Good neighbors are hard to come by. It's one thing to live next door to someone, but to get close enough to them that you essentially become a family is another. This is a common theme that is revisited in Black television sitcoms.
Neighbors on Black sitcoms range from love-crazed pests to uninvited guests who help themselves to the protagonist's fridge whenever they see fit. They can be confident, beautiful women or progressive, upstanding men. In some cases, they can be nuisances, but the show and the lives of the main character(s) would be dull without them.
Here is a list dedicated to the neighbors from our favorite Black sitcoms.
The first entry is the child prodigy, Franklin Aloysius Mumford (Noah Gray-Cabey) from the ABC series, My Wife and Kids. Franklin is the Kyle family's gifted young neighbor and youngest daughter Kady Kyle's (Parker Mckenna Posey) boyfriend.
Despite still having his baby teeth, Franklin was the Kyle family's most trusted counsel. Franklin offered advice to his potential future father-in-law (Damon Wayans) and the rest of the family whenever they were in a quandary. Although they were often receptive to his advanced level of thinking, the mini Mensa member at times annoyed the Kyles with his pretentiousness.
Everybody Hates Chris is a semi-biographical account of comedy legend Chris Rock's upbringing in Brooklyn in the 1980s. Young Chris (Tyler James Williams) encounters various eccentric characters during his formative years, including his upstairs neighbor, Mr. Omar.
Mr. Omar (Ernest Lee Thomas) was a funeral director and a tenant in Chris's parent's brownstone. When he wasn't tending to the newly deceased, he was providing "comfort" to grief-stricken widows in their time of need. He had a bit of a shady side, but he always paid his rent on time.
The '80s series 227 is memorable for two reasons: Academy Award winner Regina King's first television role and Jackee Harry's portrayal as the residential man-eater, Sandra Clark.
Sandra was a young, vivacious woman who always kept a suitor at her beck and call. She is depicted as being vain and vapid, but Sandra is a pivotal character in Black sitcom history. She was one of the first Black women to showcase class and beauty while still being extremely desirable to men who watched the show.
Overton Jones and Kyle Barker
The focus of Fox's Living Single was Khadijah James (Queen Latifah), her cousin Synclaire (Kim Coles), and her childhood friends Max and Regine (Erika Alexander and Kim Fields). The series was a refreshing look at the lives of four Black women navigating the torrential waters of life and love in New York City.
Khadijah's neighbors, Overton and Kyle (John Henton and T.C. Carson), were roommates and also childhood friends. Overton was a kind-hearted yet naive handyman in love with Synclaire, and Kyle was a refined but conceited accountant that loved to hate Max.
Aside from providing comic relief, Overton and Kyle acted as a second line of defense for their neighbors. The women were more than capable of handling themselves in trying situations, but they had their guys from upstairs always watching their backs, just in case.
Singer/Actor Brandy's hit seriesMoesha gave a voice to young Black pre-teens/teenagers. Moesha Mitchell (Brandy Norwood) was your typical teenage girl going through the trials and tribulations of young adulthood with the help and guidance of her friends and family. One of her closest friends is her next-door neighbor, Hakeem Campbell.
Hakeem (Lamont Bentley) is Moesha's freeloading childhood friend who has a heart of gold and a bottomless pit for a stomach. He's always there for Moesha and her family, especially when it's time to chow down. Throughout the series, Hakeem goes from the boy next door to the man of Moesha's dream.
If you looked up the phrase "nosey neighbor" in the dictionary, a picture of Willona Woods (Ja'Net DuBois) would appear next to the definition. She was gossip queen of the ghetto in the iconic '70s series, Good Times.
Willona lived across from the Evans Family and, much like her wardrobe, was both loud and colorful. When she wasn't dishing the dirt on her fellow tenants, she played an aunt-like role in the lives of her neighbors' children. Her nurturing soul and natural maternal instincts led to Willona adopting an abused runaway named Penny (played by Janet Jackson).
In real life, Marques Houston was a teenage heartthrob and lead singer of the popular young R&B group, Immature. But on Sister, Sister, he played Tia and Tamera's annoying next-door neighbor, Roger Evans.
Roger's worship of the twins fluctuates between innocent crush and sleazy indecent proposal. Just when they start to warm up to his creepy brand of affection, he spoils it with a salacious quip. Tia and Tamera send him packing by shouting in unison the now-infamous catchphrase "Go Home, Roger!"
Across the hall from the Detroit radio personality, Martin Payne (Martin Lawrence) lives his outspoken and lively neighbor, Shenenah Jenkins. Sheneneh is one of the nine alter egos Martin played on the culturally significant Fox sitcom named after him.
Sheneneh was a fearless proud Black woman of the '90s. Her no-nonsense attitude and brutal honesty made her one of the most popular characters on Martin and an integral part of Black pop culture. At the time, some viewed the character as an offensive stereotype of Black women; but in reality, Sheneneh was the around the way girl we all knew and loved.
Family Matters was close to being another lackluster spin-off if it weren't for the addition of Jaleel White as the clumsy but loveable Steve Urkel as a regular cast member. The lukewarm reception to the spin-off of the ABC series Perfect Strangers almost got the show canceled until White's monumental performance saved the day.
For nine seasons, Steve Urkel carved an unintentional path of destruction through the Winslow household. He was unrelenting in the pursuit of his crush, Laura (Kelly Shanygne Williams), and almost killed her father Carl (Reginald VelJohnson) on numerous occasions.
Nonetheless, Urkel's popularity during the '90s produced more than memorable catchphrases, a talking doll, and a breakfast cereal. Not only did he single-handedly save Family Matters from cancellation, but he is also the most iconic TV neighbor of all time.
Did we leave out your favorite neighbor?
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