As the country takes time in February
to recognize and celebrate Black History Month, several
scripted series featuring predominantly African-American
casts are creating their own history within the cable
BET this month successfully resurrected the footballthemed
comedy The Game and its mostly African-American
cast from the cutting floor of broadcast network The
CW and drew 7.7 million viewers for the series premiere
— the biggest audience for a sitcom debut in cable history.
That record had been held at one point by another comedy
series that also features a strong African-American
cast, TBS’s Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. That series also
holds the distinction of being television’s first sitcom to receive
a mind-boggling up-front network order of 100 episodes.
That milestone was matched recently by the Ice Cube-produced
comedy Are We There Yet?, also airing on TBS. The series, based on the
successful movie franchise of the same name, is currently averaging
2.4 million viewers since it began its second season shortly
after the first of the year.
Other January series launches such as TV One’s Love That
Girl! and BET’s Let’s Stay Together, as well as TBS’s veteran
laugher Meet the Browns, give cable the distinction of delivering
the most series with predominately African-American
casts to TV viewers since the early 1990s, when such shows
as The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Family Matters, A
Different World and Roc aired on broadcast networks.
More important, these shows are resonating with audiences
looking for an opportunity to laugh and be entertained.
Young viewers in particular are tuning in — the Jan.
18 episode of The Game drew 3.7 million adult viewers 18-
49 and 2.4 million viewers 18-34, behind only MTV’s breakout
reality hit Jersey Shore.
BET’s relationship-tinged comedy Let’s Stay Together also consistently
finishes among the top 20 cable shows in the respective youth demos.
The success of these shows gives viewers and the industry much to