Comedian Byron Allen has been a busy man launching his own cable network and creating a new sitcom about a black first family that has just been picked up by NBC for 104 episodes — a rather long initial run for any sitcom, black or mainstream. No, the family is not exactly the Obamas, but I’m sure a little real-world inspiration put this one in motion.
The First Family will star Christopher B. Duncan (the uptight Braxton opposite Jamie on The Jamie Foxx Show) and Kellita Smith (Bernie Mac’s wife on The Bernie Mac Show) as the president and first lady. Gladys Knight will play the president’s mother, and Jackee Harry and Marla Gibbs will portray the first lady’s sister and mother, respectively. John Witherspoon (bang, bang, bang!) will also have a regular role on the series. Now do you see how non-Obama the show will be?
Allen spoke on behalf of his production company Entertainment studios about the show, saying that “there’s a huge shortfall of quality family sitcoms, and we are 110 percent committed to filling that enormous void…our number one priority is to deliver the highest quality content in the sitcom genre, and this initial 104-episode order is a big step in the right direction.”
He certainly has a point. The family sitcom is a dying genre and those of us who love it have been twiddling our thumbs waiting for a show as fun and familiar as The Cosby Show, A Different World, or Living Single. The First Family seems ready to make use of skilled sitcom veterans, but the challenge is whether it will successfully brave network television’s fickle nature beyond it’s premiere date of Fall 2012 and stay on the air long enough for us to watch it.