Black TV Shows 70s and 80s: What to Watch Next
The 1970s and 1980s were a massive turning point in television history, marking the popularization of black TV shows and sitcoms and leaving a long-lasting legacy on the types of shows created for Black audiences for decades to come.
However, modern viewers are often unaware of the huge influence that 1970s and 1980s black TV shows had on modern television. To help you dive deep into the history of black television, here are six of the best black TV shows the 70s and 80s offered.
1. Good Times (1974-1979)
Good Times is a classic in 1970s black TV shows and contributed to the early rise of programs made for a black audience. Starring Esther Rolle and John Amos as Florida and James Evans, the show follows a working-class Black family living in the Chicago projects.
Despite being a trademark in family sitcoms, Good Times knew how to tackle troubling themes like few others did at the time, handling issues like racism and poverty deftly. Airing for six seasons on CBS, there’s no doubt that Good Times is just as enjoyable today as it once aired.
2. Sanford and Son (1972-1977)
A massive contributor to the rise of black sitcoms, Sanford and Son is another undeniable hit for black TV shows in the 1970s. The show stars Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson as Fred Sanford and his son Lamont, respectively. A perfect blend of comedy and heartfelt moments, Sanford and Son has left its mark on black TV in the decades following its initial run. Airing on NBC between 1972 and 1977, Sanford and Son is packed with laughs but doesn’t shy away from addressing racial injustices in 1970s America.
3. What’s Happening!! (1976-1979)
This gem from the late 1970s was packed with endearing, star-quality performances from Haywood Nelson, Ernest Thomas, and Fred Berry, a trio of friends facing the trials and tribulations of adolescence in 1970s America. Airing for three seasons on ABC, What’s Happening!! was a breath of fresh air for the younger crowd looking for shows that represented themselves.
The star-studded trio ensures that What’s Happening!! delivers on its laughs, and the trio’s undeniable chemistry has launched the show into the high ranks of sitcom history.
4. 227 (1985-1990)
While the 1970s delivered on black sitcoms, 1980s black TV shows successfully followed this trend. The decade launched many actors into stardom in shows like 227, a sitcom following individuals living in a middle-class apartment building in Washington, D.C. Starring Marla Gibbs, Hal Williams, and Regina King in her first television role, 227 is a humorous and exciting look into the lives of a black family. Airing on NBC for five seasons, 227 launched the careers of successful black actors still on the screen and thriving today–and provides no shortage of laughs for the modern audience member.
5. Amen (1986-1991)
Airing on NBC for 5 seasons, Amen is an often-overlooked treasure in black TV shows. The show follows Ernest Frye, incredibly acted by Sherman Hemsley, as a widowed deacon and lawyer living with his daughter Thelma in Philadelphia. The dishonest, scheming Ernest Frye brought laughs to thousands of homes during the show’s runtime, and its unique premise is sure to intrigue modern audiences looking for their next favorite black sitcom.
6. The Jeffersons (1975-1985)
Spanning over the late 1970s and dominating sitcoms in the early 1980s, no list of black TV shows in the 70s and 80s is complete without The Jeffersons. This sitcom aired for a whopping 11 seasons on CBS and stars Sherman Hemsley right before his time on Amen. While the show is a spinoff of the white sitcom All in the Family, The Jeffersons saw no shortage of success and even exceeded the ratings of its predecessor.
Following the Jeffersons, helmed by George (Hemsley), the Jeffersons chronicles the family’s time living in a luxury apartment building and their unique, often hilarious, interactions with other tenants.
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