VOICE OVER: Andrew Tejada
The 90s had some great TV shows with terrific Black ensemble casts. For this list, we'll be looking at the best programs featuring predominantly Black casts that started airing in the decade right before the millenium. Our countdown includes "The Wayans Bros." (1995-99), "Living Single" (1993-98), "The Jamie Foxx Show" (1996-2001), "Martin" (1992-97), and more!
Script written by AndrewTejada
The 90s had some great TV shows with terrific Black ensemble casts. For this list, we’ll be looking at the best programs featuring predominantly Black casts that started airing in the decade right before the millenium. Our countdown includes "The Wayans Bros." (1995-99), "Living Single" (1993-98), "The Jamie Foxx Show" (1996-2001), "Martin" (1992-97), and more! Which one of these shows did you watch the most? Tell us all about it in the comments!
#10: “The Famous Jett Jackson” (1998-2001)
After the young Jett Jackson finds fame starring in an action tv series in California, he pushes for the show to start filming in his North Carolina hometown. This allows him to balance his tv commitments with a normal life. The show’s fun premise gave audiences the chance to see a Black lead take charge in both the entertainment industry and local affairs. And when we weren’t seeing fun action scenes, Jett and his family often appeared in realistic and hard-hitting plots. Although the show only ran for a short time, it kept its fantastic concept fresh while making a big splash for Black representation.. Jett’s mission to make a compelling show was a complete success.
#9: “The Jamie Foxx Show” (1996–2001)
While Jamie pursues his artistic dreams, he earns money by getting a job at a hotel named King’s Tower. The quirky customers and even quirkier staff made this show worth checking into week after week. Cast members like the great Garrett Morris and future star Garclle Beauvais shined in every scene they were in. Fortunately, Jamie has as much chemistry with those fantastic ensemble members as he did with the frequent guest stars. They could all get into truly ridiculous situations because the show wasn’t afraid to get weird. While we don’t know if the King’s hotel would get 5 stars on yelp, “The Jamie Foxx Show” is a top tier 90s show.
#8: “Kenan & Kel” (1996–2000)
Once Coolio's incredible theme song had finished playing, viewers were dropped into an iconic duo’s zany world. In each episode, Kenan would drag his goofy best friend Kel into an elaborate scheme. Their family members and loved ones typically ended up paying a hilarious price for the lead character’s ambition. While the show was aimed at a younger audience, its diverse cast pulled off some complex fourth wall comedic bits. The ensemble routinely interacted with the studio audience while acknowledging how absurd their world was. And the show had way too many character catchphrases to count. Decades after the last episode aired, “Kenan & Kel'' stands as a great showcase for diversity and one of Nickelodeon’s best comedies.
#7: “The Wayans Bros.” (1995–1999)
Giving real life Brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans their own sitcom was a pure stroke of comedic genius. The duo filled each episode with clever jokes that poke fun at society and edgy humor that still might turn heads today. And just when you didn't think the show could get any better, you discover that their father is played by the legendary John Witherspoon. Watching the three men bounce off of each other was like watching a comedy masterclass. While a few of the supporting characters came and went, the show always put a spotlight on Black performers. We think these brothers deserve more than a few high fives for creating such a fun sitcom.
#6: “Sister, Sister” (1994–1999)
Despite being separated shortly after birth, Tia and Tamera finally discover each other again in a mall. The sisters quickly decide to stay together under one roof. Since they were raised by two very different people, there’s plenty of wacky misunderstandings and arguments. But at the end of the day, the audience is reminded that the house this blended family lives in is full of love. “Sister, Sister” also put great spins on sitcom staples like the annoying neighbor while packing strong dramatic twists. Ultimately, the reunion of long lost twins led to a blended family sitcom that was a staple of many childhoods.
#5: “Martin” (1992–1997)
This sitcom about a radio dj’s daily life and mishaps was a big ratings hit when it first started running. One of the big reasons it might have been so beloved comes down to its ridiculously stacked cast. Outside of the title character, actors like Tichina Arnold, Carl Anthony Payne II and Tisha Campbell consistently nailed their roles. Even characters like brother man from the fifth flo could steal the show with just a couple of minutes of screentime. Their performances made what could’ve been run of the mill sitcom plots into must see comedic adventures. After the show, a few core members of the ensemble starred in hugely successful sitcoms. Their continued success was further proof of how amazing Martin’s cast was.
#4: “Living Single” (1993–1998)
“Living Single” focused on six adults managing relationship and career problems in New York. While the setup sounded like “Friends”, this Black led sitcom was actually broadcast first. Although “Living Single” may not have achieved the same level of pop culture fame, it definitely brought a lot of superb elements to the table. Seeing the cast of professionals thrive in non-stereotypical roles was a great step forward for Black representation on TV. It also helped that the main ensemble was full of superb actors. Everyone from Queen Latifah’s Khadijah to recurring talents like Cress Williams’ Terrence brought their A-game to every episode. If you haven’t gotten to know this group of friends yet, now’s a great time to treat yourself to their stories.
#3: “Moesha” (1996–2001)
Although Brandy’s Moesha dealt with loss, an unfaithful partner and issues around her father remarrying in the show’s debut, we still found ourselves laughing throughout the story. This episode was a great preview of how entertaining and impactful each episode would be. Moesha’s cast was full of complex Black characters learning important lessons and trying to better themselves. And the show also took time to show that adults can be just as flawed as growing high schoolers. During this sitcom’s successful run, Moesha’s friend Kim was able to help launch the warmly received “The Parkers” show. Both programs were beloved for the realistic, funny and emotional depictions of beautiful Black lives.
#2: “In Living Color” (1990–1994)
Keenen Ivory Wayans assembled a dream team of comic giants for the Emmy-award winning sketch show “In Living Color”. Not only did he work with his hilarious siblings, but he also brought in actors like Jamie Foxx and T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh before they got really famous. Every single member of the cast created iconic characters we still laugh at and quote decades later. And the ensemble could effortlessly go from making silly parodies to utilizing humor to shine the spotlight on heavier topics. During its brief yet brilliant run, “In Living Color” left us in stitches and made us think about the world around us. While this wasn’t the last great Black sketch comedy show, “In Living Color” is still one of the best.
Before we highlight our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Smart Guy” (1997–1999)
This Sitcom About a Boy Genius Is Beloved Enough to Spark Revival Conversations
“Cousin Skeeter” (1998–2001)
While the Puppet Premise Was Odd, the Show Still Addressed Real Issues in Impactful Ways
“Hangin' with Mr. Cooper” (1992–1997)
This Series Centered on a Former Athlete Had an Excellent Cast & Great Messages
“Gullah, Gullah Island” (1994–1998)
A Heartwarming Series Aimed at Younger Audiences With an Excellent Theme Song
“The Steve Harvey Show” (1996-2002)
The Famous Comedian’s School Themed Show Was Funny & Taught Good Lessons
#1: “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990–1996)
It is physically impossible to think about black 90s sitcoms without thinking of the Fresh Prince. Will Smith starred as a teenager who moved from west Philadelphia to his uncle's upscale Bel-air house. HiLlary, Carlton, Phil and the rest he met somehow felt both larger than life and relatable. Seeing Will and his affluent relatives struggle to understand each other’s perspectives helped reinforce the idea that there’s no one way to be Black. And despite their differences, the entire family came together when it counted. The characters and stories told on this heartwarming and hilarious sitcom have resonated with fans worldwide. We’re thankful to this ensemble for teaching us that no matter where we came from, we’d be welcome at their home in Bel-Air.