In honor of Women’s History Month let’s take a look at what’s happening with Black women in the area of drama, action and comedy on the Network and Cable stations.
While many Black actresses are ensconced in ensemble primetime shows such as ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Ugly Betty,” “Private Practice;” NBC’s “Law & Order,” “Heroes,” and “ER” where Angela Bassett is making a big splash on the show’s final season, CBS’ “The Unit,” “Without a Trace,” and the comedy antics of Wanda Sykes on “The New Adventures of Old Christine” Black actresses still find themselves lacking in having a show developed around their particular character. The CW continues to air “Everybody Hates Chris,” and “The Game,” and each has strong Black female leads, but whether they are both renewed for another season is in question.
When we look to Cable we see stronger Black female characters in more critical roles. Although Disney’s “That’s So Raven” is a matter of reruns, one can’t deny Raven Simone’s high energy presence. It’s interesting to note her career hasn’t exactly taken off like it should, especially since she’s been a part of the Disney machine for some time.
Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne” continues to break syndication ratings records. Cassi Davis as Ella Payne tries to be the voice of reason in her family and Tamela Mann as Cora Simmons in Perry’s “Meet the Browns” has her hands full with her daddy Mr. Brown, who off the TV screen are really husband and wife. In both shows Perry features a number of Black actresses.
ABC Family is home to “Lincoln Heights” and the Sutton family. Nicki Micheaux stars as Mom, Jenn Sutton along with her two daughters played by Erica Hubbard and Rhyon Brown bring love, laughter and serious lessons to television’s only Black family drama.
If you haven’t seen this show, do yourself a favor and check it out. Going into its 4th season, the drama heightens as the teens get older, and mom and dad are faced with new challenges.
Showtime’s long running series “The L Word” is set to come to an end March 23. This groundbreaking series features an all star cast which includes the legendary Pam Grier and Jennifer Beals.
HBO is doing their part to keep the image of Black women alive and well. The ensemble cast of “Tru Blood” offers an interesting insight into Black womanhood with Rutina Wesley as Tara Thornton, a hard-talking, soft hearted young woman who rapidly gets in with a bad crowd and doesn’t even know it. “Tru Blood” is a vampire tale like you’ve never seen before. Can you imagine vampires fighting for their rights to the pursuit of happiness? With vampires living along side humans, you can imagine things get a little troubling, and Tara not only has to deal with vamps, but an alcoholic mother that’s as crazy as a bedbug, plus unrequited love. What’s a Black girl to do in a small Southern town where no one is what they appear to be?
You may remember Rutina Wesley from the film “How She Move” in which she played the starring role. Don’t be quick to push this actress off as a hip hop dancer “going Hollywood.”
Rutina is a classically trained actress with stints on Broadway, splitting her time between L.A. and New York. Season 2 starts May 9.
At the end the of month HBO will introduce a news series starring Grammy Award wining singer Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose (“Dreamgirls”) in “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.” A Botswanan woman (Scott) starts up the country’s first female-owned detective agency based on the series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith.
Maybe that’s the key. If we create our own Black female characters, and stop depending upon the minds of those who can never walk in the shoes of a Black woman, maybe, just maybe more Black female characters will find their way to the small screen, giving more black actresses an opportunity to work and the audacity to dream big.
– Gail Choice can be contacted at email@example.com.