Can a black marriage that doesn’t involve Heathcliff and Clair hold America’s attention during primetime?

I generally don’t give a damn about the state of black relationships or I should say that I don’t give a damn about how black relationships have suddenly become a hot topic in the media, blogs, quilting circles, and the 4th St Baptist Pentecostal House of Greater Salvation’s thrice weekly ice cream social at Miss Agnes Davenport’s house. This may sound dismissive on my part but as long as I’m in a healthy, happy I think the relationship crisis is someone else’s imaginary problem that is used to drum up ratings for Night Line and help comedians sell books. (I can be aloof like that sometimes so there.) The portrayal of black relationships did come to my mind at the start of this year’s television season.

Before I go any further riddle me this:

What shows were the following black couples on?

Eddie & Jennifer Sutton


Jonas & Molly Blane

I’ll wait a second…

Eddie and Jennifer Sutton had the lead roles on Lincoln Heights which aired on ABC Family for four seasons. Jonas and Molly Blane were two of the main characters on CBS’s The Unit for four seasons also. Each show lasted a couple of years but met their doom when they were cancelled. Both shows presented something rare on primetime TV, a married black couple in a drama. ***Taye Diggs and Audra McDonald’s characters on Private Practice are now divorced so I won’t count them. ***

Carl and Harriet Winslow, James and Florida Evans, Michael and Jay Kyle, George and Louise Jefferson, and of course Cliff and Clair Huxtable all were main characters in 30 minute comedies but to my knowledge a married black couple of color has never fronted an hour-long prime time show for more than a few years. (I’m actually shocked that The George Lopez Show lasted as long as it did. Think about it, a vato like George married to a Cuban? Maybe that’s why According to Jim lasted longer. Who keeps giving that Belushi guy television shows any way?)

Getting to my point, a few weeks ago Undercovers premiered on NBC in the 8 o’clock time slot on Wednesday night. Starring Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Undercovers is odd because unlike Lincoln Heights which aired on basic cable or The Unit which aired at several time slots and finally died on Sunday nights after football, Undercovers is there for the world to see. Undercovers premiered to an audience of over 8 million which isn’t bad but what I want to know is will the viewing public stick with a quasi-serious show starring not only two black people but two black married people who aren’t doing, dare I say it “black things”?

As I said the show isn’t all grimaces and frowns but there are plenty of action sequences built around two once retired spies who are now caterers. For the most part the main characters, Stephen and Samantha Bloom carry on like any other youngish married couple, they show affection, flirt, and make pithy remarks about one another, kill people, and even do it. This is what I see as a stark contrast to most black couples on hour long shows, whether they were in the forefront of the show or not. There are no downtrodden ghetto obstacles to overcome, just a family business, bad guys, and good guys.

To the Peacock’s credit they have stacked the deck in Undercovers favor. The Blooms are played by the prettiest black folk NBC could find and they’ve also put a solid supporting cast in place to keep the show balanced. (Hell, they even have Major Dad on their side.) So by all accounts can this work without getting treated like a Fox show and getting moved around like The Sarah Connor Chronicles? (As you can see I’m still a little perturbed about that.)

The reason I’m posing all of these questions is because as my boss would say the “P-word” comes into play and by “P-word” I mean perception. Will seeing black people coupled and married on the tele change how black romance perceived by the rest of America? Or will future shows featuring black people insist on dwelling on the darker images of what America sees as black life?

One of my home boy’s coworkers once said to him “XXX… We don’t know any black families like yours. You’re married, educated, with children…” Sure, these are the statements of a few non-black people who obviously see us one way but will they watch a show that features us another way? If my man’s coworkers are taken as a microcosm of their demographic can they wrap their myopic little minds around something they don’t know? (I haven’t asked this many questions since I used to bombard my pops with questions when I was little.)

Will a show with black folks doing what is perceived to be “atypical negro behavior” (That would be a good name for an indie-rock band, Atypical Negro Behavior.”) work or will Undercovers just die a painfully death as a mocha-hued Hart to Hart? (That’s Mrs. Hart, She’s gorgeous!)

We all know successful, upwardly mobile, married black couples but will the world buy into our reality or just change the channel? What do y’all think?

Vaya con Dios?


10 responses to “Can a black marriage that doesn’t involve Heathcliff and Clair hold America’s attention during primetime?

  1. The show will probably die a painful death. My Wife and Kids was a damn good show…and look what happened to it! I’m STILL mad over that one.

    I think the black marriage epidemic is another way for “them” to keep us in the spotlight…negatively. I suppose many more of us are purusing higher education now a days…so they had to find something.

    • My deepest, darkest black male, paranoia wants to say that it is some “plan” but we as a people keep talking about it. “We” do love a mess and “urban” radio an other black media do their best to keep or relationship issues going.

      I do like the show but if it dies I wonder what exactly the cause will be? Is America not watching b/c it’s just two black people or just b/c the think the show sucks? I hope it doesn’t come to that.

      • This is true. “We” do keep talking about it. Alot of the talk isnt even positive or helpful and I think it takes advantage of the vulnerability of the people involved…esepcially the women, ya know?

        • I agree. We do live in an “Oh no he didn’t!” culture. Most of the talk falls under what Ms. Moneypenny would call just “saying stuff” and the bulk of the talk is reckless and laden with street corner generalizations about genders and races that lead to anything but positive results unless book sales and silly-ass movements like No Wedding No Whoopee count.

          What my man’s coworkers asked is what killed me? My response is that you should really meet more black people. Everyone keeps over looking the census stats that say some 90 odd percent of black-Anericans are married to another black-American.

  2. I can only speak to why I don’t watch this show. It’s a retread of a retread and doesn’t appear to come with anything new. Seeing people of a darker complexion is not enough motivation to watch something that doesn’t seem to be any different than other stuff on TV. If Michael Ealy’s fine a** hasn’t gotten me to watch The Good Wife (a show that I am actually hearing good things about) yet, Boris doesn’t stand a chance. *shrugs*

    • Thanks for reading Sanenm It is a retread. Hart to Hart and Mr and Mrs. Smith adopted two light-skinned children(Does that make Scarecrow and Mrs. Kane the God parents? I’ve watched way too much tv in my 31 yrs.) It’s most definitely not Gunsmoke but it’s watchable tv.

  3. First of all let me say, Well written. You write and speak so well..haha.
    Now on the the question. I would like to see this show make it…I really would, but I don’t think it will. Is it because of the black characters doing uncommon black things…I don’t think so. I think it has to do with how the show is being marketed, as a tanned Mr. and Mrs. Smilth.. Most people already saw the movie so they are ready for the next twist. And no twist (other than the fact that actors are black) is being thrown in that 30 second commercial spot. I am going to try my best to see the next episode becuase I completely forgot about checking out the pilot. And to your mention of your friend’s co-worker, I get those type of comments on the regular. These guys usually get comfortable with me and start to ask questions they have wondered most of their lives. I answer them becuase I know if I had a question about them, I would want to ask.. Mind you, we live in the world of “them” so we know a great deal need for questions. But anyway, I let these people get there questions out and then I address the fact that I am what we are. We are different and there are plenty of folks like me out here, if you take the time to know them. I thought about this the other day… I really think that folks just don’t know how to take variations in individuals personalities. whew… thoughts collide.

    • Man they released you early, I thought you got 10?

      Like I said upstream it is heavy on the Smith’s motif but they actually are functional. Like Nas said “No idea is original” maybe modified but not original. (I’m pretty sure No Ordinary Family is a ripe off of The Incredibles which is a ripe off of the Fantastic Four.)
      *Feel the digression*

      As for folks who ask questions like that just don’t effin’ think before they speak. They assume everyone who isn’t like them just leave work and huddles into a dark neighborhood on the outskirts of town. That’s what happens when you never leave your own little space.

  4. Man, As you can see, I am trying to figure out which log in I want to use. I will get it together soon. I will have to get these blogs to start coming to my email again like they did back in the day.

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