Let’s just face it; Networks have a hard time with African-American programming. There is a thin line between comedy and shucking-and-jiving. The line becomes even thinner between drama and gospel stage plays. Black folks also love to live in the past. For some reason, a generation of people who were barely alive are infatuated with A Different World. Modern day African-American artists are obsessed with Martin themes, especially those damn shapes from the maintitle sequence. And of course, since the Obamas got into the White House, black folks just can’t let go of The Cosby Show. (Well, many are due to other unrelated Bill Cosby factors that I shall not name…). With that being said, Networks and Showrunners get stuck in a cycle of failing nostalgia because face it, it’s 2016 and multi-camera comedies with soft music during the emotional climaxes just aren’t going to cut it. Let it go.
So who the hell gave Starz an effing clue?!? Give that person an award and allow them to speak through the cue music. We’d all love to believe that the genius is Showrunner 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) and Creator Courtney Kemp Agboh of the Network’s hit Power. And I’m sure to some extent it is. 50 lived(s) a relatable life as seen in Get Rich or Die Tryin. We were all pretty shocked by his acting skills. Many a person has tried to “play” themselves and ended up “playing” their acting career. He’s obviously got the mind of a mogul with his music, marketing deals and clothing lines. So, why not try his hand in TV?
But I’m not fooled by the name and the fame of 50 Cents’ Power (pun intended). Someone at the Network had to give this show, and diverse audiences, a chance. That’s all it’s about. Major Networks don’t have much diverse programming because since the 90’s diverse programming hasn’t proven successful. Networks aren’t putting their money up on a chance. But Starz did. And I want to know who took that chance. He or she is the real MVP. The Network Executive along with the Creators and Producers built a show filled with drama, action, plot twists and likeable characters without the hooting and hollering of fanning church women and preachy themes found in many a Tyler Perry drama…dramedy…parody…Perrady (I feel like his content is in it’s own lane. A lane I’ll never drive in but still…)
Because of Power’s success, the Network became open to more programming for people of color. One of my fave shows at the moment (blog post to come) is Survivor’s Remorse. And yes, another big name got another Starz show in the door and on the docket: Lebron James and business partner Maverick Carter. I can’t think of anything in his past that proves he can make a great show with the exception of the simple fact that he can afford to do it. Oh, yeah, and it’s based loosely on his life. Though, there isn’t much playing of basketball in the show. Hmmm…
Anywho, this show is exactly what black audiences have been waiting on: comedy, family, character, and most of all “a lack of lame” (which we find in a lot of black comedies that can’t quite be as comical as they want because of Network demands. White comedy is not black comedy. You don’t have to like or understand it but you must know it’s a fact.) Survivor’s Remorse is cute but not annoying. And it’s funny without feeling like you’re watching a group of black-faced caricatures eating watermelon under a cool shade tree. (Yeah, I said it.)
Mike O’Malley, Showrunner, sums it up perfectly, “We have the freedom on a pay-cable network to tell stories where you’re not limited by subject matter, by whether or not it’s dinner-table talk. It’s just the freedom to see what it’s like behind the scenes.” (USA Today, August 2015). Note to Networks, freedom protects the no lame content zone. Get with it.
Lebron James has a deal with Warner Bros. to develop TV, film and online content. 50 Cent has a two-year exclusive TV pack with Starz to develop more shows through G Unit Film & TV. Courtney Kemp Agboh also has her own overall deal with Starz. So it looks like there will be more diverse programming to come. And guess what? I’ll put my trust in Starz. Like All-State, I feel like I’m in good hands.
Shannan E. Johnson, a writer who doesn't write.