Yesha Callahan

Phylicia Rashad Isn’t Happy With The Current State Of Sitcoms


Some consider the golden age of television sitcoms long gone.  When you grew up watching a show like The Cosby Show and you look at what’s being offered now in regards to black family sitcoms, you not only realize the writing is often poorly executed, but also the casts are mediocre at best.

Earlier this week, Phylicia Rashad spoke to The Huffington Post about her new movie “Frankie and Alice”, which stars Halle Berry as a woman suffering from dissociative identity disorder.

Marc Lamont Hill asked Rashad about her thoughts on television comedy today, and needless to say, she’s not feeling it.

“Oh! No comparison,” she said. “I’m sorry, there just isn’t.”

Rashad praised the writing staff of The Cosby Show and the way they allowed her character to organically grow and change as both a mother and career woman. Unfortunately for fans of TV, the medium’s writing is not as cohesive these days, she said.

“We had a team of writers who were paying attention. This is something else that’s different in television today,” Rashad said. “I just recently was on another television show and I wondered if the writers were ever in the same room together.”

And nowadays, a lot of writing rooms are more like remote spaces. You may have a writer living in California, another in New York and one in Florida all trying to collaborate on the same show.  So maybe Rashad has a point. Writing should be a collaborative effort and when you’re working together in one location, one room with a group of people, it’s a lot easier to bounce things off of each other, instead of waiting for the next IM, text or video chat.

Check out the full interview below, Rashad’s comments about the current state of television appear at the 8:19 mark.

  1. April 4, 2014 - Reply

    I agree.
    Plus, I’ve noticed that writers are now using real life incidents (usually it is the salacious ones)to “inspire” them.

  2. April 4, 2014 - Reply

    I agree, The Cosby Show was natural, and you as the viewer could tell! Nowadays, there is too much stale forcing and the writing never stays on track.

  3. April 4, 2014 - Reply

    Part of the problem is that Tyler Perry, the main perpetrator responsible for the decline of the black sitcom, appears to be enamored with his own work and probably is too cheap or vain to hire some really good writers. Of course, he remains popular and the dumbing down of good t.v. continues because the consumers accept it.

    • April 4, 2014 - Reply

      @Darryl Hines

      I wholeheartedly agree! Tyler Perry has ruined it. His sitcoms seem to be full of stereotypes and buffoonery to say the least. The writing is horrible. The acting seems forced and too much like his stage plays. Black sitcoms that are of the same caliber as The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, A Different World, etc. will never see the light of day as long as folks are eating up Tyler Perry’s crock of sh**.

    • April 4, 2014 - Reply

      @Darryl Hines

      Just because Mr. Perry’s work does not speak to you there are obviously many, many people that he absolutely speaks to. Not all of us have the same story. Others want to see their story just like you. These people are no less important. Everyone deserves respect and entertainment. I don’t find Madea the least bit funny, but I do not feel that it is my place or yours to denigrate that man or the fans of his work as being dumb, instead I just watch what appeals to me without putting anyone else down for their choices.

  4. April 4, 2014 - Reply

    Wholeheartedly agree with Mrs. Rashad! TV just sucks now a days, hell what pass as entertainment sucks in general these days, honestly there is only three shows I watch faithfully on TV where I actually care about the characters and piqued by the level of complex writing everything after that my TV is just used as background noise.

  5. April 4, 2014 - Reply

    tp ain’t the first or only black sitcom writer/producer. ice cube had “are we there yet” (i like that one), byron allen had “the first family” (that was so whack!), “let’s stay together” is still on bet, cedric the entertainer got “soul man”. all from the past 5 yrs and those are just off the top of my head. i’m sick of people getting mad at ONE man’s work in ONE genre of entertainment. turn the channel & you’ll find something closer to what you looking for.

  6. April 4, 2014 - Reply

    Tyler Perry deserves a lot of the blame because he is the soup de jour and the litmus test for all things black in television (not my opinion, trust me). I believe Ms. Rashad was talking about television and not film and I agree that the films you named should not escape equal scrutiny but TP can take the blame (or credit–depending how you view it) for the “iconic” Madea and the assault on both black men and black women. I agree with you on one thing and that is we can all exercise the right not to watch which is the reason my television is auto programmed to bypass the station in my city that carries TP’s programs.

  7. April 4, 2014 - Reply

    Can someone explain what she means whens she says “Comedy appeals to the intellect”(10:10)? How exactly is that the case?

  8. April 4, 2014 - Reply

    i didn’t list any movies. this article is about sitcoms. people keep making tp public enemy #1 like he’s the only one putting out work. there’s way more than tp on tv to watch for black folks. i listed 4 & i know there’s at least 2 or 3 more that i missed (like that show that tia mowry got on abc family). anybody claiming tp is the reason black folks don’t have anything to watch is too busy pointing fingers at the man to see all the other options we got with nothing to do with him.

  9. April 4, 2014 - Reply

    I agree with her. I think part of the reason is the rise of reality TV.

  10. April 5, 2014 - Reply

    What an inspiring interview. Ms. Rashad has so much more to say above and beyond the current state of television. She really takes her craft seriously. A great watch for all artists trying to reach a deeper place with their work.

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