So finally I get to television shows. I'm not going to just expound on the shows that I like or are my favorites, though they are, but the ones that have impacted my life. Shows that have influenced the person that I am. First, I will announce them and then break down their influence.
1. Soul Train
2. The Cosby Show
3. Highlander: The Series
4. New York Undercover
5. Shaka Zulu
Soul Train is on this list because it is my first memory of television. It's not an episodic story driven show. It was a music/dance show that featured Black musical artists who could not get spots to perform on equivalent shows like American Bandstand. It was started and run by Don Cornelius, who recently passed away. Soul Train stands as the perfect example of 'if they won't let us in with them then we'll do our own thing without them'. Every Saturday morning in my earliest years I sat in front of the television and watched proud and beautiful people that looked like my family and the people in my life dancing and having fun to wonderfully beautiful music. I've always attributed my strong sense of self to learning the history of Black people in america at a very young age but this very simple yet highly important show was the genesis of instilling that in me. It also introduced me to my favorite song and music video of all time, The Jacksons' "Can You Feel It".
The Cosby Show is THE best sitcom ever produced for television. Here you have the wonderful Huxtable family: Father and husband Heathcliff is a doctor, Mother and wife Clair is a lawyer, eldest child Sondra is away at college, and Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy all live at home and are in school. The brainchild of the brilliant comedian and actor, Bill Cosby, this family show ran for 8 seasons, 1984-1992. It was the #1 television program for 5 consecutive seasons, '85-'90. What was most significant about the show at the time it first aired, was many people had never seen an affluent, professional and well adjusted Black family on television before. Many people thought is was the most ridiculous fiction ever conceived, though there were many families across the country that identified with this fictional family and the life they portrayed. Claire and Cliff Huxtable became america's Mom and Dad and made television history doing it.
Highlander: The Series is my favorite TV show. It is a spin-off from the 1986 film "Highlander", one of my favorite movies. The storyline of the show is about the life of Duncan MacLeod, an almost 400 year old man, who is essentially immortal and must keep this knowledge secret. The only way he can die is if he is decapitated. There are other immortals as well, and they battle one-on-one until, ultimately, only one is left. Yes I like the sword fights but that is not the reason the show is my favorite and so good. The character Duncan MacLeod, portrayed excellently by Adrian Paul, is one of the most fully fleshed out characters ever on television. With nearly 400 years of living among normal humans, there are ample opportunities to explore the human condition. This show in it's 6 seasons have explored the gamut of human emotions and motivations. Friendship, love, honor, hatred, anger, promises, loss, and all other emotions you can think of were explored in the experience of Duncan MacLeod.
New York Undercover was one of my favorite shows because it was one of the first times I saw a show based in New York, my home, that showed New York as I saw it everyday, with people who looked like myself and people I knew. It was truly the only multi-ethnic and multi-cultural show at the time of its run, from 1994-1998. I could completely identify with Detectives J. C. Williams and Eddie Torres, played wonderfully by Malik Yoba and Michael DeLorenzo respectively. I wasn't just watching a show when I sat down to watch New York Undercover, I was watching my life as it could possibly be. Nothing on televsion has existed like New York Undercover before it or since it went off the air, with the exception of The Wire.
Shaka Zulu is my favorite made for TV epic mini-series. I remember being captivated by the story of Shaka Zulu as it played out on the screen when I was 10 years old. The fictionalized biography of this great Zulu king was mesmerizing to my young mind. It chronicled his life from before he was born until his death over 10 50 minute episodes. You fully got to see Shaka's motivation to power, how he changed the way in which war was fought, and how he built the mighty Zulu Empire.
I love good stories and great characters and all of these shows have that in abundance, with the exception of Soul Train, which was great as a music and dance show and one of a kind.