Compiling a list of the ten best black TV shows of all time is not easy given the variety of fantastic TV series that have come out throughout the years. At one time, television shows about the lives of African-Americans were few and far between, but that’s starting to change.
Now, we not only have predominantly black-led cast, but we also have more black producers, directors, and owners of major studios and networks. So although we could never create a list that everyone would agree on, here is our list of some of the best black TV shows of all-time.
Best Black TV Shows – Theme Songs Playlist
Best Black TV Shows List
Network: ABC Genre: Sitcom Aired: 9/24/2014 Seasons: 6
The world changed a lot since the days of The Cosby Show, and that became the theme behind Black-ish. A modern-day Cliff and Claire, which are now Andre and Rainbow Johnson, are raising their kids in a new world and how they are navigating their way. Just like the Cosby Show, Rainbow and Andre are successful in their careers, raising their five kids in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
Over the years, Black-ish has dealt with topics such as racism, class, and divorce. Black-ish also has two spin-offs from the show Grown-ish, about their oldest daughter Zoe’s life as a college student and Mixed-ish, which deals with Tracee Ellis Ross’ character Rainbow’s life growing up as a mixed child back in the 1980s.
The Cosby Show
Network: NBC Genre: Sitcom Aired: 9/20/1984 Seasons: 8
Just like the Jeffersons before it, The Cosby Show was one of the first programs that focused on the life of an African American family, Cliff, and Claire Huxtable, and their five children. The Cosby Show was the first television series that featured two black parents in very successful careers raising their kids in the suburbs of New York City.
The Cosby Show was touching, funny, and it taught some powerful lessons. Unfortunately, over the past few years since Bill Cosby went to jail over rape charges, a lot of networks have shied away from airing the show; however, it still doesn’t diminish its importance on society to this day.
A Different World
Network: NBC Genre: Sitcom Aired: 9/24/1987 Seasons: 6
A Different World was supposed to be a spin-off for one of the Huxtables oldest daughters, Denise, as she ventures off to life at Hillman College after graduating high-school. The character of Denise ends up dropping out of college, and the show changed its focus to the two breakout characters Whitley Gilbert and Dewayne Wayne.
A Different World was significant because this was the first time America has seen life from the prospect of black college students. This show influenced several African-Americans to attend college. It also made stars out of Sinbad, Jada Pickett Smith, and even rapper Tupac appeared on the show.
Network: CBS Genre: Sitcom Aired: 1/18/1975 Seasons: 11
Now, there were other African-American comedies back in the 1970s, but this show was the first to show an African-American family who had come up in the world. George and Louise Jefferson’s first introduction to the world was on the sitcom All in the Family. They were the neighbors of bigot Archie Bunker, but one day George, his wife, and his son Lionel moved as the song said, to a deluxe apartment on the East side of town.
The Jeffersons was a massive success and it ran for over a decade. The show dealt with issues such as class and racism, which are still significant problems to this today.
Network: NBC Genre: Sitcom Aired: 9/17/1968 Seasons: 3
Julia was the first African-American show that was led by a black woman, Diane Carroll. Diane Carroll was a nurse and a single mother trying to balance her life and career. The show lasted for three seasons, and it opened the door for other black sitcoms to come along like the Jeffersons, Good Times, and Sanford and Son.
Network: ABC Genre: Medical Drama Aired: 3/27/2005 Seasons: 16
Some may question why Grey’s Anatomy is on the list. Well, it is one of the longest-running shows in history, which featured a diverse cast, and it was written and produced by a black woman, Shonda Rhimes. Set in a Seattle hospital, Grey’s Anatomy deals with the lives of the doctors on staff. Most of the black actors on the show are in leadership positions, which is great to see, and the show mainly revolves around them.
Although the lead role of the show is white, the show is still popular among African-American audiences. The show also helped boost the career of Rhimes, who went on to write and produce several shows for ABC, including Private Practice (a spin-off of Grey’s) and the very popular How to Get Away With Murder, which wraps up this past season.
Network: OWN Genre: Drama Aired: 9/6/2016 Seasons: 4
One of the first successful drama series that the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) network produced was Queen Sugar, which is going into its 5th season. The story revolves around the lives, loves, and heartbreaks of the Bordelon family of Louisiana who came back together after their father’s death. The show has touched the hearts of millions, and it has propelled producer Ava Duvernay to new heights in her career and has opened the door for others as well.
Network: ABC Genre: Political Thriller Aired: 4/5/2012 Seasons: 7
For only the second time in television history, there was a black female leading role. Diane Carroll, as mentioned before, was the first, and Kerry Washington was the second, but she was the first black woman to lead a major television drama. Scandal told the story of Olivia Pope, who was a fixer in Washington DC and her scandalous life. The show was a hit not only among black audiences but white audiences as well.
The Oprah Winfrey Show
Network: Syndication Genre: Talk Show Aired: 9/8/1986 Seasons: 25
Oprah Winfrey was the first black woman to have her own nationally syndicated talk show that lasted for 25 years. Because she executive produced her show, Oprah became a household name across America, and it helped her to become the first female black billionaire.
The Oprah Winfrey Show dealt with topics that most other talk shows never talked about before, such as racism and sexual abuse. Oprah remains very popular to this day, and she even created a network called OWN, which produces quality, mostly African-American programming.
Network: Syndication Genre: Music/Dance Aired: 11/2/1971 Seasons: 35
Soul Train was the first program to feature African-American artists every week. However it was more than about the music, it was about showcasing the latest fashions and dance moves too.
Soul Train stayed on the air many years even after American Bandstand was gone. While Soul Train featured many black artists, it also introduced a lot of white artists to the world.