PERFORMING ARTS

Black TV: Five Decades of Groundbreaking Television from ‘Soul Train’ to ‘Black-ish’ and Beyond

Black Dog & Leventhal Dec. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9780762481514. $35. TV
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Washington Post features reporter Butler looks back on television shows hosted by or starring Black entertainers in this amply detailed book. In 1968, the television sitcom Julia premiered. The main character, played by Diahann Carroll, was a middle-class nurse, which wasn’t a stereotypical role typically seen on TV. As with most shows, however, Julia’s directors and writers were white. As more programming with Black leads was produced, the fight to get representation behind the scenes grew. Meanwhile, programming such as Soul Train, created and hosted by Don Cornelius, gave audiences a mirror and a window to Black culture. Butler extensively covers sitcoms such as Family Matters and Girlfriends and dedicates chapters to variety TV series and the groundbreaking miniseries Roots. Treatments of some of the programs are inexhaustive, such as the Moesha spin-off The Parkers, only mentioned in passing. It isn’t until the contemporary chapter about dramas such as Scandal that Butler writes with joy as a viewer tuning in to see what happens next.
VERDICT Readers who fondly remember watching programs such as In Living Color and Everybody Hates Chris will especially enjoy this. Same goes for TV enthusiasts looking for something to rewatch.
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