Behind The Original “Friends”

Note: Due to the content of this post I am filing it under Black History Fun Fact Friday. 

Erika Alexander (Max/Maxine Shaw/Pam, Living Single) did an interview with The Breakfast Club (I want to say it aired yesterday?? 1/29) that brought out some interesting facts. (Funny because she was not supposed to be a regular on Living Single but…). Like I tell people, Black History INCLUDES music, television, film, art, and much more.

Yvette Lee Bowser created Living Single for Warner Bros and it debuted in 1993. One of the original suggested titles was Friends. Asked if he could have any show on TV, NBC’s President said Living Single. Queen Latifah’s show’s suggested title was called My Girls when they first did their pilot according to Erika Alexander, but it didn’t do well. The networks then chose Living Single, and then the next year they named a separate show Friends. But you got that much from The Breakfast Club. Let’s go a little deeper.

To go further, I wonder why it was decided to call the black show Living Single? Did it have anything to do with black families being largely headed by single women at the time? I am still researching the specifics for 1993 ( the year Living Single debuted) but so far the numbers continue to increase for single-family households in the Black community at the time. In 1991, 68% of Black children were born outside of marriage. In 2011, 72% of Black babies were born to unmarried mothers. In 2015, 77% of Black babies were born to unmarried mothers.

What was really behind the networks naming this show “Living Single?”

Was it the stereotype or assumption that Black men weren’t present that led them to the decision that the black show should be called Living Single? (“We are living Single…”) instead of Friends? (Because I mean, the sistas on Living Single were Besties, you hear me? They were really Friends. Sooo I got questions…)

I know ya’ll probably think I’m reaching so …if you think this is too far-fetched, consider Good Times.

Good Times only had a father figure because Esther Rolle fought for one. 

Originally, the show would be based on a single woman raising her kids in the projects in Chicago (I am from Chicago AND I grew up in the projects, trust… we know these things). Rolle said no, she wanted a father for her children and she became a pioneer in fighting for a black father on TV: George Jefferson (played by Sherman Hemsley) on The Jeffersons, Cliff Huxtable (played by Bill Cosby) on The Cosby Show, Phillip Banks (played by James Avery) on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The list goes on and on but one woman opened the door for a complete black family to be shown on television and her name is Esther Rolle. 

Good Times was revolutionary because it broke ground not only by showing a low-income family on television but also, a COMPLETE black family. The list of shows Good Times inspired is too numerous to mention, including NBC’s 227 in 1985, Regina King’s first breakout role. Then, in 1989, ABC launched Family Matters as their answer to 227. UPN sought to create the magic of the Cosby Show with Moesha in 1996. It goes on and on and down hill from here…

“I just thought it was a poor representation of what Black women were being able to do. And frankly, if you didn’t fit in that mold, there was nothing you could do. It was like watching a train wreck. I actually didn’t think it was real at first. Took me a long time to sort of  get that, no this is real, and yet, it’s not real.” 

– Erika Alexander on the Reality TV Shows, The Breakfast Club

The black father was the hardest legacy Rolle fought for. She grew up with one and an intact family; she wanted that to be shown on television. “I had a wonderful father,” said Esther Rolle, “and I couldn’t bear that television virtually ignored black fathers. I could not compound the lie that black fathers don’t care about their children,” she said previously in media reports. “I ruffle a lot of feathers. And I’m also selective–that makes you a troublemaker, but so be it. I laid a cornerstone for black actors, and that makes me happy.”

Although Rolle worked hard for a black father, they still eventually killed James off. So, I ask, what was the real reason behind naming the “Black” show, Living Single Hmm? That is the question.

90s Throwback Thursday Jams – Ginuwine, R.L., Tyrese, Case – The Best Man I Can Be

  • 🎵Part of the soundtrack to one of my favorite movies…ya’ll betta sing (these lyrics can apply to sisters too! “What can a sista do for me?” 🤷‍♀️) 🎵

To Lose a Friend

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From crayons

To paper

To dreams

To memory.

We tied our wanting into a bow

And placed it on each other’s laps

Where neither trial

Nor thunderstorm

Could wash away our fairy tale.

Did not occur to us that neither plastic bags

Nor happiness

And not even the future was strong enough

To hold us.

We were brave.

We were warriors.

We were safe in each others ears

Promises to each others secrets

No one could tell us any different.

Calendars did not lend us its eyes

Did not carve reality into the sticky notes we placed

On our destiny’s

We merely rode on the backs of memories

We created out of air

That smelled of hope

And lullabies

That felt like oxygen to lung

Breath to life

Truth to wisdom

But that bled deception underneath the surface

Of blue lines

On white paper.

That smelled of jasmine

Now shattering glass

Hopelessly pasted together

Encoding our hearts in one anothers chest

We opened up

Fearlessly vulnerable.

Stored our futures away

With the ease of speech

Letting them hide behind our eyelids

Trapping falling tears into bottles for fear

Of losing sight of the other

Amidst the blurs it birthed

When doubt crept in.

And we held onto these bottles

Like we babysat the others gaze

Too naïve to understand

That there were no guarantees

That we must not put our hopes into fallen stars

And wishing wells

For now we bleed

Both apology and need

For our broken wings

Pierced diamonds

Both myth and martyr alike

Legend to sacrifice

Do you know what it’s like to feel every twist

And turn

Of a dying bow?

To be undone?

Shackled to the worst part of your life story

Prisoners to the memories you created

In each others smiles

Now dangling regret

In the sky.

Friends

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Echoes off the tops of our lungs with undeniable ease. Friends. Like random hellos, or a courtesy goodbye. Like a sporadic gesture among the land of foreigners, friends too has become a strange language; its value in a strange land as it falls off the edges of our tongues. Words have no meaning for many of us. They race from underneath the spaces of our hearts to descend empty into the air. To land idly among the elements, or on the tops of buildings and of trees. After all, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” We chant this saying from infancy to adulthood, carrying perception on our shoulders like truth. Meanwhile, words will go on to hurt and heal, afflict and inspire. Friends. Technology says we can find them on Facebook. Fly away with them on Twitter and update relationships instantly. Though I’ve never known a friendship to be built so fast. What kind of lessons do we learn in a world that laughs at murder because words after all have no meaning, so “I hate you” doesn’t mean that I might as well have killed you. Friends. There is no greater person than one who is willing to lay down his life for his friend and yet, the word leaps as it wills off the edges of our tongues. Such a light hearted fantasy. Everyone is a friend today, though not everyone is willing to die for you. Friends. So often do we fill it with air and toss it around among our peers; an enslaved basketball among the bars of netted string is this word. Nothing more than a one syllable title we release into the air to become captive to whatever it wills. But what does it truly mean to be a friend?

I want to be Your Friend

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“I want to be the friend you fall hopelessly in love with. The one you take into your arms and into your bed and into the private world you keep trapped in your head. I want to be that kind of friend. The one who will memorize the things you say as well as the shape of your lips when you say them. I want to know every curve, every freckle, every shiver of your body. I want to know where to touch you, I want to know how to touch you. I want to know how to convince you to design a smile just for me. Yes, I do want to be your friend. I want to be your best friend in the entire world.” ––Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

HAPPY 100th to The PBS Blog!

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