in so that they can continue to grow as a family. Problems arise when everyone realizes that identical looks do not mean identical personalities.
That's So Raven
Being a teenage girl is hard. Being a teenage girl with supernatural powers is even harder. That’s So Raven follows the psychic Raven Baxter, her friends, and her family as her visions get them into comedic antics that no one is prepared for. The first Disney Channel series to produce a spinoff, That’s So Raven paved the way for Cory in the House and, eventually, Raven’s Home. Tackling issues from body image to racism, the sitcom was a groundbreaking series for the time.
A spinoff of Moesha, The Parkers features mother Nikki (Mo’Nique), daughter Kim (Countess Vaughn), and the comedic misfortunes that ensue when the two enroll in the same community college.
The Wayans Bros.
Starring real life brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans, The Wayans Bros. is a classic sitcom following two complete opposite siblings as they experience life in New York City and get involved in wacky schemes daily.