The 15 Best Black Sitcoms of All Time

Black sitcoms never fail to disappoint when you want to throw your head back and roar with laughter.

I remember in the 90s you could literally spend the day watching them.

The number of black sitcoms has declined greatly since those glory days.

But the most memorable shows have left an impressive legacy, and of course we can still watch and reminisce.

For this reason, we recall the 15 best black sitcoms of all time (and all their fantastic theme songs!)

#1. Sister, Sister (1994-1999)

Twin sisters separated at birth wind up meeting 14 years later at a shopping mall.

What are the chances? The two couldn’t have been more different, but became best friends.

In addition to being polar opposites, the twins were nothing like their adoptive parents, Ray and Lisa.

Though at times it seems like the wrong twin ended up with the wrong parent, they eventually became one big happy family. 

The show became a smash hit and made stars out of Tia and Tamera Mowry. There is even talk of a reboot. 

#2. Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1985)

Diff’rent Strokes told the story of two brothers from Harlem who were adopted by a wealthy businessman.

The show made Gary Coleman who played Arnold and his older brother Willis, played by Todd Bridges huge stars. 

Arnold’s catch-phrase “Whatchu talkin’ bout, Willis?” is still referenced in pop culture to this day.

Diff’rent Strokes was recognized for episodes that focused on serious issues like drugs, molestation, race, violence, and eating disorders.

Sadly, each of the show’s three child stars (Coleman, Bridges, and Dana Plato) struggled with drug addiction and legal troubles after the show ended.

Plato died of a drug overdose in 1999, and Coleman died at 42 after falling and hitting his head in 2010. Only Bridges survived his struggles after admitting he was molested during this time.

Despite the heartbreaking ending for the show’s young stars, Diff’rent Strokes will live on as one of the 20th century’s most important programs.

#3. That’s So Raven (2003 – 2007)

The show was set in San Francisco and revolved around teenager Raven Baxter, played by Raven-Symoné who was psychic.

The show was so popular that it received a spin-off focusing on Raven’s little brother Cory.

The show was called Cory In The House and lasted for two seasons and had 34 episodes.

In October 2016, Raven-Symoné announced that there would be a spin-off about Raven raising her two children, one with psychic visions. The show, titled Raven’s Home, premiered on July 21, 2017.

#4. Moesha (1996-2001)

Singer Brandy starred as the show’s title character, a teen living with her middle-class African-American family in South Central.

Moesha and her younger brother, Myles, lived with their father Frank and his new wife, Dee. Moesha was close to her biological mother and at first struggled to accept Dee.

The teen had a close circle of friends that included the loud Kim, the talkative Niecy, and her homeboy Hakeem. The teens hung out at The Den, managed by Andell, one of Moesha’s older friends and role models.

The show, one of UPN’s biggest hits, bravely dealt with issues like drugs, race, premarital sex, and infidelity.

Moesha had plenty of guest appearances, including Onyx’s Fredro Starr as Moesha’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, Q. Bernie Mac had a recurring role as Frank’s brother, Bernie, and athletes such as Kobe Bryant (who took Brandy to his Senior Prom.)

#5. Everybody Hates Chris (2005-2009)

Comedian Chris Rock has always been candid about his upbringing in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in his stand-ups.

The show Everybody Hates Chris draws heavily on his childhood.

Set during the 1980s, the show chronicled Rock’s quest to be a man. But his parents constantly harass him; he lives in the shadow of his younger brother and even his little sister gets the best of him.

He’s bullied in his neighborhood and at school, and everything that he wants always seems out of reach.

The sitcom was praised for using humor to interrogate race and class problems in America.

#6. Girlfriends (2000-2008)

In 2000, the black equivalent to Sex and The City – Girlfriends – came and mirrored the lives of so many black women in corporate America.

Set in Cali, the show chronicled the lives of Tracee Ellis-Ross’s Joan and her circle of friends, which included the sassy Maya, the carefree Lynn, and Joan’s best friend, the diva that was Toni.

Girlfriends dealt with topics like dating, sexuality, parenthood and interracial relationships.

In 2006, The Game premiered, a spinoff of Girlfriends that followed Melanie Barnett played by Tia Mowry.

#7. Martin (1992-1997)

Comedian and actor Martin Lawrence played Martin Payne, a DJ for WZUP (and eventually the host of his own talk show, “Word on the Street”).

Central to the show was Martin’s relationship with Gina Waters, the love of his life. They broke up and got back together throughout the series.

Also important were Martin’s relationships with his biggest adversary, Gina’s best friend, Pam James, and his two best friends, the comical Cole Brown and unemployed Tommy Strawn.

#8. A Different World (1987-1993)

The Cosby Show spinoff followed Denise Huxtable as she followed in her parents’ footsteps at the esteemed HBCU, Hillman College.

Denise dropped out (or rather, was written out because of Lisa Bonet’s pregnancy), and the show shifted its focus to Whitley Gilbert and Dwayne Wayne.

Not only did A Different World showcased historically black fraternities and sororities.

It also dared to talk about date rape, skin tone, class struggle, domestic violence, and the L.A. riots.

It was also one of the first television shows—black or otherwise—to address HIV and AIDS.

Even, 2Pac popped up as Lena’s (Jada Pinkett Smith) boyfriend from back home.

#9. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)

After making a name for himself as a hip-hop star in the ’80s, a guy named Will Smith ventured into acting.

Enter NBC, who offered him a sitcom loosely based on his own life and that of co-producer Benny Medina.

The story goes of a boy growing up in a rough neighborhood, who moved in with a wealthy family in Beverly Hills. You know this story. It’s all laid bare in the incredible theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

There’s tough but loving Aunt Viv and preppy cousin Carlton, with his fondness for Tom Jones. There’s Uncle Phil, or the Honorable Judge Philip Banks. There’s Geoffrey, the wry butler.

These are the kind of characters who will always have a home in your heart.

#10. The Cosby Show (1984-1992)

The Cosby Show has been credited by TV Guide with “almost single-handedly reviving the sitcom genre”

It’s been over 28 years since the show premiered on NBC.

For eight magical seasons, The Cosby Show revolved around the Huxtables, a well-to-do African-American family living in a Brooklyn brownstone.

Not only were both parents present, they were extremely successful. Cliff was a doctor and Claire was a lawyer.

They had five children: four girls and one boy. Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy.

All five of the Huxtable children were based on Bill Cosby’s actual children, including his late son Ennis who suffered from dyslexia, providing further inspiration for Theo’s character.

Unfortunately, what Bill Cosby got up to behind the scenes, has cast a shadow over the show’s incredible legacy.

#11. Good Times (1974-1979)

Good Times focused on the struggles of the Evans family, who lived in a  Chicago housing project.

The main characters included working class parents James and Florida, and their three children. James Jr., or “J.J.” Thelma was the middle sibling; and socially conscious Michael was the youngest.

The family was frequently visited by their neighbor Willona, who would later adopt abuse victim Penny (played by a very young Janet Jackson). Good Times depicted a close-knit family that remained positive despite their difficult living conditions.

#12. Black-ish 2014-

Advertisement exec Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson (Anthony Anderson)and his physician wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), are living the American dream.

They have great careers, four beautiful kids, and a Colonial home in an upper middle class neighborhood.

However, Dre starts to see his perfect life differently when he discovers that he’s being promoted to “Urban” VP at his firm. In the same week his son announces that he wants to have a Bar Mitzvah. All of a sudden it hits Dre:  Is his family of out of touch with their own identity?

Since the second-season premiere, the show has received critical acclaim. It has received many awards and nominations including a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for Tracee Ellis Ross.

#13. Kenan and Kel (1996 – 2000)

Kenan & Kel received critical acclaim, with praise of the performance of the title characters.

The show was set in Chicago and centered on the antics of two mischievous teenagers, Kenan Rockmore (Kenan Thompson) and Kel Kimble (Kel Mitchell). Kenan is a high school student with a job at a local grocery store, while Kel is his clumsy, orange soda-loving best friend.

It won the “Favorite TV Show” award at the 1998 Kids Choice Awards, and Thompson and Mitchell were ranked No. 40 and No. 39, respectively, on VH1’s 100 Greatest Kid Stars.

#14. The Parkers (1999 – 2004)

The Parkers features mother-daughter team of Nikki (played by Mo’Nique) and Kim Parker (played by Countess Vaughn).

The show is a spin off from Moesha.

The series centers around a mother and daughter who both attend Santa Monica College.

Nikki Parker was forced to drop out of high school when she discovered she was pregnant with daughter Kim.

After Kim reaches adulthood, Nikki decides to go back and get a degree. Kim is initially mortified with this decision, but eventually accepts the situation. The two are close and Nikki supports her daughter and her friends who have dreams of being in music.

#15. Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper (1992-1997)

Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper starred Mark Curry and Holly Robinson. The show centered on a teacher and his two female housemates. It also starred a young Raven-Symoné.

The show took place in Curry’s hometown of Oakland, California.

Written by Christine Haveford

Christine loves all things cinema, and she's been that way ever since she was a little girl. In fact, she is so passionate about cinema that she decided to pursue cinematography as a full-time career, and is now pursuing film studies at the New York Film School. Originally from Florida, she is still exploring the new city, people, places, and the culture, loves the new weather, going ice skating during winters, and spending time with her fellow classmates and friends from college.

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