25 of the Best Black Sitcoms Ever — and Where to Watch Them
It's no secret that one of the most popular — and effective — ways to address social issues is through humor. For over 50 years now, there have been a plethora of sitcoms that address one of the most common concerns of today: race. Ahead are a list of African-American sitcoms that portray the "black experience" in all its various forms, focusing on economic, social, political, religious, and gendered issues. However, despite their heavy topics, each show is guaranteed to make you laugh. Take a look to discover some of the best black sitcoms and where to watch!
The Bernie Mac Show
Late comedian Bernie Mac stars as the titular character in his 2001 sitcom The Bernie Mac Show. Playing a fictionalized version of himself, the show follows Bernie McCullough, a successful comedian living in Los Angeles. When Bernie's sister goes to rehab, he and his wife become responsible for raising her three children. With no children of his own, Bernie struggles to adjust to the kids' trying personalities and frequently breaks the fourth wall to discuss his troubles with the audience.
Throughout its five seasons on Fox, many celebrities guest stars on the show, including Halle Berry, Serena Williams, Chris Rock, Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres, and Matt Damon to name a few.
Where to watch: Starz
Currently on its third season, Black-ish follows the lives of the Johnsons, an upper-middle-class African-American family. Throughout the series, Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) and Dre (Anthony Anderson) strive to not only parent their four children but instill in them a sense of cultural identity and pride.
The Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated show (Ross took home a 2017 Globe for her performance) also addresses controversial topics such as racism, sexual identity, police brutality, and the 2016 election. Raven-Symoné, Laurence Fishburne, Wanda Sykes, and more have also been featured throughout the series.
The Cleveland Show
A spinoff of Family Guy, The Cleveland Show centers on Cleveland Brown's dysfunctional family, including his new wife, Donna Tubbs, her two children, and Brown's biological son, Cleveland Jr.
The series aired for four seasons and features a voice cast of Mike Henry, Sanaa Lathan, Reagan Gomez-Preston (The Parent 'Hood), Kevin Michael Richardson, Jason Sudeikis, and Seth MacFarlane. The show came to an end in 2013 with the characters returning to the fictional universe of Family Guy.
Different Strokes follows the lives of African-American brothers Arnold (Gary Coleman) and Willis (Todd Bridges). After their mother dies, they are taken in by her employers, the Drummonds, a wealthy white couple and their teenaged daughter.
Although a comedy, the show addresses heavy topics such as interracial families, race relations, the class system, drug use, sexual assault, and more. The series aired for nine seasons and spawned the spinoff The Facts of Life.
Fun fact: Janet Jackson stars as a recurring character throughout three seasons!
A Different World
In 1987, NBC created a spinoff of The Cosby Show entitled A Different World. The series follows the eldest daughter of The Cosby Show, Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet), as she attends a historically black college. During the first season, the show focuses on Denise's newfound independence, romantic relationships, and friendships, including one with the only Caucasian student, Maggie (Marisa Tomei).
After the first year, Lisa Bonet left the show due to her pregnancy (Zoë Kravitz was born shortly after!). After her departure, the series shifts its focus to the lives of her close friends. It continued to air for six seasons, featuring guest stars such as Halle Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Tupac Shakur, Jesse Jackson, and many of the original cast members of The Cosby Show.
Where to watch: Amazon
Everybody Hates Chris
Everybody Hates Chris is a comedy based on the life of comedian Chris Rock. Set in the 1980s in Bed-Stuy, NY, The CW sitcom showcases the daily family and school troubles Rock experienced during his childhood.
Tyler James Williams portrays a young Chris while the rest of the cast includes Chris's strict mother, Rochelle (Tichina Arnold); frugal father, Julius (Terry Crews); two younger siblings; and best friend. Each episode is narrated by Rock himself. The show received critical acclaim throughout its four-season run, including Golden Globe and Emmy award nominations.
ABC's 1989 sitcom Family Matters follows the daily life of the Winslow family, including police officer Carl (Reginald VelJohnson), his wife Harriet (Jo Marie Payton), and their three children. The family is frequently visited by their pesky neighbor, Urkel (Jaleel White). Intelligent but extremely socially awkward, Urkel causes many of the laughs throughout the show's nine-season run.
There are also numerous crossover episodes that air throughout the series, including ones with Full House, Boy Meets World, Step by Step, and Perfect Strangers, the latter of which Family Matters was a spinoff of.
Fun Fact: Jo Marie Payton voices Suga Mama in Disney Channel's The Proud Family.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
One of the most popular African-American sitcoms in history, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air aired on NBC for six seasons. The show, which first began in 1990, stars a young Will Smith, who would go on to become a Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated actor.
Throughout the series, Smith portrays a fictionalized version of himself: a savvy teen from West Philadelphia who is sent to live with his aunt and uncle and their children in Bel-Air, CA. Accustomed to an inner-city lifestyle, Will's personality and behavior hilariously clash with the high-class lifestyle of his relatives.
Although the series ended over 20 years ago, the show has endured throughout pop culture and the Fresh Prince remains one of Will Smith's most famous characters.
Before starring in Black-ish, Golden Globe-winning actress Tracee Ellis Ross starred in UPN sitcom Girlfriends along with Golden Brooks, Persia White, and Jill Marie Jones. The eight-season comedy follows the friendship of these four women as well their careers, romantic relationships, family lives, and more.
Idris Elba, Kelly Rowland, Tia Mowry, and Kelsey Grammer were just a few of the many celebrities who have guest starred on the show — the last was also an executive producer. Girlfriends spawned a spinoff, The Game, which recently came to an end after nine seasons.
In the ever-complicated Norman Lear-created universe, Good Times was a spinoff of Maude, which was a spinoff of All in the Family. The 1974 CBS sitcom follows the daily life of the Evans family.
Living in a predominately black inner-city Chicago project, patriarch James Evans (John Amos) takes (and loses) numerous jobs to help his family make it out of poverty. His wife, Florida (Esther Rolle), also works while trying to maintain the household and raise their three teen children. On the air for six seasons, the show received multiple Golden Globe nominations during its run.
The Jamie Foxx Show
Before starring in films such as Django Unchained and Ray (for which he won the Academy Award for best actor), Jamie Foxx created and starred in his own sitcom. From 1996 to 2001, The Jamie Foxx Show aired on The WB.
The series follows Jamie King (Foxx), an aspiring musician who moves from to Texas to Los Angeles. To support himself as he pursues his dream, he takes a job in a hotel run by his aunt (Ellia English) and uncle (2 Broke Girls's Garrett Morris).
While working at The Kings Tower, Jamie pursues his beautiful co-worker, Francesca "Fancy" (Garcelle Beauvais), and pokes fun at the stuffy, high-strung Braxton (Christopher B. Duncan).
A spinoff of All in the Family, The Jeffersons followes an older, upper-middle-class African-American couple, George (Sherman Hemsley) and Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford). After the supreme success of George's dry-cleaning business chain, the couple leaves their home in Queens and "moves on up to the deluxe apartment in the sky," aka a luxurious Manhattan penthouse, accompanied by their adult son, George's mother, and their sassy housekeeper. The show follows the family as they adjust to their fancy new digs, big-city living, and quirky neighbors.
Throughout its run, The Jeffersons made history in numerous ways. First, with 11 seasons, the series is the second longest-running sitcom with a primarily African-American cast. Secondly, Isabel Sanford became the first black actress to win an Emmy award for lead actress in a comedy. Lastly, the sitcom was one of the first shows to prominently feature an interracial couple.
Kenan & Kel
Who loves orange soda? Kel loves orange soda! His best friend, Kenan, on the other hand, is less enthusiastic about the uniquely colored beverage. For four seasons beginning in 1996, All That alums Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell starred as fictionalized version of themselves in Nickelodeon teen sitcom Kenan & Kel.
Kenan plays a responsible high school student with an after-school job at a grocery store. His best friend, Kel, is a silly, clumsy, and unintentional troublemaker who is (surprisingly) incredibly intelligent. The unlikely friends find themselves in frequent shenanigans, much to the irritation of their respective families, teachers, and peers.
Living Single centers on a group of six friends who share a Brooklyn brownstone. The show follows four women (Queen Latifah, Kim Coles, Erika Alexander, and Kim Fields) and two men (T.C. Carson and John Henton) as they navigate their friendships, careers, and occasional relationships.
The sitcom aired on Fox for five seasons and features guest stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Will Ferrell, Lou Ferrigno, Terrence Howard, Eartha Kitt, Rosie O'Donnell, and many more.
Where to watch: Amazon
Comedian Martin Lawrence stars as the titular character in Fox's 1992 sitcom Martin. Lawrence portrays protagonist Martin Payne, a Detroit-based radio DJ. The series follows Martin's life for five seasons, including his relationship with PR exec Gina (played by future My Wife and Kids alum Tisha Campbell), his career, and his friendships.
The series features actors such as Tracy Morgan, Garrett Morris (SNL and 2 Broke Girls), and Tichina Arnold (Everybody Hates Chris). Furthermore, Lawrence himself portrays at least eight different characters throughout the series run, often dressing in disguises and changing his voice to fit the new persona.
In 1996, Broadway star and Grammy-award-winning singer Brandy starred as the titular character in the UPN sitcom Moesha. When her widowed father marries the vice principal at her school, Moesha's family dynamic turns upside down. She finds solace in her friends who, along with Moesha, deal with teen issues such as race relations, premarital sex, teen pregnancy, the loss of a parent, and more.
Throughout its six-season run, the series features guest stars such as Octavia Spencer, Usher, Shaquille O'Neal, Gabrielle Union, Jessica Simpson, Kobe Bryant, Jamie Foxx, and more.
Where to watch: Amazon
My Wife and Kids
Before starring in Fox's 2016 cop comedy-drama Lethal Weapon, Damon Wayans cocreated and starred in My Wife and Kids. The ABC sitcom, which first aired in 2001, follows the life of Michael Kyle (Wayans), a modern-day patriarch who parents his three children with a unique method he refers to as "Michael Kyle Signature Moments."
These "moments" often include tricking his children into learning lessons while simultaneously using humor to justify his actions. Though a family comedy, the series also touches on important issues such as teen pregnancy, religion, and drug use.
The Parent 'Hood
Beginning in 1995, 90 episodes of The Parent 'Hood aired on The WB. The series follows an upper-middle-class African-American family living in Harlem.
Patriarch Robert Peterson (Robert Townsend) teaches at NYU while his wife, Jerri (Suzzanne Douglas), attends law school. With their busy academic careers, they struggle to balance raising their four children.
Envisioned as a parody Father Knows Best of the 1950s, the sitcom shows both the difficulty and the hilarity of raising a family.
Where to watch: Starz
A spinoff of 1996's Moesha, The Parkers aired on UPN from 1999 to 2004. The series follows Kim Parker (Countess Vaughn), a student at Santa Monica College who is raised by her single mother, Nikki (played by comedian and Academy Award-winning actress Mo'Nique).
Now that her daughter is older, Nikki decides to finish her education and attends Santa Monica College alongside her. Now roommates and classmates, the mother-daughter duo find themselves in hilarious situations as their lives entangle. This includes Nikki's not-so-subtle pursuit of her professor, Stanley Oglevee (Dorien Wilson).
Where to watch: Amazon
The Cosby Show
From 1984 to 1992, The Cosby Show aired on NBC. The sitcom revolves around the lives of the Huxtables, an upper-middle-class African-American family of seven. They includes Dr. Huxtable (played by comedian and show creator Bill Cosby), Mrs. Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad), and their five children, ranging from toddler to teen.
Throughout its eight-season run, the show received six Emmy awards, two Golden Globes, 11 People's Choice awards, and even more nominations and special honors. While on the air, the series was applauded for defying stereotypes and showcasing a highly educated, wealthy African-American family.
Where to watch: Amazon
The Proud Family
In 2001, The Proud Family ushered in a whole new era of animated Disney Channel Original Series. The show follows the life of protagonist Penny Proud. Voiced by Kyla Pratt, 14-year-old Penny lives in a fictional California town with her parents, younger twin siblings, and paternal grandmother who is affectionately known as Suga Mama.
As Penny comes of age, she and her group of friends often find themselves in sticky situations, learning life lessons as they try to get out of them. Yet no matter how big a mistake she may make, Penny grows to understand that she can always depend on her family.
Where to watch: iTunes
Sanford and Son
Developed by award-winning television producer Norman Lear, Sanford and Son aired on NBC from 1972 to 1977. The show, which was based off of BBC's Steptoe and Son, follows Fred Sanford (played by comedian Redd Foxx) and his son Lamont Sanford (Demond Wilson).
Fred is a biased, sarcastic, and easily irritated old man; though angry and resentful at first, Lamont becomes a level-headed, forgiving progressive. The duo's differing personalities often clash, making it difficult to live together and run their salvage store.
However, their bond deepens and the two spend the six-season series getting in and out of trouble as they try to pull off hilarious "get rich quick" schemes.
Where to watch: Amazon
Identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowry portray fictionalized versions of themselves in the 1994 sitcom Sister, Sister. The six-season series follows twin 14-year-old girls who, after being separated at birth and adopted by two different parents, encounter each other at a shopping mall.
In an attempt to get to know one another, Tia and her single mother Lisa (Jackeé Harry) move in with Tamera and her single father Ray (Tim Reid). With very different personalities, the two sets of strangers struggle to live under the same roof.
Where to watch: Amazon
The Steve Harvey Show
In 1996, Family Feud host Steve Harvey starred in The WB sitcom The Steve Harvey Show. Harvey plays Steve Hightower, a former 1970s funk legend turned high school music teacher. While teaching at the Chicago school with his best friend and school coach Cedric Robinson (played by comedian Cedric the Entertainer) and former classmate/current principal Regina Grier (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Steve does his best to positively influence his students. However, two students in particular — a charming Casanova and his not-so-bright best friend — make his efforts more challenging.
The series, which aired for six seasons, features guest stars such as SNL's Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Snoop Dogg, Gabrielle Union, and more.
Where to watch: Crackle
First airing in 1983, ABC's Webster followed Webster Long (Emmanuel Lewis), a five-year-old African-American boy who is adopted by his godfather, George Papadopoulos, after his biological parents are killed in a car accident.
George, a retired professional football player (played by real-life ex-NFL pro Alex Karras) and his wife, Katherine (played by Karras' wife, Susan Clark), are a wealthy Caucasian couple living a luxurious life in Chicago. With no children of their own, the couple hilariously adjusts to their newfound parenthood.
Where to watch: Hulu