The late ’80s and early ’90s is taken into account by many to be the golden age of sitcoms. Not solely did classics akin to Golden Girls and Full House emerge from this era, however a various array of exhibits took over the airwaves.
‘The Cosby Show’ began a change in Hollywood
With its premiere in 1984, The Cosby Show was the primary present of its variety: to painting an informed, higher middle-class Black household in America in all their highs and lows — all with some good laughs, in fact.
Bill Cosby has been in jail after being convicted of sexual assault in 2018, and The Cosby Show‘s legacy stays tarnished. But on the time of its premiere, The Cosby Show created a sea change in Hollywood for Black actors and exhibits that will final via a lot of the subsequent decade.
‘A Different World’ carried on ‘The Cosby Show’s legacy
The Cosby Show spinoff A Different World premiered simply three years after The Cosby Show did. Other exhibits with predominantly Black casts quickly adopted, akin to Frank’s Place, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, Martin, and the sketch comedy present In Living Color.
A wave of cinema that includes Black actors additionally got here within the ’90s as a result of this elevated publicity of Black life on-screen. Films akin to A Thin Line Between Love and Hate and the Whitney Houston traditional Waiting to Exhale got here out of this era.
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‘A Different World’ was censored — together with different Black sitcoms
Despite the massive presence of Black exhibits within the late ’80s and early ’90s, that doesn’t imply that variety of thought wasn’t restricted. In a latest New York Times story detailing The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘s legacy on race and TV, A Different World director Debbie Allen mirrored on the censorship that was pervasive in TV on the time.
Allen took over directing the present in season 2 after the departure of Cosby Show star Lisa Bonet, and the present started exploring extra severe subjects, together with racial profiling, tokenism, and colorism.
“We dealt with everything,” Allen mentioned. “We dealt with date rape, racism, the LA riots.” A Different World grew to become so well-known for its social commentary that In Living Color even poked enjoyable at it.
But Allen advised the New York Times that there have been nonetheless limitations to what they might do and say. She wasn’t allowed to indicate a condom in an episode about AIDS, which was a lethal epidemic by the late 1980s in determined want of optimistic public messaging.
Show star Jasmine Guy recalled that the community remained reluctant to air that episode even after Whoopi Goldberg and Tisha Campbell agreed to visitor star in it. “It always felt like we were so behind and they weren’t letting us free,” Guy remembered.
Cree Summer, who starred alongside Guy, mentioned there “was a time where the censorship went very deep on these sitcoms.” She counseled Allen for nonetheless pushing via and delivering necessary messages at a time when the world wanted them. “I don’t know how in the hell she got away with it.”