The criticism of VH1’s new romantic comedy series Single Ladies has been loud and clear. Coined the urban Sex and the City meets Girlfriends, Stacey Dash, LisaRaye McCoy and Charity Shea star as three friends navigating the single life in Atlanta. However, the excitement over a scripted show featuring Black women (finally!) was short lived after viewers tuned in Monday night.
Val (Stacey Dash) plays a stylist-turned-boutique owner adjusting to her newly single life after her beau of five years refused to marry her. Keisha (LisaRaye) is reinventing herself after spending 10-15 years as a video vixen; and lives by the motto “if you want true love, buy a puppy.” April (Charity Shea), the White girlfriend, is married to a “good Black man,” but is having an affair with the mayor of Atlanta played by Common. Celebrities galore- Eve, Kim Porter (the mother of Puffy’s kids), Chili, Pilar Sanders (Deion Sanders’ wife), Jermaine Dupri and Kandi- make cameos for no other reason than to attract viewers.
VH1 is no stranger to providing a platform for Black women. Only that platform typically consists of salacious reality TV drama with women slinging drinks at one another over nonsensical beef. With Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment production company, VH1 chose to switch things up a bit with its new series. Nonetheless, people still aren’t happy.
In Hank Stuever’s Washington Post article,“VH1’s ‘Single Ladies’ is embarrassing to the gilded hilt,” he writes:
This is a series for people who found “Sex and the City” too quick-witted and “The Wendy Williams Show” too intellectually stimulating. It’s the TV equivalent of a beach read with no words. Even if “Single Ladies” can be enjoyed in some basic brainless way (and even though it’s safely sequestered on VH1, where standards are aggressively low), there’s something steadfastly embarrassing about it.
The women seem to be operating from a false sense of empowerment, a soulfulness that unfortunately reads as soullessness. The men all talk like that grandiloquently suave Old Spice spokesman who rides his stallion shirtless. “Single Ladies” dares the more sheltered among us to ask: “Are there people who really look and talk like this?”
Jezebel writer Dodai Stewart was slightly less harsh than Stuever, but is still not pleased. In her article “Are Sex, Celeb Sightings and Stacey Dash Enough to Save Single Ladies?” she writes:
The problem with Single Ladies is that it’s just not very good. Not deep enough, not well-written enough, not well-directed enough, not well-acted enough. Every scene seemed to have a luxury car, some diamonds, or a designer crystal glass of champagne in it, as if bougie trappings could stand in for character development. And, as someone on Twitter noted, the show really seems to be about being 45 and trying to act 25.
Stuever and Stewart’s articles weren’t shocking after reading similar criticisms on Twitter. Much like Stuever’s condescending article (it grinds my gears for a White man to negatively attack a show about Black women for Black women), the criticism on Twitter was just as vile and reeked of negativity. Criticisms ranged from the women being caricatures to the script being poorly written to the acting being horrendous. I quickly realized I was an anomaly. I actually enjoyed the show.
A few people rudely attacked me for enjoying the show. Others engaged by asking, “Is it unrealistic to want/hope for shows with the quality of the Cosby Show, Different World, Living Single, or Girlfriends? There’s quality TV on broadcast like Modern Family or the Good Wife, why can’t I want these type of shows?”
Classic Black sitcoms of the 1990’s and early 2000’s haven’t reappeared. And they may never be reinvented. As long as quality shows, Black and diverse, are created, I’m ok with watching the reruns of my favorite 90’s classics on DVD.
Perhaps we are insatiable. We ridicule Tyler Perry for his problematic depiction of Blacks. We rallied for The Game to be revived, but were disappointed when it went downhill at its new network, BET. We love to watch Basketball Wives, but hate that it has mirrored one of the constant images of Black women. Now people hate Single Ladies, too.
I will openly admit I’m desperate for Black female representation on television. If not on Single Ladies, where else can we watch Black female actresses? The show is written by Stacy A. Littlejohn (a Black woman), directed by Tamra Davis (a white woman), and produced by Queen Latifah. On a major network. That’s a huge achievement.
I’m not of the belief that we cannot publicly critique Black projects. I’m a staunch supporter of constructive criticism. Nor do I believe we have to settle for just any ‘ol thing, which in my opinion is not what Single Ladies is. Yet mockingly picking apart every single detail of a show the first night it premieres doesn’t seem constructive either.
I wonder, ‘what type of show would make us happy?’ I also thought it ironic that the crowd throwing rotten tomatoes at Single Ladies had zero criticism for Sex and the City.
Networks are big business. Ratings equal dollars. As much as Black folks may enjoy the Good Wife or Modern Family, network executives are not yet at a place where they believe similar shows for Blacks would be equally successful. They do, however, know reality TV gets ratings. And so does House of Payne.
Single Ladies was originally created as a film. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Queen Latifah said the film was shopped around, but VH1 opted to pick it up as a series; hence the two-hour premiere- the actual film.
Single Ladies is not without flaws. Neither was Seinfeld, Girlfriends or Sex and the City in their first seasons. As a matter of fact, the majority of pilots actually suck. But can we at least be happy there is a scripted series showcasing Black actors? Just maybe executives will get the hint that Blacks are a diverse group of people; and portraying us as such will sell.
Balanced representation is a must. Quality shows similar to ones we once had a decade ago would be ideal. Yet somehow, even if that happened, would we be satisfied?
You can’t please all the people all of the time, and trying would be pointless.
Watch Full Episode Below: