Since 1968, there have been dozens of programs on American TV featuring a relatively diverse array of Black families. But for many years within this span of time, there has been what has felt like a drought of Black imagery, a “whiteout,” if you will. Many of our shows essentially came and went, while programs featuring White families continued to dominate the airwaves.
Today, however, Black faces are finally all over the network and cable television lineups, and megahits such as ABC’s black-ish, a sitcom featuring the Johnson clan, and FOX’s Empire, with the infamous Lyons, have Hollywood scrambling to find the next hot Black family for prime-time TV. Blowing record ratings out of the box during season one, Empire became the first program in the history of Nielsen’s People Meters to grow in total viewers with each episode following its premiere. The unprecedented success has led to what Hollywood now calls “The Empire Effect.”
“Seventy-four lead roles were cast for Black people this season alone, which I think has never happened in the history of TV. And it’s all because Empire pulled in a rating not thought possible,” says actress Loretta Devine, whose new family sitcom, The Carmichael Show, airs Wednesday nights on NBC. “They think everybody wants to see somebody Black. You will see more Black women on television in leading roles. You will see more Black product. But we don’t know if it’s going to last.”
Read more in the November 2015 issue of EBONY Magazine.