New television shows come out nearly every month, and it feels like the best ones sometimes slip under the radar. Though they’re constantly overlooked for awards, Black creators are still making some of the best film and television in the game, opening up avenues for other Black artists to make their way into the notoriously elitist world of Hollywood. In honor of the last few days of Black History Month, here are six of my favorite television shows, of all genres and formats, with Black creators and Black ensemble casts:
Atlanta is a critically acclaimed comedy drama created by and starring actor and musician Donald Glover, who you may recognize from the sitcom Community or his work as Childish Gambino. The show shines an important light on issues of poverty and Black identity, following Glover’s character trying to get his cousin’s rap career off the ground in order to improve life for himself and his daughter.
The series is both hilarious and dark, switching between the two to create a rich viewing experience. It also boasts an excellent cast in addition to Glover himself, starring Bryan Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, and Lakeith Stanfield. This FX show won Glover the first Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series awarded to an African-American, and it has a myriad of other Emmys, so it’s clearly worth checking out.
Abbott Elementary was created by BuzzFeed alum Quinta Brunson, and it’s a warmhearted, feel–good sitcom about a group of Philadelphia teachers and their relationships, both to each other and the students they serve to the best of their ability. The show, which also stars Brunson, harkens back to the mockumentary format of hit sitcoms like The Office. A workplace comedy, Abbott Elementary both the little idiosyncrasies of being an elementary school teacher and the importance of teachers. If you’re looking for something funny, warm, and slice–of–life, this is the one for you!
This show is most famous for the controversy it generated when it first came out, when it seemed to enrage many viewers for its sharp takes on racism in modern–day America. Having finished, with its fourth and last season premiering on Netflix in late 2021, it’s a great binge. Dear White People focuses on an ensemble of characters on the college campus of a fictional Ivy League University and their relationships with their Black identity and modern race relations. It’s a show that generates and inspires discussion, never holding back on sharp observations of the systemic racism that consciously and subconsciously pervade daily life—all on a college campus.
Created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, and starring Rae, this show illuminates the contemporary Black experience for Black women in America. Following two best friends dealing with various social issues, including their romantic relationships and job struggles, this is a series that is revolutionary in its display of the mundane daily lives of Black people. This is also a show that has since stopped airing and boasts a multitude of Emmys that speak to its excellence.
This was one of many shows shut out at the Golden Globes and snubbed by the Emmys in 2021 to the bafflement of many, as it is one of the hardest–hitting, complex anthologies ever created (in my opinion!) This limited series has 12 episodes focusing on writer Annabelle who struggles to come to terms with her sexual assault the days after it happens. Annabelle is forced to confront herself and the people around her, repeatedly asking the audiences uncomfortable questions regarding consent and assault.
Despite its heavy topic, the show navigates sexual assault in a unique and touching way, and still manages to be darkly hilarious. I May Destroy You is based on a real event faced by its creator and star Michaela Coel, whose talent shines in her deeply personal storytelling.
Something totally different from the other shows on this list, Lovecraft Country is a horror science–fiction show based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft the writer was notoriously racist, and Lovecraft Country inverts many of his most famous works and storylines. Following a Korean War vet who navigates 1950’s America in order to find his missing father, the show renders some of H.P. Lovecraft’s most terrifying creations—but in the end, it is the injustices and brutality of a segregated, racist mid–century America that end up being the most terrifying, incomprehensible parts of the show.
Representation and diversity are important topics discussed in the entertainment industry every day, but not enough is being done to really uplift and award Black creators, writers, and artists who are making deeply personal and complex shows every single day. At the very least, we can give these shows a watch and try to understand their creators’ messages.