“Ooooo in a 90’s kind of world/I’m glad I got my girls”
You know the rest of the words and I was singing them as I typed it. Almost typed the whole song. “Living Single” walked so “Friends” could run. Fight me.
I remember my mom watching this show all the time and when I finally watched it for myself, I fell in love. Also, I have never seen an episode of “Friends” but I know it wasn’t as funny “Living Single.”
So here’s what I love, admire and wish we had more of in the shows I watch today. You had four polar opposite women who were living it up in a brownstone in Manhattan as best friends (and we got a backstory of them moving into the brownstone) and two male best friends who had romantic encounters with these women but had their own identities. There was a balance between the women and they were effortlessly funny. Before I continue about the significance of this show, I want to mention something I found out when the cast reunited for TV One. Queen Latifah was instrumental in making sure the show was as authentic to who these characters were as possible. The women of the show, Kim Fields who played Regine Hunter, Erika Alexander who played Maxine Shaw Attorney at Law (I had to) and Kim Coles who played Synclaire James, said that Dana (that’s Queen’s real name and how most of her friends address her) made sure the producers and directors didn’t pressure the women to lose weight or maintain a certain weight for their time on the show. Same for the men. There was never pressure to continue the show as a size four or six. If you gained weight, you gained weight and it wasn’t a punchline in the show or even a focal point. She was focused on the chemistry between them and the craft, not the superficials. I think that’s what’s lacking in some shows today. Everyone concerned with being pretty or a heartthrob. This wasn’t a show for that.
Let’s talk about two pivotal episodes that continue to be talked about today. The first episode I want to talk about is the episode that centered around Kyle and his hair. Kyle was a stock broker and was on of the two characters who had a high ranking job, for lack of better terms. He felt that in order to appeal to his bosses for a promotion, he had to change his hair. Now, he had some help from a so-called coworker who put it in his head that he had to appear a certain way in order to get the job. This is actually something that black people struggle with on a daily basis. People often wonder how they will be viewed with twists, locs and braids in a corporate setting. This episode was a bit ahead of its time. In working in news, I still see stories where young men are forced to cut their hair in order to compete in a wrestling match or new legislation gives “protection” for having these styles. I really loved that this episode, as always, poked fun at the lengths he was willing to go to compromise himself for someone else, mainly, and for a job in general. His speech to his associates was incredible and the end of the episode where they basically told him they didn’t care what hairstyle he had and they only cared about what he could bring to the table as an associate was amazing!
The other episode that I think most people remember is the episode where Regine had to get her breast reduction. We all know Regine for being bougie and proclaiming herself, basically, better than everyone else. Up until this episode, we never saw her express any insecurities….maybe besides having a man. This was the first that we see her scared of what her future could look like in addition to having to go under the knife. What I admire about this particular episode, it’s also what they discussed in that same reunion I mentioned before, was the fact that Kyle was the one to talk to her and make her feel ok with having the surgery. Naturally, you thought her girls would be the ones to really come to her rescue…after the jokes, but some smart person made it Kyle. Now that I think about it, this conversation coming from Kyle, who is man who admires a large bosom, probably held a little more weight. Regine thought that the first thing people saw was her face and her breasts and that was what made her who she was. It was what was special about her and it took a male friend to tell her that SHE is what makes her special, not her breasts. If you know a man like that in your life, keep him, ladies. They are in rare supply.
I feel like as a child, this was the show that showed me the balance of career and fun as an adult. Khadijah had her own magazine and when I was a teen, that’s what I wanted to do. Watching her was like a dream because it showed me that there were black women who were doing this. It was also not the conventional job to have on TV. Owning your own anything, let alone a publication, was not something you saw….well on any show. Same with Maxine. How many black female lawyers did you know on TV before Annalise Keating? I can’t think of one besides Maxine. Also, I LOVE how they brought Chip Fields in to be Regine’s mom. I always love when shows do that with siblings or parents. It’s just such a nice touch.
Now, let’s address the cast change. At the end of one of the seasons, we saw Kyle and Maxine at a crossroads in their relationship. Kyle took a gig in London and was missing in those last episodes. He was “replaced” with “Tripp”, played by Mel Jackson (the light skinned dude from Soul Food). It was a little different and you could tell but it was still funny. In true favorite show status (especially with black shows), the last season was a little rushed and wrapped up a little too fast but this show REMAINS the reigning champ of ensemble casting and is much better than “Friends.” Again, fight me!