Why are studios biased in favor of African American shows from the 70s?

Carlos Garcia

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Ok, I have found a strange trend that seems to puzzle me. When it comes to TV sitcoms done on videotape from the 70s, studios seem to have released alot more African American shows than non-African American shows. So far: What's Happening (all 3 seasons), Sanford and Son (all 6 seasons), Good Times (all 6 seasons), The Jeffersons (5 seasons so far)-not complete. Let's compare this to: All in the Family (5 seasons so far)-not complete, No Archie Bunker's Place, No Maude, Barney Miller (1 season then abandoned), No Fish, No Alice, No Flo, No One Day At a Time, Chico and the Man (1 "Best Of" DVD), Welcome Back Kotter (1 "Best Of" DVD), 3's Company (all 8 seasons), No "The Ropers"...Well you see a pattern here? I was just wondering, why is there such a pattern? I mean I enjoyed all of these shows equally, but it just seems like studios were in a rush to get the African American shows out alot sooner than the rest. Was there a reason they did this?
 

Jeff#

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The black shows from the 70s are classics. That's why Good Times, The Jeffersons, Sanford & Son, What's Happening! have all sold so well. "That's My Mama" was not a classic, but there was still enough demand for its 2 years to get it on store shelves.

Both One Day at a Time and Alice....even though they both lasted 9 years, are not classics. The same goes for the less than 2 seasons of "The Ropers", a show that might eventually get released because of the popularity of Three's Company. But it wasn't a classic either.

And you're wrong about Archie Bunker's Place, because Sony put the first season out earlier this year even though All in the Family still has 3 seasons to go.
 

Ronald Epstein

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Carlos,

I would just chalk it up to the fact that the 70s was very
good to African American television, perhaps more than any
other decade before or after. I think what the studios have
been releasing are highly deserved.
 

Amy Mormino

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I think it is because the 70s African American shows have broad audience appeal, unlike today when shows with predominantly black casts unfortunately seem much more marginal. Plus, most of the shows mentioned have been continually rerun, so they can gain new fans. As a result, they probably have a younger and more diverse base that is buying the DVDs.

It is also interesting to note that a lot more of the 70s African American sitcoms have come out on DVD than their counterparts from the last couple of decades.
 

MatthewA

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—These shows' reruns get plenty of air play on broadcast and cable TV.
—They continue to figure strongly in the popular consciousness and popular culture references on other shows.
—They have been successful with blacks and whites alike.
—And, to studios, the most important things, the DVD releases made money.
 

TedT

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I'd like to think that the Black shows from the 70's were just plain better than any of the other shows out there.
 

Jay_B!

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I agree, the black shows of the 70's and 80's were so much more universal. Todays shows are very "niche" instead of shows that everyone can enjoy. Plus, it seems like black and white audiences have become very maginalized. Just compare it to when UPN and WB merged to the CW and very nearly killed Reba (though it is coming back in a few weeks) because it was the only "white" sitcom that wasn't a total bust last season on WB. They didn't even think that they could try to pair it with Girlfriends and see how it goes, maybe there'd be some Reba fans who might like Girlfriends and vice versa if either took the time to watch the other show (and I have a friend who is black and likes both shows, so it is possible). I mean, not that either Reba or Girlfriends is going to be a classic, but still, what happened to the days where Cosby and Family Ties were the hottest one-two punch on television? Cosby fans stuck around for Family Ties and Family Ties fans tuned in for Cosby. Hell, in the 70's, The Jeffersons worked well on the same night as Alice and One Day At A Time, two "white" shows. Why has everything been so marginalized in the past 15 or so years?
 

ScottR

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I think it may be a good thing that Sony is taking its time with All in the Family. So far, none of the episodes have been edited (as opposed to the other titles you mentioned.) Maybe it is a longer wait because Sony is making sure it has the correct masters.
 

Jay_B!

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I think One Day At A Time is a classic, just one that's been lost to time. It was so groundbreaking for it's depiction of women on television, there likely would've never been a Facts Of Life, Golden Girls, Designing Women, Roseanne, Sex And The City, etc... if it didn't open the doors about a female-centric series that tackled feminist issues head on, and dealt with the issue of a divorced mother and was one of the first (if not THE first that caught on) sitcoms where the women were in control, as opposed to the 50's when Lucy always took orders from Ricky or in the 60's when Samantha had to compromise being a witch because Darren wasn't so comfortable. It's totally a classic IMO because most female-centered series of the past 30 years wouldn't have been the same if it didn't come along.

The main reason a lot of people don't know ODAAT is because it's been out of reruns for nearly a decade. I think if TV Land picked it up or something, you'd see the cult grow quite a bit. I definately want the series out on DVD.
 

Ethan Riley

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My take is that the African American sitcoms are easier to market. Notice they always advertise them in those commercials as "urban comedies." There is still a strong "urban" fanbase who will buy those shows. Also, I think the appeal of them goes through both white and black people. White people and black people will buy "The Jeffersons," but presumably black people won't buy "Alice..." perhaps there's nothing in that show to interest them. All the great black comedies of the 70s and 80s crossed the color lines and appealed to everybody--they still do. And by the way, they were funny...that must be a part of it! Whatever's going on, I'm glad Sony's marketing approach is working, 'cause I love my Jeffersons dvds and can't wait for the next one.
 

Jerry R Colvin

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I believe Maude came along a few years before One Day at a Time and thus was more groundbreaking.... she was a middle aged woman who got an abortion in one episode!
 

Michael Alden

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Too bad we can't get them to release the first true black classic, Amos and Andy, which if funnier than all of them.
 

Jeff#

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I never liked "Maude", but I will concede it is a classic. Norman Lear's other comedy to focus on female issues, "One Day At a Time" is not a classic because Maude (and for that matter, the show from which Maude spun off from "All in the Family") tackled those same issues a few years earlier.

However, to say that Designing Women, The Golden Girls, and Sex & the City wouldn't have existed without the 70s sitcoms that paved the way is speculative. The influence is certainly there, but that's about it. Maybe it's because I'm a guy but I just don't like any of those shows.

As for racial issues, "The Jeffersons" did its best in that department in the early seasons, but by 1979 the show had toned down in order to conform to the resurgeance in this country of political correctness and the Christian "right". This caused some fans of the show to abandon George and Louise. Some were saying that The Jeffersons became "whitewashed", and that's really unfair. The show was about how a working class family moves into a fancy apartment on Manhatten's East Side, thanks to George's success in the dry cleaning business. And as when they were on "All in the Family", the comic antics of George's narrow-mindedness and simple approach to life is what made the show funny. I watched both series from beginning to end, and The Jeffersons was still worth watching even when it was cancelled in 1985.
 

Elena S

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This is just my opinion, but I think it could be because these 70s sitcoms were the first ones to portray black families in a realistic light. I'm surprised that "Julia" (from the 60s) hasn't made it onto DVD yet because Diahann Carroll was the first black female to have her own sitcom. Talk about groundbreaking!

And I have to disagree that "One Day at a Time" is not a classic because it wasn't the first to tackle controversial issues. What does that have to do with a show being a classic? "I Dream of Jeannie" is a classic, and it wasn't the first fantasy show. Any sitcom that lasted 9 seasons has to be deemed a classic.
 

Michael Alden

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I always found One Day at a Time unwatchable. It was just one of those quirks of television that this was able to last for so long. But classic, no, I don't think so. A show needs to actually be good to be so considered.
 

Carlos Garcia

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By the same token I can say GOOD TIMES was anything BUT a classic. It was the worst of all the African American shows. Way too dramatic, it never felt "fun" the way Sanford & Son, The Jeffersons and What's Happening did. Yet it got its DVD release pretty fast.
 

Elena S

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Good or not good is always subjective. Some people (not me) loved ODAAT. They must have, for it to have lasted as long as it did.

And I stand corrected on "Julia," although it was probably the first FILMED sitcom to feature a black actress in the lead role. It was most certainly the first one filmed in color.

I didn't care for "The Drew Carey Show" but some might consider it a classic due to its longevity.
 

Jeff#

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Although it was not a classic, I enjoyed Drew Carey's sitcom and I watched it regularly during its long run. ABC would have been wise to cancel it by the 6th season, but it went on for 3 more. The short final season was delayed by several months and got a summer run of just 8 episodes.
 

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