Reboots, remakes, revivals, and reunions are the new prequels and sequels. Will & Grace, Murphy Brown, Roseanne, Charmed, Roswell, New Mexico, Hawaii Five-0, Magnum P.I., and more have all made their way back to a TV near you — with Mad About You, Party of Five, Saved by the Bell, and Punky Brewster on the way. While they’ve all been welcomed with varying degrees of fanfare, they’ve also done very little to diversify TV. With the exception of Charmed (bravo!) and a smattering of characters on other shows, they’re all still predominantly white.
There’s been little said of any shows featuring black casts/characters making a comeback — the cast of Girlfriends recently reunited on ABC’s black-ish, and a Sister, Sister revival has been talked about the past few years. (While thoroughly entertaining, ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons doesn’t really count.) And it’s not like there is a shortage of shows from which to choose: Martin, Moesha, A Different World, 227, My Wife and Kids … the list goes on. When EW reunited the cast of Family Matters in 2017, they didn’t shy away from the idea.
But there’s one show in particular that could lead the charge: Living Single. A couple years ago, star Queen Latifah said they are “working on it,” here we are… still nothing. Why should the classic black comedy be part of this growing trend of revivals/reboots? Here are three reasons:
1. Living Single featured fat/plus-size representation without trying too hard.
One of my biggest and enduring pet peeves is that fat representation in media at-large is still a terrible mess. Television has made some interesting attempts, most notably through This Is Us character Kate Pearson (Chrissy Metz) and Shrill’s Annie (Aidy Bryant) and Fran (Lolly Adefope). But some of those examples place far too much emphasis on the weight of their characters versus emphasis on them living their lives. And it gets far worse if you’re looking for fat representation that is not white. Which is why a Living Single revival would be so appropriate in this day and age. While the show followed an ensemble cast, a good deal of its focus went to Khadijah James (Queen Latifah), who, surprise, was black and bigger than a size 2. Living Single resonated because it never went out of its way to pat itself on the back for her inclusion — we really got to know Khadijah as a whole person. We followed her career as an editor and publisher for Flavor magazine, found out quickly that she was a sports fanatic, and if you are romantically-inclined like myself, were delighted to find that she never experienced a shortage of love interests, including childhood friend Scooter (Cress Williams), whom she was with when the show ended in 1998.
Fat representation on television is in distress and who better than Khadijah to come and save it?
2. Living Single was a welcome exploration of the varying friendships between (professional) black women.
Living Single has a special place in many hearts because it was one of the few shows — right before Girlfriends — that explored female friendship among black women of various sizes, shades, professions, and personal aspirations. There’s the most obvious example with Khadijah, but we also had Maxine Shaw (Erika Alexander), headstrong attorney and Khadijah’s college friend (a positive and nuanced rep for brown-skinned and dark-skinned women on television). There was Synclaire James (Kim Coles), receptionist at Flavor and an aspiring actress — who just so happened to be Khadijah’s cousin. And then there was Regine Hunter (Kim Fields), a boutique buyer (and the gossip-loving childhood best friend of Khadijah) who wanted to find her perfect man and spend all his money. It was a ball seeing such hilarious and driven black women all engaging in select high jinks (so much so that it allegedly inspired Friends), unwavering solidarity, and fellowship under one roof. And while we have other contemporary shows trying to take a swing at that (hi, Insecure), it would definitely be interesting to revisit the Living Single women.
3. Television still thinks New York is ostensibly white.
Another popular and annoying television trope is when fictional big cities pretend that black and brown people do not exist. Alleged Living Single rip-off Friends was constantly blasted for this. As was Seinfeld. And Sex and the City. And Girls. Broad City was a noticeable improvement, as were Marvel shows like Luke Cage and Daredevil. But all of those shows are, of course, no longer on air.
Which is why a Living Single revival is all the more interesting. And needed. I mean, the show’s central premise revolved around Khadijah and her crew — including Kyle Barker (T.C. Carson) and Overton Jones (John Henton) — living in one Brooklyn brownstone where they all hung out together. And the show explored a version of New York City that is much closer to the real thing and didn’t tokenize its core cast while doing it. Plus, a revival of a show this iconic would serve to be very timely, especially since major neighborhoods like Brooklyn are experiencing gentrification in real-time. How would Khadijah and company react and adapt? The possibilities for this revival are endless.