TV is enjoying somewhat of a Golden Age. While the Oscars remains #sowhite in most of its prestigious offerings, there is a great swatch of diversity across TV including several shows where Black characters are either the main focus of the show or are the lead of an ensemble cast.
In some of the shows white characters occupy the peripheral spot in the cast that Blacks are used to playing. As it is with anything in Hollywood, this change is mostly about money. With the multitude of devices to watch on, content creators have to constantly feed the demand and they finally recognized that yes, Black folks, just like white ones, like to see themselves and characters that they can relate to.
This fall there are some promising new shows, some of which have already premiered, others still to come that look like the ones to watch. Here’s a look.
Queen Sugar (OWN)
Who: Created by Ava DuVernay from the book of the same title, DuVernay took some artistic license and made changes to create a story about three siblings who inherit a farm when their father dies.
When: Wednesdays at 10 p.m., OWN
Why: It’s a beautifully rendered and beautifully shot family drama about a Southern Black family that is rarely seen on television.
Breakout Star: Kofi Siriboe, who plays the youngest sibling, the evocatively named Ralph Angel.
Who: Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino wrote and stars in this quirky comedy
When: Tuesdays at 10 p.m., FX
Why: Although it’s about a struggling millennial and his aspiring rap star cousin, it panders to none of the stereotypes that would usually be apart of that kind of show. If you like your comedy nuanced and offbeat, Atlanta is the show for you.
Breakout Star: The entire cast, but there’s a buzz around slacker friend Darius, played perfectly by Keith Stanfield.
Who: Reggie Rock Bythewood and Gina Bythewood, the husband and wife creative team who’ve brought you Love and Basketball, Beyond The Lights and Notorious.
When: Watch local listings – the ten-episode season is not scheduled to air until spring.
Why: A dramatic look at police shootings with a twist – the policeman in question is Black, the victim is white. Sanaa Lathan and Stephen James play the investigator and the prosecutor who get the racially charged case.
Breakout Star: Stephan James from Selma and Race seems poised to take advantage of his starring role.
Secrets and Lies
Who: The same team that started it off with an American take on an Australian TV series of the same name. Although that didn’t work for The Slap, also adapted for U.S. television from Australia, the first season of Secrets and Lies starring Ryan Phillippe and the returning Juliette Lewis, was an entertaining surprise.
When: Sundays at 9 p.m. ABC (premiering September 25)
Why: It’s an old school whodunit type of show without the pressure of a full 22 episode season. Last season, Ryan Phillippe was a suspected child killer, this time, Michael Ealy is the prime suspect in the killing of his wife.
Breakout Star: Well, Michael Ealy is always great to watch, but Juliette Lewis has stolen this show as the seriously dedicated detective Andrea Cornell.
Who: Issa Rae, star and creator of the popular YouTube series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.
When: HBO (starts October 9th)
Why: Issa Rae got on HBO’s radar because of ABG’s strong millennial following and that it showed Black women differently than the usual TV tropes of angry, dysfunctional or overtly glamorous. Rae’s self-deprecating humor and focus on the small moments that define us won her fans online and that should continue on HBO.
Breakout Star: Rae’s already broken out.
Who: One of Marvel Comics’ Black superheroes has already been introduced via the Netflix show Jessica Jones.
When: Premieres on Netflix on September 30th.
Why: The Luke Cage character was more interesting than the lead on Jessica Jones (as much as I like the actress Krysten Ritter who played her, she was miscast in the role) and his ability to heal despite any attempts to hurt him is a pretty cool superpower.
Breakout Star: Mike Colter, known to fans of The Good Wife as Lamond Bishop, should find his career in overdrive after starring in this.
Who: The creatives that brought you Crazy Stupid Love and the hilarious TV Land show Younger.
When: 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fox (begins September 22)
Why: A Black woman starring in a sports drama? When have we seen that before? Maybe the creators were thinking about all the exposure that girl pitcher Mo’ne Davis received after playing in the Little League World Series. The premise isn’t necessarily all that realistic but it’s a fun one to explore.
Breakout Star: New actress Kylie Bunbury should be the one to watch.