Color by Fox: The Fox Network and the Revolution in Black Television

Color by Fox: The Fox Network and the Revolution in Black Television

Color by Fox: The Fox Network and the Revolution in Black Television

Color by Fox: The Fox Network and the Revolution in Black Television

Synopsis

Offering a fascinating examination of the explosion of black television programming in the 1980s and 1990s, this book provides, for the first time ever, an interpretation of black TV based in both journalism and critical theory. Locating a persistent black nationalist desire--a yearning for home and community--in the shows produced by and for African-Americans in this period, Zook shows how the Fox hip-hop sitcom both reinforced and rebelled against earlier black sitcoms from the sixties and seventies. Incorporating interviews with such prominent executives, producers, and stars as Keenan Ivory Wayans, Sinbad, Quincy Jones, Robert Townsend, Charles Dutton, Yvette Lee Bowser, Ralph Farquhar, and Susan Fales, this study looks at both production and reception among African-American viewers, providing nuanced readings of the shows themselves as well as the sociopolitical contexts in which they emerged. While black TV during this period may seem trivial or buffoonish to some, Sly as a Fox reveals its deep-rooted ties to African-American protest literature and autobiography, and a desire for social transformation.

Excerpt

In the 1980s much was made of the The Cosby Show's challenge to black "authenticity." With its doctor-lawyer parents and collegebound kids, Cosby was a controversial attempt to uncouple blackness and poverty. But what most cultural theorists failed to note was the ongoing nature of this representational struggle, which reached new heights with the 1990 debut of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Although sold as a lighthearted, "fish-out-of-water" tale (a combination of The Beverly Hillbillies and Diff'rent Strokes), the ideological tensions underlying this sitcom were far from frivolous. Rather, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was a collective autobiographical narrative about the traumas of integration in a post-civil-rights era. Not only did it take the black upper class for granted, as had Cosby, but it also wrestled, frequently and openly, with economic and cultural mobility.

The show's premise revolved around an inner-city teen who was forced to relocate to the wealthy, predominately white community of Bel Air, California. The opening credit sequence sets the stage, as actor Will Smith (the real-life rapper formerly . . .

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