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Revolution Televised

Revolution Televised: Prime Time and the Struggle for Black Power

Christine Acham
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Revolution Televised
    Book Description:

    In Revolution Televised, Christine Acham offers a complex reading of African American television history, finding within programs like Sanford and Son and Good Times opposition to dominant white constructions of African American identity. Revolution Televised deftly illustrates how black television artists operated within the constraints of the television industry to resist and ultimately shape the mass media’s portrayal of African American life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9645-1
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    Anyone up on 1970s television trivia will recognize these phrases; spoken frequently by television characters, they became part of the American popular lexicon. This was a vibrant time for blacks on network television, and as a child I enjoyed watching black television shows such asGood TimesandWhat’s Happening!!with my family. I obviously was not able to contemplate such critical concepts as the “ramifications of the images” or the “ state of minorities in the television industry”; I simply liked the shows for what they were to me—often humorous, sometimes over the top, and occasionally poignant.


  5. 1 Reading the Roots of Resistance Television of the Black Revolution
    (pp. 1-23)

    Growing up in the 1970s on a staple of black-cast television programs, I rarely considered that the face of television had ever been primarily white. Flipping through the channels, or I should say manually turning to each channel, brought black people into my living room on a nightly basis. I imagined myself on the Soul Train line, laughed at the antics of J.J. onGood Times, and although my mother loved the show, I wondered if (and hoped that) Fred would actually succumb to one of his famous heart attacks onSanford and Son. Needless to say the 1980s were...

  6. 2. Was the Revolution Televised? Network News and Black Journal
    (pp. 24-53)

    The 1950s and 1960s proved to be a period of political upheaval in the United States, especially concerning African Americans. The fallout from the lack of racial progress in the post–World War II era fostered the rise of grass roots political organizations that began to confront the American “racial dictatorship” head on. At this time some of the political practices developed in all-black settings moved aboveground into the mainstream U.S. consciousness.¹ Television played a central role in this transition. One does not need to delve far into the American collective memory to access images of African American protesters in...

  7. 3. What You See Is What You Get Soul Train and The Flip Wilson Show
    (pp. 54-84)

    In the late 1960s a few more opportunities were created for black talent on television, and black faces were at times seen outside the news.I Spydebuted in 1965, and Bill Cosby’s acceptability was arguably one of the factors that encouraged the networks to develop other black characters for network television. The networks were also under additional pressure from black political groups in Washington DC to improve and increase their representations of African Americans.¹ Black actors appeared in supporting roles throughout the late 1960s in shows such asDaktari(1966–69),Star Trek(1966–69),Mission Impossible(1966–73),...

  8. 4. This Ain’t No Junk Sanford and Son and African American Humor
    (pp. 85-109)

    In the late 1970s Redd Foxx visited Trinidad to give a performance at the Jean Pierre Stadium.Sanford and Son(1972–77) was one of the most popular shows on Trinidadian television, and Foxx was a celebrated star. The day after the appearance the local papers reported that they were appalled at Foxx’s performance. Apparently, the audience expected the much-beloved Fred G. Sanford and was unprepared for Redd Foxx’s “blue” material. He later apologized in the newspapers, saying that he did not realize that the audience was unaware of his nightclub stand-up routine.

    This is not an isolated cross-cultural example....

  9. 5. Respect Yourself! Black Women and Power in Julia and Good Times
    (pp. 110-142)

    The conflictual relationship between Norman Lear’s Tandem Production company and Redd Foxx indicates, among other factors, that with the changing times some African American television performers were becoming more politicized. This politicization was commensurate with the legacy of difficulties faced by African American entertainers as well as the changing political climate of America, evident in integration and the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.Julia(1968–71) andGood Times(1974–79) demonstrate how black women in particular used not only the television text but also popular magazines and journals as forums for black social and political concerns. These outlets...

  10. 6. That Nigger’s Crazy The Rise and Demise of The Richard Pryor Show
    (pp. 143-169)

    The debut of The Richard Pryor Show on television in the fall of 1977 was a seemingly natural progression, considering the presence of increasingly outspoken African American television performers in the late 1970s. As seen onSanford and SonandGood Times,for example, African American performers used their network visibility to express more directly black political concerns as well as issues with the industry’s handling of black topics and characters. Within this climate, perhaps there was potential for a successful Richard Pryor series.

    When NBC reached out to Richard Pryor in 1977, the network targeted a man whose popularity...

  11. Conclusion: Movin’ On Up Contemporary Television as a Site of Resistance
    (pp. 170-194)

    The nationally published magazineEntertainment Weeklyhas a segment titled “Hot Sheet,” which briefly and often sarcastically informs the reader “what the country is talking about this week.” The opening epigraph was number nine on the list for July 23, 1999. This was not the first article in this magazine to target the lack of minority representation on network television; indeed, from the late 1990s, the approach of the fall television season signaled an increase of articles in a variety of publications that attempted to make sense of the continuing whitening of network television.

    African American images on network television...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 195-216)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-228)
  14. Index
    (pp. 229-238)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-239)