The Cosby Show | Being I was born in 1987, a full three years after Cliff, Clair and thuxtables existed, didn’t stop me from falling in love with the family comedy. I would make my parents record reruns of the show for me. I never realized the impact then, seeing these upwardly mobile African Americans living their lives and culture weekly. A monumental moment in television history.
A Goofy Movie | Back when the dollar cinema was a thing, my mother took me to see Disney’s father-and-son animated comedy starring Goofy and his son Max. Staple 90s film capturing teen angst and how that relationship with your parents change through those years. It will stand the test of time for the brilliance that is Powerline aka Tevin Campbell and “Eye 2 Eye.”
Unorthodox Jukebox | Before 2015, Bruno Mars was the fedora-wearing hook guy on B.O.B.’s “Nothing On You.” When his debut album came it was too pop perfect for my taste. But somewhere between a cocaine arrest and 2013, Mars flipped the switch with his sophomore effort. While still pop, it was threaded with a funky, sexy, R&B edge of yesteryear and a Parental Advisory sticker. Like Beyoncé and B’Day, Jukebox signified a point of no return for Bruno as he rose above his counterparts flexing his writing, producing and singing abilities.
Roc | Charles S. Dutton was Fox’s Roc, a loving, hot-headed garbage collector who lived a modest life with his wife, brother and father in Baltimore. The series was a listed as comedy, but it became something else as it tackled social commentary. It explored class within the Black community as well as the threat of drugs. A particular story arc involved the underrated Clinton Powell as a nefarious dealer poisoning the neighborhood youth. Roc was the sole man to stand up to his tyranny. Fox should definitely reboot this series for a limited run to explore 2017 Baltimore, and how life has changed Roc’s world.
Stepmom | I do not know what it is about this soapy, melodrama but I can’t not watch it anytime it’s on television. Julia Roberts plays the younger woman that eventually comes between Susan Sarandon and Ed Harris. Sarandon naturally hates her guts, as Roberts is seen as the mistress stepmother. But an unfortunate turn of events soon curbs any animosity in this blended family. One of my favorite scenes below.
Brother, Sister | Most of the music you experience as a kid is because of your parents. And my dad’s eclectic musical taste had me scatting along with The Brand New Heavies. I was obsessed with their encouraging “Dream on Dreamer,” the slinky “Mind Trips,” the bombastic “Fake” and the soulful title track.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD | When the Marvel Cinematic Universe began, no one imagined how far its reach would stretch. Before the animated series and the Netflix sagas, ABC presented a little show that could with SHIELD. Anchored by Greg Kelly’s Agent Coulson, the weekly serial of the more mortal heroes told how everyday folk coped with aliens, superheroes and HYDRA. While it definitely crawled before it could walk, the series now runs as one of the best comic shows on TV.
Hollywood Shuffle | Robert Townsend’s satirical film on being a black actor in Hollywood opened in 1987. Thirty years later #OscarsSoWhite and other rallying cries for inclusion still ring like trumpets at the Battle of Jericho. The hilarious commentary on the industry’s color problem went virtually unnoticed then. They won’t ignore us today or tomorrow.
Return of 4Eva | Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. rattled the cage with his introductory debut KRIT Wuz Here. He followed up with the superior Return of 4Eva. Atop mostly self-produced beats, he flexed his skills as a lyricist on the glorious “R4 Theme Song.” Boasted on the trunk-banging “My Sub,” and touched hearts with the sentimental “The Vent.” One of my favorite projects of the last decade, K.R.I.T. remains one of the most underappreciated in the game. If you’re late, catch up on Oct. 27th as he drops his double album 4Eva is a Mighty Long Time.
Ugly Betty | This hysterical American take on a Spanish telenovela packed as much heart as it did laughs. America Ferrera delivered as the spunky and determined Betty, who battled posh naysayers at Meade Publications. Before the devil wore Prada, she probably worked for Vanessa Williams’ Wilhemina Slater, the icy nemesis at Mode Magazine. Ugly Betty was a bright light of fun, inclusion and drama that lit my college years.
Heroes | Another gem during my college tenure. NBC’s venture into superheroes without the capes and spandex was an ambitious leap for network TV. And the first season was absolutely perfect. Enough mystery and grit with each character. And then there was the penultimate season finale, which paved the way for the rest of the series. Midway through season two, it lost its footing and struggled for three more seasons. Even its’ reboot a year or so ago was abysmal. But we’ll always have that extraordinary first season: save the cheerleader. save the world.
Collateral | It’s rare I enjoy an action film that doesn’t involve comic characters, but this film peaked my interest. The same year Jamie Foxx dazzled the Academy with Ray, he and Tom Cruise irked out a gritty tale of true heroism. Cruise’s take as a cold-blooded hitman who enters Foxx’s cab during an evening of work is a sleek examination of human behavior. Pure good versus evil, and how the two are never that far apart.
Get Out | Yes, this movie just dropped this year. Yes, it may have had flaws. It wasn’t even an actual horror film, in the traditional sense. But Jordan Peele’s social examination of America’s living nightmare stuck a chord with everyone. Not only is it the highest-grossing film from a black director with an original screenplay, it has been an accelerant for the discussion of race in America.
Broke With Expensive Taste | How does one explain a problem like Azealia Banks. The NYC native is an insanely talented lyricist, singer and potentially actress. She’s bold artistically and has hits that stick like grits. But that boldness erodes any chance she ascends as hip-hop royalty. Instead her mouth is known more for feuding with the public than it is for spitting rhymes. Despite this her debut album is one of the best rap albums of the decade. Hands down.
B’Day | I was a casual fan of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter in 2006. I enjoyed “Crazy in Love” and mimicked the routine in “Baby Boy.” But I didn’t understand the direction of her sophomore LP. Not on first listen. Everything felt forced. It was loud and overbearing. Plus her eccentric performance of “Deja Vu” at the BET Awards that year had me Ray Charles to this era – until she dropped those videos. And one by one my defenses fell. I succumbed to the honey in her hive, hypnotized by “Upgrade U,” “Freakum Dress” and “Green Light.” While I still dodge “Irreplaceable” I no longer deny the moment Beyoncé leveled up before our eyes. Nothing was ever the same.
Life With Bonnie | ABC championed this Bonnie Hunt-led comedy which was mostly improv. Hunt played a version of herself juggling home and family, with her duties as a talk show host. The characters were hilarious and expertly cast. Sadly it was cancelled after a few seasons. If anyone knows where I can I find the complete series off of YouTube, that would be great.
Hannibal | Bryan Fuller’s devilishly sexy adaptation of Hannibal Lecter was NBC’s best show in years. The focus of Lecter’s time as a criminal psychiatrist for the FBI birthed some of the most wicked scenes of murder I’ve ever seen. Madds Mikkelsen, Hugh Darcy and Laurence Fishburne held the reigns of a boldly diverse and talented cast.
Mrs. Doubtfire | Another Robin Williams feature on my list – this dramedy stayed rewound in our VCR. This beautiful narrative about family and divorce told the story with as much heart as it did laughs. And there were plenty. “Jump Around” will always remind me of this movie.
Coraline | My favorite animated film since The Incredibles, I stumbled upon this gem one random evening in college. Boredom brought me, but the fantastic animation and Teri Hatcher’s terrifyingly perfect performance as the Other Mother, made me stay.
CrazySexyCool | In 1994 TLC traded their baggy pants and condom-eye patches, for silk pajamas and multi-colored lipstick. The ATL-based crew transformed for their sophomore project, proving their female Bell Biv DeVoe wasn’t a fluke. Between “Creep” and “Waterfalls,” Tionne, Rozanda and Lisa (RIP) captured the Grammys and the charts for pop domination. Beneath the humongous singles was a Prince cover, an Andre 3000 feature and one of my favorite intro-ludes ever.
Rapture | Although I couldn’t recite much of the words Anita Baker was singing, the melody and crescendos were forever imprinted in my mind. My parents kept this album on repeat, and to this day her harmonic bellowing is celebrated as peak black girl magic.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent | These days Dick Wolf’s storied franchise has ballooned to include spin-offs of weaker series, and copycat specials (Here’s looking at you Menendez Brothers). But once upon a time, at the peak of his creativity, Wolf replicated critical and commercial acclaim with Criminal Intent. The third iteration of his L&O installments, Criminal Intent solved heinous crimes while providing the perpetrator’s perspective. A unique take garnered much success. Paired with actor Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as Det. Bobby Goren, you had an addictive series.
What Lies Beneath | This supernatural thriller brought a haunting take on infidelity. When a professor’s wife experiences paranormal activity, she unearths more sinister truths from beyond the grave. Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford deliver memorable performances in a narrative that could be described as Stephen King writing How to Get Away With Murder.
the diary of alicia keys | The first album review I scribed was for Alicia’s sophomore album. An English project my sophomore year, I remember excitedly comparing Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” to the soulful Aretha Franklin, and how perfect “You Don’t Know My Name” executed the phone interlude. The album transitioned Alicia from a young R&B prodigy, to a contemporary soul songstress.
Golden Girls | I was in middle school when my best friend introduced me to Dorothy, Blanche, Rose & Sophia. The 80s comedy that ran for seven seasons found a whole new audience with airings on Lifetime. In the early 2000s, the topics they tackled seemed normal as we had shows like Will & Grace, and lived under MTV’s peak. But in retrospect, a show with four-middle aged women as leads, in the late 80s, touching on everything from sexual harassment to assisted suicide, was groundbreaking. It paved the way for all the women who followed: Designing, Living Single and even Sex and the City. Plus it remains hilarious.
Home Alone | Kevin McCallister’s plight of being forgotten on the family trip was a 90s kid’s dream. A two-story mansion to oneself; no rules or older siblings reigning terror over you; and, all the ice cream one could devour. However today that scenario could have ended much worse. His parents would have definitely faced child neglect charges, not to mention the next door neighbor being questioned. And let’s not even touch the possibility that none of Kevin’s contraptions would foil the Sticky Bandits. Today the Home Alone franchise would be hella problematic.
21 | One of the biggest albums of the last decade, Adele’s sophomore project showcased the biggest unifier is unfortunately pain, and how one perseveres through adverse times. Written in ode to a devastating heartbreak, 21 dropped with such a universal force on the power of “Rolling in the Deep.” The searing send-off track was a far cry from the melancholy ballads of her debut. It allowed her to stretch her fan base. If “Deep” was a movement, than the subsequent single “Someone Like You” was a force that carried the album on the Billboard charts’ top 40 damn near two years after its release.