Living Single: The show that was set in a 90’s kind of world yet remains a timeless classic today.
The 1990’s was and still is a monumental decade cherished to pieces by those that were there and even by those not even in existence at the time. One of the most beloved and appreciated aspects of the decade were its television shows that people have gone to compare to every other tv show from every other decade. There was In Living Color, Seinfeld, Frasier, Home Improvement, Roseanne, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Saved By The Bell, Friends, Married with Children, A Different World, Martin, Moesha, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, NYPD Blue, The X Files, Melrose Place, New York Undercover, Rugrats, and Beavis & Butthead just to name a few.
There was also Living Single, the hit Fox sitcom that ran from 1993–1998 that represented a “90s kinda world” with four beautiful leadies and two dapper dudes. Living Single was one of the decade’s most successful and iconic tv shows starring six black leads at a new golden age for television shows with black leads. Fox was the new network on the block and wisely marketed towards audiences that other networks overlooked and they benifited from it. Living Single along with The Simpsons, In Living Color, Martin, Married with Children, The X Files and New York Undercover were the flagship shows that got Fox off the ground, but I want to specifically talk about the impact and timelessness of Living Single because to this day despite it being from a “90s kinda world” it still remains as beloved, relevant and endlessly funny today. Today we’re gonna talk about the essential ingredients that made this show a true classic.
The Theme Song:
What could be considered a national anthem of the decade, the Living Single theme song performed by Queen Latifah and featuring that iconic silhouette of the dancer named “Big Lez” putting in work like nobody’s business is iconic. It adds so much to the show and stays in your head for days.
Fresh off the writing staffs of A Different World and Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, Yvette Lee was a young writer tired of waiting for her big break and jumped at the opportunity to create a show of her own. It came knocking when the Fox network were looking to do a sitcom starring rapper Queen Latifah and comedienne Kim Coles. Bowser met with both ladies and decided to fit their unique personalities into the idea she already had: A sitcom about four single black twentysomething ladies getting into their careers, falling in love, falling out of love, hanging with and supporting their friends and just living life. The characters were based off of Bowser and her own girlfriends which gave this show a relatability that was the recipe to its success. This was such a rich concept, and if not totally original than at least done in such a unique and distinctive way. No other show on television put a microscope on the lives of six black twenty somethings before and Bowser’s genius gave us a classic.
The four buxom beauties front and center of the show were Queen Latifah, Kim Coles, Erika Alexander and Kim Fields. All four were a match made in heaven yet were from such different backgrounds: Latifah a famous rap artist and newcomer actor, Kim Fields as the veteran with many tv appearences as a child and a starring role in The Facts of Life, Erika Alexander fresh off a stint on The Cosby Show, and Kim Coles a comedian and former In Living Color cast member. Despite their different backgrounds these four ladies made a perfect unit onscreen. These were ladies that repped black women in ways television hadn’t before: Beautiful and sassy; Independent and dependent; Smart and foolish; tough and feminine; funny and down to earth etc. Living Single gave us four black women that represented the full spectrum of humanity. And while all four were vastly different in personality: Khadijah the strong and wise one, Synclair the naive and goofy one, Max the stubborn and commitment phobic one, and Regine the self absorbed diva. They all shared certain key traits in common that made their friendship believable and fun to watch.
While the show centered on four distinctive women without two strong, funny, smart, and relatable guys like Kyle Barker and Overton Wakefield Jones the show would’ve been incomplete. As the resident dudes of the show it was important to both TC Carson who played Kyle and John Henton who played Overton that neither one played “the fool” for five seasons. In fact, at the very beginning of the show TC Carson took it upon himself to have a conversation with Yvette Lee Bowser about some of the issues he and Henton had about the earlier episodes where he felt that the guys’ roles were a bit one dimensional and that the brunt of the humor was being made at their expense. He explained to her that the show would only benefit from having both the male and female characters be fully fleshed out human beings. This would only enlarge the audience and make the show all the more successful. Bowser wisely listened and we ended up with men and women that were flawed and admirable, wise and foolish, funny and identifiable etc. Again, the full spectrum of humanity. Kyle and Overton were two very well developed male characters who went from basically supporting characters to equal stars in the ensemble.
Cast Chemistry That Was True Blue and Tight Like Glue:
There have been a lot of truly great casts in television history and the cast of Living Single ranks among the best and most tight knit. The cast had six immensley talented and likable stars that played off each other effortlessly and unlike quite a few casts in television actually liked each other, nay, loved each other and still pretty tight knit today.
The 90’s Flavor and Fashion Style:
When it came to reppin’ 90s style Living Single was the queen. From Regine’s designer outfits and wigs to Khadijah and Kyle’s afrocentric garbs, and many fly suits worn by Kyle, the show was like a time capsule for the hair and fashion choices of the decade.
The Writing & Storylines:
The show delved into many real life situations for their stories such as the ups and downs of dating, job struggles, sexism, breast enlargement, unemployment, the black hair at work debate, sex, love, family squabbles etc. all with a light touch that made us laugh but also made us wonder what we would do if we were in their situation.
The Wonderfully Outrageous and Witty Comedy:
Living Single was a show that had a sharp wit as well as a penchent for outrageous physical comedy. The blending of the two made for some classic scenes and episodes.
The Guest Stars:
Much like The Simpsons, King of The Hill, Will & Grace, Friends etc. This was a show that boasted many famous guest stars both up and coming and established. The likes of Eartha Kitt, Mario and Melvin Van Peebles, Dean Cain, Burt Ward, Grant Hill, Rosie O’Donnell, Cheryl Miller, Shemar Moore, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Duane Martin, Regina King, Arsenio Hall, and a whole bunch of cast members of Bowser’s previous show A Different World are just some of the famous names that stopped by the brownstone.
Black Love and All Its Facets:
Between the pairings of lovey dovey couple Overton & Synclair, friends turned lovers Khadjiah and Scooter, and back and forth enemies turned lovers Kyle and Max, Living Single gave us many different aspects of black love that were distinctive and unique, but ultimately these individuals shared the same passion and deep, unending love for one another.
Representation of Friendship:
While the show had iconic romances, friendship was the number one most important aspect of this show. The bonds between the four ladies, Kyle & Overton, and all six were deep and unbreakable. Sure they all had their tiffs once in a while, but at the end of the day everybody made up because they are more than just friends, they’re family.
An Iconic Thursday Night Line up:
Forget NBC’s Must See Tv! On Thursday nights from 8pm-10pm your butt was glued to the tv to watch Martin, Living Single and New York Undercover back to back. This line up is so iconic that every time you go on any youtube video about any of the three shows multiple comments always wax poetry about that iconic line up. They don’t make line ups like that one anymore. This was appointment tv at its finest.
The legacy of Living Single is ever flowing, but to keep it short I’ll just say that this show was groundbreaking then and it’s just as relevant now. The show spawned many imitators and has been the subject of many celebratory blog posts and articles. It’s still airing on tv every day and still comes up in every day conversation. If that’s not timeless then I don’t know what is.
Till next time, folks!