Why The Black TV Reboots I Crave May Not Be What We Need

Photo: Fox/Photofest.
The past few years have brought a surge in reboots and remakes of older classics. Full House, Gilmore Girls, and even Twin Peaks have returned to give fans a healthy dose of nostalgia.For fans of Black pop culture in the ‘90s, the question has been: Where is our reboot?! There is an extensive list of shows that we would love to see returned to their former glory: Living Single, Girlfriends, and Martin are among those at the top of my list. The thought of seeing some of the great performers reprise their roles makes me giddy.
What made these specific shows so interesting was that they focused on Black young adults navigating life independently. By veering away from the universally recognized nuclear family model, they opened up dialogue about issues like sex, friendships, work, and relationships in a uniquely Black context, without shame or tired tropes. I can’t help but notice that an absence of the great Black reboot is reflective of a larger issue with Hollywood refusing to lean into this demographic.
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Shows about millennials almost never include Black people. And when they do, it’s for visibility only. Black people are sprinkled sparingly into episodes of Girls. They assimilate and blend in with their white counterparts on shows like Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why. They cease to exist on shows like 2 Broke Girls. Shows about Black people often rely on the nuclear family model as the anchor to make them relatable. Black-ish and The Carmichael Show come to mind here. All of these are great shows, but they definitely skew toward the issues and interests of an older generation.
Inevitably, the reboots we crave of our ‘90s gems would fall into these same formations, because everyone would have grown up. The women on Girlfriends were already out of their 20s and experiencing divorce. Gina and Martin would be sending their children to college by now. The same could be said for Will and Carlton, while Ashley Banks adjusts to being a mom. Queen Latifah is still living her best life, but I imagine that Khadijah is struggling to adjust to the digital shift in the magazine industry. She probably has more millennials working for her than anyone.
When Insecure and Atlanta sparkled during this year’s awards season, it was a reminder that stories about Black millennials matter, too. We exist to do more than provide trendy references, cool supporting roles, and dope soundtracks to shows about the misadventures of our white peers.
And for what it’s worth, it seems that at least one platform, Netflix, has been listening. Not only did it win the bidding war for the Lupita and Rihanna dream film, the streaming powerhouse brought us Dear White People and will soon be giving She’s Gotta Have It — Spike Lee’s first “joint” — the series treatment. Young Black culture is lit. Netflix has their cameras out to capture it. The rest of Hollywood needs to catch up.
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