6 Unnecessary Character Additions to Popular Black TV Shows
Characters from hit Black sitcoms that weren't wanted or needed.
This past summer saw Netflix add a plethora of popular Black sitcoms from the 90s & early 2000s to its platform.
Comedies including Sister Sister, Moesha, & The Parkers are now available to stream, with Half & Half and One on One to soon follow suit. These additions have stoked the fires of nostalgia while also bringing acclaimed favorites to a new generation.
While reliving some favorite moments through binge-watching, you can't help but notice where these and other shows like them took a turn for the worse. These shifts in momentum can be attributed to changes in the writing staff, the departure of a popular character, or the idea to add a new member to the cast.
Over and over again, the seemingly out-of-nowhere idea to introduce a new character was meant to be a shot of adrenaline to keep things exciting, but it became the nail in the coffin for a series already on its last legs.
Here are six examples of uncalled-for character add-ons:
Ray J as Dorian Long (Moesha)
Back in the mid-90s, you would be hard-pressed to find a musician/actor as popular as Brandy. At the height of her success, she was a constant fixture on radio and TV, as she played the strong-willed teenager on the show named after her character, Moesha.
The show instantly became a staple in pop culture, but the decision to add Brandy's real-life brother Ray J as her cousin Dorian in Season 5 garnered a mixed reaction. Dorian was a troublemaker that seemed to do more harm than good, as the show started to center more around his antics with each episode. By the time the final episode aired in May 2001, Moesha had transformed from a lighthearted comedy centered around the development of a young Black Woman to a weekly first-hand look at juvenile delinquency.
Orlando Brown as Jerry Jamal "3J" Jameson (Family Matters)
Long before his battle with drugs and erratic social media behavior, Orlando Brown was one of the brightest children and later teen stars in Hollywood. Brown's comedic timing and charisma were beyond his years, and he was featured in some of the top movies and TV shows of the time, including the Disney Channel behemoth That's So Raven.
Prior to striking pay dirt with Raven Symone and Mickey Mouse, Brown joined the cast of Family Matters as a precocious yet rough-around-the-edges adoptee named 3J during the 96-97 season. Though at first he worked as a great comedic foil to Jaleel White's infamous Urkel character, 3J didn't give Family Matters the boost the declining show was in need of. Brown would play the role of 3J until the show's cancellation in the summer of 1998.
Mel Jackson as Ira Lee "Tripp" Williams (Living Single)
Mel Jackson was one of the most visible faces in Black TV and cinema in the late '90s to early 2000s. But it was his addition to the final season of Queen Latifah's brainchild Living Single as "Tripp" that helped...well...nothing. After the departure of T.C. Carson, who played the debonair Kyle Barker, Jackson's inclusion was meant to fill the void of the residential womanizer, since Overton (John Henton) was a married man. Jackson made a valiant effort to match his predecessor's poise and grace, but Carson's absence overpowered his attempts at connecting with audiences. Living Single's series finale aired on New Year's Day in 1998.
Ross Bagley as Nicholas "Nicky" Banks (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
The swapping of Janet Hubert for Daphne Maxwell Reid as Aunt Viv on the Will Smith-helmed The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a decision many are still questioning to this day. But its the addition of Ross Bagley as the baby of the Banks bunch, Nicky, that's the real head-scratcher. In the storyline, Nicky was born towards the end of Season 3, but when Bagley joined the cast in Season 5, somehow baby Nicky had become 5 years older.
Unexplained growth aside, Nicky's tenure on the show saw him used more as a prop than an actual integral part of the family. Even though Bagley's cute factor didn't make him a standout on the show, it did secure roles for him in the wildly popular remake of The Little Rascals and the summer '96 blockbuster Independence Day, starring his Fresh Prince co-star Will Smith.
Erika Alexander as Pam Tucker (The Cosby Show)
These days Bill Cosby is watching his groundbreaking creation The Cosby Show in the day room of a maximum-security prison. But in its heyday, the Huxtables were at the top of the primetime mountain.
Erika Alexander scored her big break playing the role of Claire Huxtable's cousin, Pam Tucker, a street-smart teenager who seemed to be just as rambunctious as the Huxtable kids but was also much more level-headed and independent. As Pam, Alexander was engaging and witty, but the audience had already grown accustomed to Cliff and Claire running the gauntlet of raising three teenagers before Pam came into the picture.
If anything, Pam's exploits were lackluster compared to Denise, Theo, and Vanessa's. Still, Erika Alexander would go on to find television infamy as the man-eating attorney Maxine Shaw on Living Single.
Marques Houston as Kevin Barnes (One on One)
One on One was a pioneer in Black programming. The series showed single parenthood from the perspective of a man instead of relying on the run-of-the-mill single mother trope. The original cast, which included Flex Alexander and Kyla Pratt's winning chemistry, helped the sitcom become one of the top-rated shows on the then UPN Network.
Marques Houston had already experienced success on primetime TV as Roger on Sister Sister. But lightning didn't strike twice for the immature frontman. The decision to add him to the cast as Flex's brother, Kevin, not only resulted in the show's decline in popularity, but also led to an abomination of a spin-off titled Cuts co-starring Shannon Elizabeth. One on One will be available for streaming on Netflix on October 15th.
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