A Ranking Of The 25 Best Black Television Shows Of All-Time

HBO screenshot
HBO screenshot

Two things:

1. There's no real science to determining what makes a show "Black." For instance, Scandal has a Black creator and a Black star, but it's not a Black show, while The Wire had a White creator and the closest that show had to a protagonist (in the first three seasons, at least) was a White guy, but it's a Black show. Basically, a Black show is like good potato salad. You know it when you see it.


2. I (obviously) created the list, so the list is (obviously) right. Still, feel free to disagree.

25. Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry

24. South Central

23. Roc

22. Living Single

21. Soul Food

20. The Boondocks

19. Sanford and Son

18. The Bernie Mac Show

17. Rap City

16. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

15. Everybody Hates Chris

14. Key & Peele

13. Martin

12. Soul Train

11. Girlfriends

10. A Different World

9. The Arsenio Hall Show (first run)

8. The Corner

7. Def Comedy Jam

6. The Jeffersons

5. Frank's Place

4. The Cosby Show

3. The Chappelle Show

2. In Living Color

1. The Wire


Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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Damon Young

Couple surprise observations from reading the comments:

1. Good Times is apparently held in very high esteem by many people. Which, I guess, is understandable. IMO, though, it was either a comedy that wasn't actually funny or a drama that wasn't actually realistic. AND THE HUSBAND AND WIFE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THE SAME AGE BUT WERE 20 YEARS APART! Why is this not a bigger deal to anyone?

2. As I mentioned in downthread, I'm kinda surprised at some of the comments about Key & Peele. I assumed they were liked a lot more — especially by this crowd — than they actually are.

3. Also surprised no one has called out the choice that, to me, was the shakiest show on the list: Soul Food

4. I'll concede that Girlfriends and Martin should have swapped places. Can't place it any higher than that, though

5. Since most of us were kids/teens in the late 80s to mid 90s, it's also understandable that many of us hold those shows a bit more dearly than they really deserve. That type of sentiment and loyalty is sweet, I guess.