’90s Black TV shows that are iconic

Here are some 90s Black TV shows that were simply unforgettable

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It really wasn’t until the mid-80s and the ’90s that Black shows made it to TV, giving Black actors a chance to become leads in TV shows. The 90s Black TV shows proved to be an excellent opportunity to break stereotypes. Audiences could look into the lives and experiences of Black people, given that these shows were centered on Black characters.

’90s Black TV shows were funny and became a significant influence for shows that would come later, and even shows on TV today. The programs turned Black actors and comedians into celebrities who remain household names to this day.

Here are some ’90s Black TV shows that were simply iconic:

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)

'Will' Smith, James Avery as Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air thegrio.com
Will Smith as William ‘Will’ Smith, James Avery as Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Photo by: Joseph Del Valle/NBCU Photo Bank

This TV show is a timeless masterpiece that would see Will Smith rise to stardom and become one of Hollywood’s A-list movie stars. In the TV show, a teenage Will moves to Bel-Air from Philadelphia to live with his wealthy uncle and family. After he gets into a fight in his home neighborhood, his mother is worried about his safety and sends him to live with his uncle.

The culture clash that follows brings out Will’s comedy and charm, making this one of the hilarious TV shows in the ’90s. The switching of the actresses who played Aunt Viv on the show was one of the things many fans remember, since viewers were not very happy about it. One of the most memorable moments in this TV show is when Will’s father abandons him again, and Will breaks down in one of the most emotional ’90s Black TV show moments.

Martin (1992- 1997)

Premiere Of BET's "Boomerang" Season 2 TheGrio.com
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 10: Martin Lawrence attends the premiere of BET’s “Boomerang” Season 2 at Paramount Studios on March 10, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images)

This classic comedy was set in Detroit and featured Martin Payne, played by actor and comedian Martin Lawrence. Martin’s relationship with his girlfriend, Gina Waters, was at the center of the show. The two broke up and got back together several times in the TV series, in which Lawrence played an impressive total of nine roles. Other than the focus on Martin’s romantic relationship, the sitcom also revolves around his escapades with his friends, Cole and Tommy, and Gina’s best friend, Pam.

Living Single (1993-1998)

Living Single cast thegrio.com
Living Single (Credit: Fox)

Living Single was all about the escapades of some single friends living in Brooklyn, New York. The sitcom, which featured Kim Fields, Erika Alexander, Kim Coles, and Queen Latifah, was also the first to depict young Black women as young professionals with healthy relationships, having well-rounded personalities.

This TV show paved the way for female-centered TV shows and series like Insecure and Girlfriends. One of the reasons this show was so popular was because the principal characters were woman, and female fans adored it.

The Cosby Show (1984-1992)

Cast of The Cosby Show, theGrio.com
Cast of The Cosby Show. (Photo: NBC)

The Cosby Show was one of the best Black TV shows of the early ’90s. This sitcom starred Bill Cosby, who was also a co-creator of the show. It was the number one rated TV show for five seasons and was a big TV hit during that time. The show was about the Huxtables, an upper-class Black family living in a Brooklyn brownstone.

The couple was successful, with Cliff as a doctor and his wife Claire, played by Phylicia Rashad as a lawyer. They had five children, one boy, and four girls. A fun fact about the Huxtable children is that they all were all based on the actual children that Bill Cosby had. The Cosby Show was keen on depicting how two Black parents sought to pass values to their children and do well, despite all odds. The show is not currently running on-air due to Cosby’s numerous allegations of sexual assault and rape.

A Different World (1987-1993)

A Different World thegrio.com
(Photo: Universal Studios)

This TV show was all about a group of students attending a historically Black university and their experiences as they went through college. The show was Cosby’s idea, and it was actually a spin-off from The Cosby Show, featuring a Cosby Show character, Denise.

The show is credited with having made an accomplishment by tackling real-life issues such as racism, rape, domestic violence, and class struggle, among others.

The Wayans Bros. (1995-1999)

The Wayans Brothers  TV Show thegrio.com
The Wayans Brothers (The WB)

This TV show revolved around the antics of two brothers, Marlon and Shawn Williams, as well as their smart but quirky father. Viewers always tuned in to see the two brothers making their way through life in Harlem. Shawn was the focus of the two brothers and hoped to take after his father.

On the other hand, Marlon was regarded by audiences as the funnier of the two, and most of the comedy came from him. Though this show was abruptly canceled after five seasons, it still retained a fan base that enjoyed watching it.

Moesha (1996-2001)

Moesha poster (UPN) thegrio.com
Moesha poster (UPN)

Moesha was a TV show that revolved around the life of a Black teenager and how she handled the stuff that life threw at her. Brandy Norwood starred as Moesha and lived in South Central with her middle-class Black family.

Her friend circle was made up of Niecy, Kim, and Hakeem also frequented the TV episodes and made up most of the storylines. One of the ‘aha’ moments in the TV show is when Brandy’s real-life brother, Ray J, joins the series as Dorian, Frank’s nephew.

Sister, Sister (1994-1999)

Sister, Sister TV Show poster (Paramount Network Television) thegrio.com
Sister, Sister TV Show poster (Paramount Network Television)

One of the reasons this ’90s Black TV show ultimately caught the viewer’s eye is because it starred the charming twins, Tia Mowry and Tamera Mowry. The two girls were very different from each other and were also nothing like their adoptive parents, Lisa and Ray.

The storyline of the show is that the twins are separated by birth and end up being adopted separately and meeting 14 years later. Despite this, they end up being one big family in a suburban Detroit home.

Family Matters (1989-1998)

Family Matters Jaleel Ross thegrio.com
(Credit: WARNER BROS. TELEVISION)

This was one of the longest-running ’90s Black TV shows about a Black family since it aired for almost a decade. This show was about the Winslow family, a middle-class Black family. The show was really funny, but also found a way to balance the laughs with some real issues.

The Winslow family on the show had parents Carl and Hariette and their three children Judy, Laura, and Eddie. The star that stole the show was Urkel (played by Jaleel White), the next-door neighbor who was introduced mid-way through the show’s first season.

The Steve Harvey Show (1996-2002)

Cedric The Entertainer (left) and Steve Harvey during the First Annual BET Awards June 19, 2001 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

In this TV show, Steve Harvey starred as a washed-up singer who ended up as a music instructor in a high school. The show revolves around his relationship with his students, as well as his life as he transitions from a frustrated ex-star to a high school instructor.

The guest star list for this TV show features some popular black artists and stars, including Snoop Dogg, Ja’Net DuBois, and Kim Fields.

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