Thursday, September 28, 2017

TMP Television Edition: Family

It's the last Thursday of the month, people. That means Thursday Movie Picks, hosted by Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves, about movies. It's about TV. Specifically, this edition is about family. You know family - those people you're stuck with so you figure out how to love them...or you don't and just don't talk to them unless you (or they) REALLY need something. Yeah, those folks. The number of TV shows about them is practically infinite, so my only problem is narrowing it down to a few to post here. Well, I go a little help since I used one of my potential choices last month. Oh well, now I'm picking from infinity minus one. Let's do this.

Family: The Emersons
Unlike most sitcoms about families, there are no children in this one. Our hero is Roc (Charles S. Dutton), a hard working garbage man in Baltimore who lives with his loving wife Eleanor (Ella Joyce). He's also got his retired dad Andrew (Carl Gordon) staying with him. His irresponsible brother Joey (Rocky Carroll) doesn't live there, but is constantly around. The show had a nice mix of humor and social commentary without going overboard on either. Dutton and the entire cast was fantastic. Most notable, every episode of season two was televised live. No small feat. Unfortunately, this was one of those shows with a passionate following that wasn't large enough to sustain it.

South Central
Family: The Moseleys
Suffering the same fate as Roc, even from the same network and airing on the same night, was this show about a family navigating life in South Central, Los Angeles. Our focal point was teenager Andre, played by Larenz Tate fresh off of his dynamic big-screen performance in Menace II Society. Mom Joan (Tina Lifford) is divorced and raising two other kids along with Andre, Tasha (Tasha Scott) and Deion (Keith Mbulo). It was a sitcom, but it was definitely a heavy show. Critics loved it. No one watched it. After only ten episodes, it was gone.

Everybody Hates Chris
Family: The Rocks???
There is a question mark next to the family name because their last name is never mentioned. We can only assume it's Rock because this show is based on the teenage years of famed comedian Chris Rock, here played by Tyler James Williams, as he is growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York in the 1980s. He lived with his mom and dad, Rochelle (Tichina Arnold) and Julius (Terry Crews), his brother Drew (Tequan Richmond), and sister Tonya (Imani Hakim). Being a New Yorker who grew up during the same time period as the setting of the show, it touched on just about every aspect of my own childhood. I recognize the situations and the people who populate every episode, and it all makes me laugh uncontrollably. Unlike my previous picks, this show did make some noise. It earned three Emmy nominations, plus a number of other award noms. In 2007, the American Film Institute named it one of the ten best TV series of that year.

Since I like cartoons, and I'm in a laughing mood, I've got more.

The Jackson 5ive
The Family: The Jacksons
Yes, this is based on the exploits of music's most famous family/boy group The Jackson Five. Truthfully, I don't remember many details of the show. I just remember watching it as a kid who was a very big fan of prepubescent Michael Jackson, just like the rest of the country. The fact it only lasted a year almost doesn't matter because of what it represents. Think of the racial climate of the country in the early 1970s and imagine how huge this group had to be to get their own Saturday morning cartoon.

The Proud Family
The Family: The Prouds
This Disney Channel show follows the exploits of Penny Proud (Kyla Pratt) and her zany family. As you might imagine for a Disney show, it mostly focused on fairly general growing up stuff, but it did it well and with a cast almost exclusively made up of people of color. That cast included Tommy Davidson (In Living Color), Soleil Moon-Frye (Punky Brewster), Paula Jai Parker (Ray Donovan), Aries Spears (Mad TV), Tara Strong (tons of animated work, including lots of Batman), and Carlos Mencia.

The Boondocks
The Family: The Freemans
Ten year old militant Huey P. Freeman and his thugged out eight year old brother Riley live with their grandfather Robert (John Witherspoon). They have all recently moved into a predominantly white neighborhood and encounter all sorts of crazy situations. The word poignant was made for this show as it examined race from every possible angle, and did so hilariously. It also looked at lots of other subjects with a sharp eye. The show started as a newspaper comic strip and transferred wonderfully to the screen, drawing inspiration from everything from blaxploitation to kung-fu flicks to anime. All of it with a distinct hip-hop flair. However, with its liberal use of four-letter words and reputation as a "black" show meant the network it called home, The Cartoon Network was never quite sure what to do with it, often relegating it to ultra-late, irregular, and oft-changing slot times. Look at the years it was on - 2005 to 2014. Sounds like a long run, but the show only had four seasons stretched out over that time. Sad. Still, I love every minute of it and, like Everybody Hates Chris, it's among my all-time faves. Oh, I almost forgot one of my favorite aspects of the show. The two little boys the show focuses on are both voiced by the marvelous Regina King, doing some of her best work.


  1. I saw an episode or two of Roc and it was fine but I never got hooked on it enough to watch regularly. Strangely enough given my aversion to animated shows the one I've seen the most of the The Jackson 5ive but I was a kid and the Jacksons were wildly popular. I can't say I remember much of it now outside the music.

    You're right about there being an almost infinite number to choose from so I did a bit of a theme within the titles.

    Family (1976-1980)-Gentle family drama of the problems big and small of an upper middle class family, lawyer dad Doug Lawrence (James Broderick-Matthew’s father) wife Kate (Sada Thompson) and their three children Nancy (Meredith Baxter again), Willie (Gary Frank) and sensitive Letitia “Buddy” (Kristy McNicol), living in a small California town. Much of the power of the series came from its refusal to go for big showy emotions rather taking a naturalistic approach to the various issues that present themselves. Very well-acted.

    Family Ties (1982-1989)-Former liberal flower children of the 60’s Steven and Elyse Keaton (Michael Gross & Meredith Baxter) are now middle class parents raising their three (eventually four) very different children in the Reagan 80’s. There’s the youngest, tomboy Jennifer (Tina Yothers), middle child acquisitive somewhat ditzy Mallory (Justine Bateman) and oldest son strongly conservative money hungry Alex (the series breakout star Michael J. Fox). The series looks with gentle humor and insight at the culture clashes that constantly erupt within the household through the years.

    All in the Family (1971-1979)-Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) who Archie semi affectionately calls “Dingbat” their daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) and her husband Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner) who Archie far less affectionately calls “Meathead” live together often disharmoniously in Queens, New York. Archie is a firmly opinionated bigot and his daughter and especially his son-in-law equally fierce liberals so their exchanges are often incendiary. When this debuted in ’71 it caused a revolution in how TV comedy was seen, to this point it had been dominated by shows similar to Father Knows Best and even more progressive ones such as Julia with Diahann Carroll dealt with gently humorous situations. But All in the Family took aim at the hot topics of the time in a more realistic way.

    1. At least you saw a few episodes of Roc. That's more than I can say for most. Saying The Jacksons were wildly popular is probably understating it.

      Never hear of Family. However, I watched plenty of your other two picks. I was all about the Thursday night NBC line-up of The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, and Night Court. What a great block of television that was. As for All in the Family, wow. That show was no-holds barred. Pretty sure you couldn't make that one, or its spin-off The Jeffersons, today. George Jefferson was just as bigoted as Archie Bunker.

  2. I remember Roc and South Central, those were good shows. I also liked The Boondocks and who could not love the Jackson 5 cartoon series? I like these choices.

  3. OMG...I used to watch Roc An s loved it! I love the granddad and thought it was a brilliant show. It brought to mind Good Times. I didn't see your other 2 but always meant to see Chris. I didn't watch any of the animated ones but great picks!

    1. Yay, a fan of Roc! It was brilliant and granddad was amazing.

  4. I haven't watched any of these in full, but I've seen episodes of Everybody Hates Chris and The Boondocks. I fell asleep watching the latter fairly often because like you said, that's when Adult Swim aired it.

    1. Yeah, it's crazy what they did with The Boondocks.

  5. I've seen a few episodes of Everybody Hates Chris and I enjoyed them.

    1. I might be biased, but I say watch a few more.

  6. Except for Everybody Hates Chris, haven't heard of the rest.

    and I noticed you haven't put a link to my blog...please remember to. Thanks.

  7. I haven't seen any of these shows, which is a shame because it sounds like they deserved a larger viewing. Then again, I'm not much of a TV watcher.

    1. I'm not, either, at least not in the last 20 years or so. I'll cop to watching a bit more over the last year or so with Netflix & Hulu, though.