TV In Black – The First Fifty Years (Documentary)
C+ Sound: C+ Extras: D Main Program: B
have been a few looks at African Americans on TV, going back to the beginning
of the medium when they were barely seen.
From those lean days, to groundbreaking shows in the 1960s and 1970s, to
the ups and downs of the medium in its current state, TV In Black – The First Fifty Years (2003) is the most thorough
look at the history and contributions these talents made to the medium. When all is said and done, you realize how
much worse TV would have been without black talent.
rarely seen clips and little known facts, including prejudice against the likes
of Dinah Shore for just having reached out to touch a black guest (resulting in
the rumor that she had one black parent), it works its way to Bill Cosby on I Spy, The Flip Wilson Show, Diahann Carroll as Julia, and somehow misses Gail Fisher as Peggy on Mannix and Greg Morris on Mission: Impossible. After Room
222, it moves on to the Norman Lear sitcoms (All In The Family, The
Jeffersons, Sanford & Son
and Good Times among them). After rollback in the 1980s, even after The Cosby Show and the bolder Frank’s Place, a modern era kicks in
where African Americans take a more permanent place in the medium for good.
about 100 minutes and very well rounded.
There are many new interviews done for the program as well. This is exceptionally well thought out and
presented. It also reminds us about how
good and priceless quality TV can be.
This is a must-see documentary that everyone who loves TV can
appreciate, no matter who they are.
screen image is varied, but originated on analog videotape. This is good enough, especially when you see
the many archive clips that have survived.
The big surprise is clips on film to promote the videotaped Norman Lear
sitcoms, something with in the program that we are not seeing in the many DVD
boxed sets of these shows from Columbia-TriStar Home Video. The rich amount of rarely seen clips here
will be rarely repeated due to all the renewed copyright concerns, making all
this very archival for fans. The Dolby
Digital 2.0 sound is simple stereo, but just fine for what it is, but it is
void of surrounds.
also be said that there are no explicit extras, but the main program is loaded
with so many clips, you will not notice as much. I was also impressed with the way the show
dealt with stereotypes, as well as their various aspects and types, a debate
that continues to this day. Points go to
the actress Monique for never forgetting that it is a business like any other
in her interview segments. If you have
lost track of some important steps forward in TV because it has become so bad
that you tuned out, TV In Black – The
First Fifty Years shows there is hope for the old boob tube yet.
- Nicholas Sheffo