Family Guy, because I love all the gay jokes, 80s pop culture references and the fact it espeouses the views of the left wing Generation xers who write it, people like me. Plus it has excellent character development, the camp but evil baby is a hoot, the drunken dog and big fat Stupid Peter.
I know it can be very crude and silly at times, but its very clever.
Non cartoons, it would have to have been the Cosby Show which ran between 1984 and 1992. Despite the fact people label it as unrealistic, it was funny and always had sensible morals in every episode. It was also the first Black Show to transcend every negative stereotype and cross over into the rich white gut of mainstream television.
The Cosby show also featured a hilarious series of plot lines with the children forever trying to outsmart their parents and never able to do so, over the 8 years the children grow up and their lives enmesh and the whole time love and family is the theme. The interplay between parents Cliff (Bill Cosby) and Claire Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) is also what binds it together.
I also liked the fact it stressed how important education was, and this goes through middle son Theodore (Malcolm Jamal Warner) who starts as a slack 13 year Junior High school kid, go through High School and into college, finds out he has dyslexia in 2nd year college and things get better. The first episode on Sep 20 1984, showing the 13 year old Theo defending his 4 D's on his report card to Cliff with his response "I bought u into this world, and I will take you out".
The last episode, a double aired on April 30 1992 (My 16th birthday, the day I decided to go to uni, so special for me), Theo (aged 21) is graduating with his Bachelors degree in Education, and Cliff goes overboard and invites about 50 people to his graduation, mostly as he is so proud. What a wonderful way to begin and end a programme.
Its human too as you see Denise dropout of school and cruise through life, Rudy slackens off and the last two seasons are dominated by Cousin Pam who is clearly an impoverished inner city black (Although her appearance kind of chimed in with the Fresh Prince of Bel Air).
This show featured rapper Will Smith as a 17 year old street smart kid from Philadelphia sent to LA to go to school and stay out of trouble. He lives with his very conservative upper class Uncle and hilarity ensues. It was a bit unrealistic (Will is 17 through the 1st 3 seasons) but matures from Freshman High School to a college drop out by season 6. It is one my favourites too, and a funny scene is in the second episode where Will picks up a TV guide and says "Yo I see Bill Cosby has his 17 year old street smart niece coming on the show".
Only Oldest daughter Sondra (Played by almost white Sabrina LeBeauf) and 4th child Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsloe) have seamless educational careers, although Sondra is bossy and her relationship with her husband Elvin is funny, while Vanessa's intelligence came with her precociousness and impulsive behaviour. One of the funniest scenes are where Claire is telling Vanessa off for some little stunt she has pulled like going to Baltimore in a Rock Concert when she was 16 and doing a video ho song when she was 14.
What it shows is that people are human and thats why it was supremely good TV, moralistic but not too moralistic. Plus there is Black and Cultural pride in it, in an essence the Huxtables were the first "African Americans" rather than Blacks or Negroes on TV. One very good episode, the elder Huxtables help Theo remember the March on Washington and another about the Tuskegee Airmen inspiring Theo to become a pilot. Another episode after the Kids have all been squabbling, they come together to watch the "I have a dream" speech by Martin Luther King.
Cosby launched a boatload of Black sitcoms, some of which were better (Fresh Prince, early Family Matters) and many worse (Post season 2 Family Matters with all its Urkel nonsense, Sister sister, Jamie Foxx Show, Kenan and Kel).
Before Cosby Black themed shows were rehashed stereotypes like the very racist 1950's Beulah, and 70s nonsense that glamourised poor black stereotypes like Good Times (JJ's big mouth and buffoonery), The Jeffersons, Different Strokes (Rich Yt helping out poor black kids), Steptoe and Son. Cosby when it came out in 1984 was a breath of fresh air, as it did not rely on buffoonery, slang or current trends to enhance its ratings. No one on the first episode was breakdancing or had a jheri curl.
Its honestly something I would love to write a thesis about, because Black TV peaked with Cosby Show and will never reach its heights again.
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