Scratchin’ and Survivin’: Hustle Economics and the Black Sitcoms of Tandem Productions

Rutgers Univ. Nov. 2023. 192p. ISBN 9781978834835. pap. $29.95. TV
This thorough exploration of what Sebro (media studies, Univ. of Texas at Austin) terms “hustle economics” in three of Tandem Productions’ 1970s sitcoms is an erudite look into the ways in which Black artists and characters have had to resort to unorthodox means of negotiation to survive. Not only did the Black characters in Good Times, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons have to “hustle” to get by, but the artists behind the characters also had to find ways to negotiate more agency in the creative process to authentically reflect the lives of Black Americans. Sebro does a phenomenal job of breaking down how these artists fought for themselves and others to have agency in depicting a more realistic and nuanced vision of Black life. In addition, the author analyzes how Black women were often invisible in these discussions. He meticulously explores each of these TV series’ lasting impacts and how the power imbalance at Tandem Productions hindered them.
VERDICT An excellent resource for media or African American studies scholars who want to delve deeper into how these landmark sitcoms broke barriers for other Black artists.
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