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Will the End of the Writers' Strike Also Kill Off Black-Centered TV Shows?



Girlfriendscast One of the troubling footnotes to the fallout from the Hollywood writers' strike is the death of one of TV's longest-running, black-centered TV shows, the CW's Girlfriends.

Like NBC's Scrubs, Girlfriends was thought to be in its final season before the writer's strike. So there wasn't much surprise in Tinseltown when the CW announced the show wasn't coming back when the rest of its programs resumed production.

I've never been a fan of Girlfriends -- it always felt like a low-rent, blackified version of Sex and the City. But I sympathize with those who wonder what this means for the state of black-centered programming on TV. Check out a sample here.

Everybodyhateschris_2When Girlfriends departs, there will be two black-centered shows remaining on network television, both on the CW: the football-centered comedy The Game, and Chris Rock's black version of the Wonder Years, Everybody Hates Chris. And while I don't disagree with those who say the black centered sitcom feels a bit passe -- like hanging a Bell Biv Devoe poster on your wall -- I wonder about a TV landscape where black folks are mostly sidekicks/best friends or cartoonish reality TV caricatures.

The Wire stands as the only TV drama with a predominantly black cast. And, much as critics love the show, Hollywood has mostly ignored it -- its only Emmy award came for its mostly white writing staff two years ago -- and its ratings are down in its final season this year.

Smallville_wallpaper_01 One answer to this question will come, of course, when the CW picks a successor to Girlfriends. Will it be another game attempt to continue the network's one oasis of black-cast shows, or will they throw up another white teen-focused program to nestle against Smallville and One Tree Hill?

Personally, this critic thinks TV needs to re-invent black-centered programming, the way ABC hit Ugly Betty upended what television imagined a Latino-led comedy could be. The CW has a great opportunity to find a new face for black folks on television. The only question is whether they'll take up the challenge.

Here's Girlfriend's creator Mara Brock Akil's statement on the show's end:

Brockakil "Although it's always difficult to say goodbye, I choose to focus my energy on the history that Girlfriends has made, the human stories that we told, the beautifully complex images that we projected and the blessings 172 episodes bestowed on us, both personally and professionally.

I am immensely thankful to the amazingly talented cast, writers, directors, staff and crew for their endless dedication and hard work for eight seasons, to the network that always wanted us and the studio that always supported us, but mostly to the audience, especially African-American women, who took the time to tune into us every Monday night at nine to have a dialog with us and who have been our partner in this journey.  I am currently in talks with the studio and network on putting together a retrospective show which will honor and celebrate this landmark series, so please stay tuned." 

-- Mara Brock Akil, Creator/ Executive Producer of Girlfriends

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:43pm]


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