Search - TV in Black: The First Fifty Years on DVD

TV in Black: The First Fifty Years
TV in Black The First Fifty Years
Actors: Muhammad Ali, Jonelle Allen, John Amos, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Desi Arnaz
Genres: Television, Documentary, African American Cinema
NR     2004     1hr 40min

In this extraordinary show the uniquely Black perspective inside the History of Television is explored and celebrated. From Comedy to Politics to Drama, the role Race plays is unflinchingly probed. Original programs and p...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Muhammad Ali, Jonelle Allen, John Amos, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Desi Arnaz
Creators: Michiko Byers, Dante J. Pugliese, Obba Babatunde, Ruth Adkins Robinson, Brandon Christopher
Genres: Television, Documentary, African American Cinema
Sub-Genres: Television, Biography, African American Cinema
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 01/20/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 40min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Gray Areas
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 04/07/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This documentary really touches upon how black folk have to take the good with the bad. Example number one: images of blacks during TV's young days were highly stereotypical and coonish. However, black actors and actresses were getting work and black television viewers finally got to see people like themselves on this new medium. Example number two: "Archie Bunker" featured a racist character. However, he represented a type of American that exists in large numbers. Further, characters that weren't straight, white, male Christians had the chance to read his mess. Further still, this show spun off "The Jeffersons" which remained on TV for ten years. I guess you have to take the good with the bad and the bitter with the sweet.

This documentary brings up many of the themes brought up in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled." The history of black entertainment is riddled with things that are insulting but hilarious. One person interviewed said the contemporary NAACP and countless younger critics have demonized the Steppin Fetchit character. However, you can see aspects of Fetchit's persona in Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Martin Lawrence, and many of Fetchit's spiritual progeny.

They only talked about "Good Times" for a second, and most of it was negative. As a Chicagoan, I admit that I'm partial to that show. Still, I don't know a single black person that didn't love at least the first years of the show. In E!'s "True Hollywood Story," the narrator mentions that "'Good Times' has become part of the African-American lexicon." I hated seeing mah show swept to the side in this documentary. Maybe they did it because of time considerations. No matter, the scant and negative coverage served an injustice to that seminal sitcom.

This documentary felt like something that would show on ABC on a Saturday afternoon. The directors interview a ton of people. They do not just interview actors, but screenwriters and academics as well. O. Babatunde is interviewed and also narrates the work; I've never seen one person perform both of those roles in a documentary. Here you get to see Eriq LaSalle's beautiful lips and Smokey Robinson's beautiful eyes. I usually can't stand Paul Rooney. (Anyone who says "Modern TV is racist. Look at 'Casablanca.'" must have serious issues, including not knowing what year it is.) Here, he was very insightful and it turns out that he was a longtime screenwriter, not just a bitter Johnny-come-lately. Both men and women are interviewed here. For example, the comedienne Mo'Nique has great comments to add to this work.

I'm sure that black TV fans (at least, those my age or older) have seen documentaries like this on numerous occasions. Still, this was a nice work. Maybe it is something that grandparents or parents can buy for their adolescent or teenaged children."