There is so much garbage on television that does nothing for black people besides waste their time. Neither entertaining nor informative, the only value of these shows is to make an hour of time pass in a haze of mild chuckles or sickening amazement at how foolishly the characters behave or are portrayed. In this wasteland of "Basketball Wives of Wherever" and “Tyler Perry Meets Whoever” there are actually some pretty good shows out there that can both entertain and teach us about our history and our current situations.
For Black History Month we present 3 of the many shows that are actually worth watching. These shows are wildly entertaining (in my opinion) and definitely leave you with a better understanding of the genuine black experience of the past and the present.
UnSung - TV One
The show focuses on telling the stories of R&B stars of the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. Although we loved the music of stars like Big Daddy Kane, Roger & Zapp and Mary Wells, we may not have known anything about their struggles, triumphs and amazing personal stories. Very similar to the show Behind The Music, UnSung tells the stories very professionally and it is almost a guarantee that you will learn some amazing and sometimes shocking things about the artists that you didn’t know.
Last week the show was about Full Force, the creators of the 80’s hit "Roxanne, Roxanne”. What I didn’t know was that after their run in the 80’s they produced the Backstreet Boys first major hit “All I Have to Give” in 1997 and they went on to be major producers and collaborators with stars like NSynch, Britney Spears, Ashanti, The Black Eyed Peas, and Rihanna.
Boardwalk Empire - HBO
Boardwalk Empire is an HBO series that focuses on the life and times of a corrupt local politician in Atlantic City (Nucky Thompson) and his dealings in the 1920’s era of prohibition. The show has received numerous accolades and awards, as it shows the real life experiences of the 1920’s as it has never been seen before on TV. For African Americans it is an amazing look at life for blacks in the 20’s seen through the eyes of characters like "Chalky White", who runs liquor for Nucky while also serving as a leader of the black men and women in his neighborhood.
The characters in Boardwalk Empire are deep and layered and typify the compexities and contradictions of the era. The circumstances that the African Americans find themselves in are presented accurately and fairly, thus giving us an amazing insight into what it was like for all types of colored folk from gangsters, to domestic workers. Who knew that a show about prohibition could be such an invaluable window into African American life?
American Gangster - BET
Narrated by Ving Rhames, American Gangster tells the stories of infamous African American criminals and suspects from the 1970’s through today. Many of the profiles are of black men and women who were very prominent in their communities either for the crimes they committed or for the positive work they did in their communities. Crips co-founder Stanley ``Tookie'' Williams, crack king ``Freeway'' Ricky Ross, heroin kingpin Leroy ``Nicky'' Barnes, and cop killer Lorenzo ``Fat Cat'' Nichols are some of the profiles that will enthrall and enlighten.
It is this dichotomy that makes American Gangster interesting; many of the “gangsters” have redeeming characteristics and in some cases you see police misconduct, and legal corruption that actually make you root for the criminal. Make no mistake, most of these characters are guilty of incredible crimes including murder, drug dealing and theft, but everything is not always what it seems and American Gangster gets to the truth behind the headline in a way that you will find very entertaining and informative.
Got some other decent shows you want to share? Leave them in the comments.
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