Admittedly, I’m an avowed ’90s stan. Most of my favorite musical projects came out in the ’90s. My favorite television show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is a time capsule of ’90s music, fashion and culture. My favorite black movies are mostly from the ’90s. I even throw a monthly dance party in Washington, D.C., called “Reminisce” (named in celebration of my favorite hip-hop song, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” by Pete Rock & CL Smooth) that is all about ’90s hip-hop, R&B and dancehall.
Like VH1, I love the ’90s. I think it was the most culturally rich and significant decade in terms of modern black cool, and it’s where black culture made the leap into the mainstream. Most of the genre’s best rappers got their starts or cemented their legacies then. Television was awesome, with shows like Living Single, A Different World, the aforementioned Fresh Prince, Family Matters, South Central, etc. Black culture was all around then. African medallions and Malcolm X hats. And one of the absolute standouts was the television show Martin.
Martin is arguably the best and most beloved ’90s television show. Headed up by comedian and actor Martin Lawrence as Martin Payne and starring Tisha Campbell-Martin as Gina, Tichina Arnold as Pam, Carl Payne as Cole Brown and Thomas Mikal Ford as Tommy “You Ain’t Got No Job, Maaaaan” Strawn, Martin was a show that introduced so much of black pop-culture relevance to our living rooms that episodes are STILL super popular and the sayings of the crew live on over 20 years since the show went unceremoniously off the air in 1997. The show also had the most murderers’-row lineup of memorable recurring characters, from Otis to Bruh-Man to Jerome to Sheneneh Jenkins to the Rev. Leon Lonnie Love, and you can keep going and going.
While I know people who swear it’s the greatest show ever, I don’t know (or I don’t know that I know) a single person who didn’t like it. The “Was Martin overrated?” conversations have managed to sneak into various Facebook threads and game-night convos, but those folks get got out of there pretty quickly; the sunken place is real. Martin managed to pretty accurately encapsulate the ethos of all of us who grew up in that decade. Martin is the real-life ’90s. All of the famous comedians and rappers managed to make cameos (Fresh Prince was also good for this), and none of us will ever forget Ms. Trinidad or Ricky Fontaine—Pretty Ricky what they call him.
If there’s any show that folks would love to see more of, again, it’s Martin, right?
Eh. Slow down. Yesterday, Martin Lawrence’s fiancee, Roberta Moradfar, hinted via Instagram (the post, if it ever really existed, has since been taken down) at some sort of return for the show. And Martin commented right behind her with some sort of speculative emoji. Now, to be fair, it’s just an IG post. And it’s now gone. Who knows what any of it means, but let’s assume it was a too early letting of the cat out of the bag.
Martin reruns are currently running on BET, so this isn’t some sort of Living Single situation where they’re making a return for us all to binge-watch and remark over how much better that show was than anything else on television now.
It’s also unlikely that the show itself would get some kind of reboot. Tommy passed away last year, and the show ended in part because, well, Gina (Campbell-Martin) was not fucking with Martin any longer because of a sexual harassment suit she filed. Gina barely appeared in most of the final season’s episodes and definitely none with Martin. It doesn’t seem like Campbell-Martin has any desire to do a reunion show or potentially mess up the show’s legacy, so I can’t see how a reboot would even work. I don’t know what else that leaves aside from Martin bringing back a show with new characters of some sort.
What I do know is that the legacy of Martin—minus the horrendous Shaquille Sunflower story arc—is one of the best on television, and especially in the hearts and minds of those of us who grew up on it. I realize that we all get caught up in nostalgia—I’m no different—but that nostalgia is why I’m often worried about how any attempt to revisit series and movies that loom large in culture will fare. Like, we don’t need any revisit or reboot of Martin. Sure, I miss the show, but I enjoy the reruns just fine if I need a fix.
As I said, I listen to a lot of music from the ’90s. SWV is one of my all-time-favorite groups and always will be. They made the exact type of music I love the most. I even wrote an ode to them. But when I saw that they released an album in 2016, I was nervous because their brand of music was very much of the ’90s. Their album was fine enough, and on occasion I will let it run because it’s SWV, but the truth is that they, like most groups, will never be able to top or even come close to capturing that essence they had back then. And that’s OK. They don’t have to; their contributions to music are solidified, and I will be the first in line to see them perform “Right Here” when I’m 60 and they’re older than that.
That’s kind of how I feel about Martin. Maybe a reboot could be interesting, even good. But because anything new would absolutely be compared with what they did before, it’s a herculean task to get folks to view it as its own new thing and not murder it for not being what it could never be. I’d rather sit down on a Sunday and watch out-of-order episodes of one of the best shows ever and then find somebody to kick out of my house in style than watch Martin or anybody else try to shoehorn the current day into what they were.
It was just an IG post, so maybe they were just trolling. Maybe there isn’t really something on the table. Maybe there is. Whatever the case, I hope they realize that some things are best left in the past. With that being said, of course I’d check it out and hope for the best.