These Are Some Of The Best Black Sitcoms Of All Time

Ever since television’s inception, the best sitcoms have provided audiences with stomach-clutching laughter, uniting families around the television once a week for half an hour of entertainment. They put a comedic spin on the ordinary, taking the complex experiences of life and wrapping them in a blanket of humor. Within the running gags and silly situations, sitcoms deliver timeless comedy, unforgettable performancesand iconic scenes, making them cherished to this day.

The emergence of Black sitcoms in the later part of the 20th century saw an important time for the representation of Black people on television. Prior to this, black actors were often cast in stereotypical roles, such as comic clowns, which enforced the belief that Black and white culture was so different that integration was unthinkable. However, as time went on, the Black community reclaimed their identity in the media and began airing shows that portrayed themselves not just as a collective but as individuals, allowing the actors to branch out into more diverse parts and genres. Sitcoms played one of the largest roles in this; therefore, let’s look at the best Black sitcoms of all time.

7 Diff’rent Strokes

different strokes arnold, willis, Mr drummond and Kimberly sitting on the sofa
Columbia Pictures Television

Diff’rent Strokes was the innovative family sitcom that paved the way for integration on television. Starring the late Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges, the show focuses on two young African-American brothers, Arnold and Willis, from Harlem. After the death of their mother, the boys are taken in by a wealthy white businessman, Phillip Drummond, and his daughter, Kimberly. Diff’rent Strokes was an instant hit, with iconic catchphrases like Arnold’s “What you talkin ’bout, Willis?” The series provided audiences with memorable scenes while also (arguably) depicting a sense of racial equality that had never before been portrayed on screen. However, around the laughter, this show also played an important part in highlighting serious issues such as racism, kidnappings, child sexual abuse, and eating disorders. Through the “very special episodes”In the series, Diff’rent Strokes informed and educated their audience about the cruelties of the world that society attempts to turn a blind eye to. This show was not only bold enough to challenge convention and bridge the gap between cultures, but it went even further, giving a platform to matters impacting people globally, and therefore allowing silent sufferers to feel heard.

Related: 7 Black Coming-of-Age Movies That We Can’t Live Without

6 Everybody Hates Chris

everybody hates chris - chris and julius sitting on a step
CBS Television Distribution

First airing in 2005 but set in 1982, Everybody Hates Chris was a period sitcom inspired by the teenage years of comedian Chris Rock. Over the span of four seasons, this TV series gave a first-hand view of what it was like to grow up as a young Black boy and the journey to self-discovery through these experiences. From the eyes of the titular Chris (Tyler James Williams), the audience was able to peek into his dynamic family, which included a strict but loving mother, a hardworking father and the love-hate relationship he had with his younger siblings. This gave a positive view of the Black experience; however, on the other hand, the show did not minimize the negative realities many people face around the world, such as racism in schools, living in a crime-infested area, and working overtime for a low income. However, at the core of the show was a kid growing into a young man among all the chaos and, by the end of the series, there is a sense of satisfaction as Chris has transformed into a capable man, only made stronger by the struggles surrounding him. An animated version of the show is set to be released, and should be a treat for fans.

5 The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

the fresh prince of bel air carlton, will and hilary
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Starring Will Smith in his first major role, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is about Will, a teenager raised in West Philadelphia and sent to live with his wealthy uncle and aunt in their Bel Air mansion. The instant lifestyle clashes between street-smart Will and his book-smart relatives made for countless hilarious scenes and comical scenarios. This show brought with it a uniqueness, as it portrayed a Black family as affluent with high social status, a much-needed change from the usual narrative of a low-income household that had become the normality in television. However, it also depicted that, on some occasions, status does not determine the way you are treated by others. Throughout its six-season run, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air explored significant topics such as drugs, race, gun violence, and abandonment. Still, along with this, the show included memorable moments (like the Carlton dance) as two cultures (both in terms of class and race) started to unite, delivering the message that family tends to be the most important thing.

4 That’s So Raven

that's so raven, raven, eddie and chelsea
Disney-ABC Domestic Television

Disney Channel programs are known for being filled with silly situations that are solely for the entertainment of children. However, That’s So Raven blurred this line and created a hilarious show for all ages to enjoy. The series centers on Raven Baxter (Raven Symone), a teenager who experiences visions of the future, a secret only shared with her family and best friends, Eddie and Chelsea (Orlando Brown and Anneliese van der Pol, respectively). The running theme of Raven misinterpreting her visions provided audiences with great physical comedy and timeless humor as Raven and her friends use elaborate tricks and disguises to interfere with the fate of the future. However, beyond the laughs and amazing musical numbers that were featured in the show, That’s So Raven focuses on adolescence and the importance of following one’s dreams. Raven’s passion for fashion is apparent from the very first season, and by the end of its run, she has taken the harrowing but rewarding steps needed to pursue her goal. Raven is not only a hilarious and unashamed character, but she also stands as a symbol of resilience and dedication as, despite having visions of the future, she works to design her own.

3 Girlfriends

girlfriends maya, tony, lynn, joan and william
CBS Television Distribution

Girlfriends follows four close friends in Los Angeles, who challenge and support one another through the ups and downs of life. This show portrays independent and successful women who are all on unique paths but find a way to connect through the bond their friendship brings. Through these characters, the series tackles the struggles of navigating your way in life, with topics like single motherhood, infidelity, toxic relationships, and depression. There is a sense of realism with Girlfriends, as it does not understate these hard moments but rather reminds people of their possibility, presenting the difficult reality that even the strongest relationships can eventually break down into nothing. Subsequently, this show places importance on respecting boundaries and the value of self-acceptanceto ensure all connections in life are authentic and compatible.

Additionally, Girlfriends has also been credited as being one of the first shows to present natural Black hair through the character of Joan, played by Tracee Ellis Ross. Ross, who was often pressured in the industry to straighten her hair, found empowerment in displaying her afro-texture on screen. Initially receiving backlash for the decision, even from the Black community, Ross continued to wear her natural hair proudly. Since the time of Girlfriendsan increasing number of people have begun to proudly show off their curls and Ross even released a hair care line, Pattern, in 2019 for curly and kinky hair.

Related: Black-ish Will End with Upcoming Eighth Season on ABC

2 Sister Sister

sister sister tia, tamera and roger
Paramount Domestic Television

Sister Sister centers on identical twin sisters, Tia and Tamera, who are reunited after being separated at birth. After their adoptive parents reluctantly agree to move in together, the sisters establish a bond that only grows as the years go by. This show successfully portrayed the drama that comes from two teenagers living under the same roof, like high school crushes and clashes with parents, enabling young people around the world to relate to the lives of these two girls. As well as the superficial problems, this show also made room for issues young people face that are not regularly voiced, such as worries about college, a first job, or sexual exploration. Tia and Tamera provided an identity for people to relate to, especially young Black girls who did not have much representation within television at this time. Despite the conflicts between the characters, Sister Sister proved that differences can serve as a way to unite people, promoting the message of inclusion, acceptance and the importance of family.

1 Moesha


Initially known for her music career, R&B singer Brandy took on the small screen and starred in her own show, Moesha. The series centers on the title character, an African-American high school student living in an upper-middle-class family. Along with the great guest stars (like Bernie Mac and Usher), and the relatable humorous moments, Moesha presented the love as well as struggles that exists within a family. This show was not focused on portraying a polished American household, but instead how the hardships within a unit can eventually make a bond even stronger. Topics like teen pregnancy, drug use, race relations, and sexuality were explored in ways which highlighted the depth of the issues but to also portray a stable support system. From the beginning, Moesha was an independent character, however, throughout the series, she was constantly reminded that she did not have to take on the whole world by herself.

Netflix Gets Moesha, Sister, Sister, Girlfriends and More Classic 90s Sitcoms
Netflix Gets Moesha, Sister, Sister, Girlfriends and More Classic 90s Sitcoms

In addition to Sister, Sister and Moesha, Netflix has gained the rights to Girlfriends, The Game, One on One, and Half & Half.

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