Television Shows That Changed The Game

Television Shows that Shaped Black History

Amos n Andy (1951-1953) – Was the first T.V. show to feature an all black cast; originated in radio then began production in television; focused on Georgia natives Amos Jones and Andy Brown and their journey to Chicago for better lives; sparked controversy with the Pittsburg Courier and the NAACP and was cancelled as a result; brought black faces to television and paved the way for many black shows to come.
The Cosby Show (1984-1992)- Portrayed an affluent African American family and, in doing so, broke traditional stereotypes; helped to make possible a larger variety of shows based on African Americans, from In Living Color to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; was TV’s biggest hit in the 1980s; one of only three American programs that have been #1 in the Nielsen ratings for at least five consecutive seasons; won Emmy awards for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series (1984) and Outstanding Comedy Series (1985) and Golden Globe awards for Best TV Series (1985) and Best Performance by an Actor in TV Series-Comedy (1985-86);  changed America’s image of the typical African American family
The Nat “King” Cole Show (1956-1957)- Was one of the first variety/talk shows to feature an African American as the Host (this made the show controversial from the start); lasted only about a year due to the Music/Variety genre’s lack of public support during this time (many other music shows met the same fate)
The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986-Present)- Was the highest rated and longest running daytime talk show in American television history; hosted by the first female African American billionaire and the second African American billionaire; has branched off into other successful projects like the “Oprah and Friends” XM Radio show and The Oprah Magazine; has won over 56 Daytime Emmy Awards; has been incredibly influential to women, especially, and has dug deep into American Pop-Culture over the course of its run
The Arsenio Hall Show (1989-1994)- Opened doors for African American entertainers that were traditionally closed by the other late-night shows; was largely recognized because of its hip, casual, and relatable method of reaching out to the ignored audience: African Americans, Latinos and what at the time was know as the “MTV Generation”; won the 1995 “Outstanding Variety Series” award and the 1993 “Outstanding Variety Series/Special” from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); impacted television not only through entertainment, but through education as well (Civil Rights advocacy and Safe Sex promotion)
Roots (1977)- Was a miniseries adapted from Alex Haley’s work “Roots: The Saga of an American Family”; 3rd highest rated American television program ever; won 9 Emmy Awards out of 36 nominations; depicted slavery using an effective narration style, and brought the enlightening but realistic atrocity of 16th and 17th Century bondage into the homes of thousands
Eyes on the Prize (1987)- Was adopted as a key reference and record of the Civil Rights Movement; Nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentation Feature
Soul Train (1971-2006)- the first culturally black music variety show ever offered on American television; one of the longest syndicated programs in American television history
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972-1985)- Was the first cartoon of the 1970s to ever represent the black community; followed the adventures of Fat Albert, a charismatic personality from North Philadelphia, and his enthusiastic and eager to learn group of friends; received an Emmy nomination in 1974; placed number 12 on TV Guide’s “50 Greatest Cartoons of All time in” in 2002; sought to educate the younger members of society through story-telling and appealing animation

Honorable Mention

Julia (1968-1971)- Was the first weekly series to feature a non-stereotypical African American female as the lead; centered on a widowed single mother who worked as a nurse in a doctor’s office; star Diahann Carroll was nominated once for an Emmy Award, and won 2 awards, one a Golden Globe and the other a TV Land award; the show overall was nominated for 10 awards (half of them being Emmy Awards); shined a light on the strength of African American women
I Spy (1965-1968)- Was the first American television drama to feature an African American (Bill Cosby) in a lead role; was recognized not only because it fueled the “Secret Agent” craze of the late 1960s, but also because it was written so that witty banter always existed between the two protagonists; won “Best Dramatic Series” at the 1967 Golden Globe Awards and received 3 consecutive Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Bill Cosby)