Two New Powerful African-American TV Shows Break New Ground

Author: Bill Dudley

Black-Ish and How To Get Away With Murder are two new shows that are very different, yet have a common thread in breaking new ground for African-Americans on network television.

Black-Ish is an “in your face comedy” in the tradition of All In The Family and The Jeffersons, yet still even more progressive.

Anthony Anderson has  weaved the positive elements of the 1980’s Cosby Show featuring a very well off  financially successful suburban black family, with traces of Norman Lear shows that broke all the taboos of their day. Joined by Tracee Ellis Ross (singer Diana Ross’s daughter) as his confidant and successful wife, and a very fiesty Laurence Fishburne, who surprisingly hits the dry comedy lines of a cynical grandpa perfectly well. Who knew Lawrence was so funny?

This is a much better fit for him than his 3 seasons on CSI. The 4 kids, of course, are all very cute and very smart. Is this successful family too comfortable and uncaring of others in their middle class life? Some people think so, but that is the twist. Here is the main reason I love this show, Donald Trump hates it!

How To Get Away With Murder is like no other show I have ever seen on network television.

When N.Y.P.D. Blue burst onto the scene in the early 90’s, it offended many, and entertained even more. It broke new ground that had never been approached before.

This new drama starring the beautiful Viola Davis is doing the same thing, but in some different ways.

While N.Y.P.D. Blue had African American characters in prominent roles, they were not the stars of the show.

Viola Davis, who in my opinion should have won an Oscar for The Help, is clearly THE star of How To Get Away With Murder. She is a firmly established attorney and college professor (Annalise Keating),teaching a huge class of young law students, who may not all be solid citizens.

Many of the students seem very flawed, and some may actually be guilty of murder. Barely two weeks into this show, it is also becoming evident that the star, Viola Davis, just may indeed be a murderer herself. The element of mystery, and diverse cross section of Americans in the cast make “…Murder” a very intriguing guilty pleasure.

The progressive element of this show is not just that a black woman is in the lead role, it’s that she may also be a villain.

This thought process permeates the rest of the young hip cast also.

No adult behavior is ignored or judged in this series including drug use, sleeping with the enemy to get legal documents, and  an un-apologetic gay character, who is very abrasive in all other facets of his character, but not judged by his sexuality.

Young actors Alfred Enock (Wes), Aja Naomi King (Michaela),and Jack Falahee (as Connor, the gay character) are outstanding in their roles. They all will be stars.

Shonda Rhimes never misses, and she is the executive producer of How To Get Away With Murder.

This adult drama is very special, very different, and a big hit.

Black-ish is on Wednesdays at 9:30pm on How To Get Away With Murder is on Thursdays at 10pm, both on ABC.

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