Tuesday, August 5, 2008

An AB.com MultiMedia Exposé: From Cliff Huxtable To Uncle Luke - Black Dads on TV.

So, I'm flipping through the channels the other day, and I notice a gap-toothed blast from the past on VH1.

That's right, Uncle Luke, aka: Luke Skywalker, pka: Captain D*ck, gov't name Luther Campbell has a new reality show, Luke's Parental Advisory. That in and of itself isn't really news. What is news, is that his show is just the latest in a line of like-minded fish-out-of-water "unscripted sitcoms" about Black dads.

First there was A&E's foray into Negro Nonsense, the shortlived trainwreck, Being Bobby Brown.

Then there was Run's House, which is wildly popular for reasons far beyond my comprehension.

Then there was the decidedly low brow Snoop Dogg's Fatherhood.

And then Irv Gotti, who isn't even really all that popular, somehow got a show as well. Unlike the others, Gotti's Way seemed to actually be transparent. It dealt not with some fantasy vision of Pampers and Air Jordans fatherhood, but rather the reality of bad decisions (in this case, adultery) and how they effect one's spouse and kids.

I peeped an episode of this while in the gym (the trainer elliptical TV only has 8 stations, I didn't have much choice). The first episode I saw was kinda interesting, but it got boring pretty quickly.

And then there's the always obnoxious Neon Deion Sanders and his wife's show, Deion & Pilar: PrimeTime Love. Wake me when it's over.

I guess the culumative effect of all these shows in a mixed bag. While it's good to see Black men taking care of their kids and in most cases married, the ancillary plots of sex, misogny, and extramartial affairs that lurk behind the scenes in each show (with the exception of Run's House, to my best knowledge) somewhat ruin the vibe. Yeah, I know that sorta stuff does also occur in real-life, unscripted reality, but does it really need to be broadcast?

Everday life for most Black Husbands and Dads I know is hardly exciting. It's a nonstop cavalcade of packing lunches, reading stories, bathtime, teachable moments, gray hairs, chauffering to activities, and oh yeah, managing to slip in some one-on-one time with the wife as well.

Simply put, being a reasonably good husband and reasonably responsible Dad looks pretty darned square in real-life, unscripted reality. So it's no surprise that these shows choose the most far-out there, screwed up individuals to give shows to. This is all about ratings after all, but at what expense?

Part of me wants badly to like these shows, if for no better reason than the fact that they show that some Black men actually do get married to the women they impregnate. I mean, there has to be something good about that, right? And with the decline of the Black Sitcom, these seem to be about the only images of Black men as hubands and Dads on TV. Seriously, besides the brilliant Everybody Hates Chris, is there a Black Dad anywhere on non-reality TV nowadays?

But by simply repackaging old-school stereotypes and Negro dysfunction as new-school versions of Leave It To Beaver, this latest series of reality shows has me wistful for Cliff Huxtable. Say what you want about shows like The Cosby Show, Family Matters, and Good Times, but at least I didn't cringe when I peeped them. Cliff Huxtable never had to explain to his kids why there was a stripper pole in the basement. James Evans couldn't always pay the rent on time, but you'd never see him wiping a "doody bubble" out of Florida's butt on TV. And Carl Winslow may have had this issues, but... well, okay, let's stop while we're ahead.

Some may see these shows as progress, but honestly, I'm indifferent. We've come a long way since the days of "hurry up and come here, colored man on the TV". But when I peep the promo for Luke's Parental Advisory, I'm just reminded of how much further we've got left to go.

Question: What do you think of this new fad in Black family reality shows? Do these shows actually improve the image of Black fathers/husbands, worsen the image, or not make a darned bit of difference? Do you watch any of them? Can you believe that the man responsible for "Pop That Coochie" and "Me So Horny" has a show about parenthood?

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