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On Sunday, April 15, 1990, TV history was made with the debut of the sketch comedy show “In Living Color.”
It was raw. It was offensive. It was hilarious.
But most of all, it was unapologetically black.
“There had been black sketch shows before In Living Color, including the short-lived but influential Richard Pryor Show more than a decade earlier. That this was the first one that found an audience said as much about that audience as it did about the show. The culture was changing. For more than fifty years, black life on screens big and small had looked even more demeaning than it did in the real world. Stereotypes were indulged. The Civil Rights Movement came and went without too many substantive changes in front of or behind the camera. There has been important breakthroughs — Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson, Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor — but the march of progress was exceedingly, agonizingly slow.
Until suddenly, it wasn’t.”
—An excerpt from the preface of “Homey Don’t Play That: The Story of In Living Color And The Black Comedy Revolution”
“In Living Color” helped launch several Hollywood careers (Jennifer Lopez was a Fly Girl for two seasons; Larry Wilmore and Colin Quinn were writers) and made household names of comedians like Jamie Foxx, Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey. It was also one of the earliest programs to showcase hip-hop in a primetime TV slot.
We look at how the show’s cultural influence has endured long after its five-season run on Fox and ask: Could a show like “In Living Color” be made — and succeed — today?
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