You know all those so-called reality TV shows where women are drinking, fighting and pulling each other's hair over everything?
Niecy Nash says her new unscripted show has one thing in common with them:
It stars a woman.
"I didn't think I was a good fit for reality television, because, you know, (it's) so combative and volatile," said Nash (Reno 911), whose unscripted "docu-comedy" Leave It to Niecy premiered on TLC Sunday at 10 p.m. "I'm a lover, not a fighter. … If you want to take a break from seeing somebody get slapped in the mouth, you can watch Leave It to Niecy."
But Nash's show may also be the tip of a tantalizing trend, as a small but growing number of cable channels develop TV series starring and targeting African-American women.
On female-centered WE tv, African-American gospel duo Mary Mary debuts their self-titled, unscripted show at 10 p.m Thursday, airing just behind the season finale of the channel's most successful series, Braxton Family Values.
The Braxton show, centered on the drama among R&B singer Toni Braxton's mother and sisters, draws nearly 1 million viewers weekly, 88 percent of whom are black.
The channel plans to feature shows focused on black women each Thursday for 18 months, including Hair Divas: Hollywood, an unscripted show focused on Beyonce and Mary J. Blige hairstylist Kim Kimble and a Braxton spinoff centered on youngest sister Tamar.
"Once (Braxton Family Values) hit the air, it became clear people related to relationship between the sisters," said WE tv president Kim Martin. "African-American women are an underserved audience. But we're also programming to women across America who are putting family at the center of their lives."
That's a common response to questions about targeting black viewers, said R. Thomas Umstead, a reporter for the industry trade magazine Multichannel News, who wrote about the trend back in November.
He said the family-friendly channel GMC had begun "quietly" creating original gospel plays filmed for television; the same kinds of stage productions that made Tyler Perry a name in black households.
But some channels are wary of being pidgeonholed as solely black-centered, even as they reach out to the new audience, Umstead said.
"They realize there's an audience out there of black women who are becoming more affluent," he added. (Black households, where women make most purchasing decisions, spend $1 trillion annually, according to Nielsen.) "They're the ones paying cable bills, going shopping…It's a perfect storm for the advertiser if they know how to reach them."
Already, channels such as TBS, VH1 and Bravo offer similar series such as Tyler Perry's House of Payne, Basketball Wives, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
But some channels that have always targeted black women wonder if their new competition will stay devoted to the audience they are courting.
"African-American women watch more television than any other demographic group," said Wonya Lucas, president of TV One. "Many of these networks have targeted women for years, but never really paid any attention to African-American women."
Nash said her new show might not fit the trend; she developed it after starring in a wedding special for TLC in June that drew nearly 5 million viewers.
Still, she understands why black women may flock to shows starring women who look like them.
"If you don't see yourself, you're hungry to find women who you identify with," she said.