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South Central aired from April until August 1994 on Fox.
South Central Los Angeles was the setting for this remarkably hard-edged comedy-drama ( the series did employ a laugh-track in order to enforce the comedy elements of the series), about a divorced, black-single mother trying to raise her family in a tough inner-city neighborhood. Joan ( Tina Lifford) was adjusting to working for the neighborhood grocery coop after having been laid off from her higher-paying administrative job. Not only did she have to struggle financially, but she was trying to raise her family and protect them from the violence around them. Her older son Marcus , had been killed by neighborhood gang members. Joan had 2 surviving children, Andre ( Laranz Tate), a lazy but well-meaning high school senior whose grades left much to be desired, and Tasha ( ( Tasha Scott), a diligent student who tended to tattle on her older brother. Living with them in her small house was little Dion ( Keith Mbulo), a foster child who never spoke. Andre had become infatuated with Nicole ( Maia Campbell), a sexy girl who worked part-time for Dr. McHenry ( Ken Page), a physician friend of his mother's. Although Nicole liked him, they had difficulty getting together, since her successful parents didn't want their daughter to date someone from the ' hood. Others in the cast were Rashad ( Lamont Bentley), Andre's buddy from school; Sweets ( Paula Kelly), Joan's neighbor and friend ; Bobby ( Clifton Powell), who ran the coop where Joan worked; and Mayo and Lucille ( Earl Billings, Jennifer Lopez), who also worked at the coop.
Critics loved South Central for its realistic portayal of life in the inner city, even if the language was stronger than they would have liked. Avoiding most of the stereotypes of TV sitcoms, these were real people with real problems. Unfortunately the series may have been too depressing to apeal to a mass audience. Despite a campaign to keep it on the air, it was canceled after its initial 13-episode run.
An Article from the Chicago Tribune
`South Central' Dares To Be Realistic
April 04, 1994|By Ken Parish Perkins, Tribune Television Critic.
Every so often there emerges a situation comedy whose situations are hardly comical, and you're faced with a rare emotional dilemma: Do you laugh or cry?
The highly anticipated "South Central" (7 p.m. Tuesday, Fox-Ch. 32)-the sitcom that dares to link humor and despair-places you in this quagmire early on when a round-faced black girl welcomes daybreak with the announcement that "nothin' gets me goin' like the smell of gunpowder in the morning."
Taken on its own, it's enough to turn your stomach. How dare the show's creators come up with gag lines for something as utterly frustrating as hopelessness?
But they do. And it works.
Created by Michael J. Weithorn and Chicago native Ralph Farquar, who grew up in Altgeld Gardens and graduated from Lindbloom High School, "South Central" is an ambitious undertaking for a couple of reasons:
- It flies in the face of traditional half-hour TV, where women, class, race and family usually fit snugly into a tiny, narrow hole.
- At a time when many African-Americans are growing weary of inner-city portrayals, "South Central" is about a fatherless family living in the epicenter of L.A.'s riots.
To put it into couch potato lingo, "South Central" is the gloomy, but compellingly authentic counterpoint to NBC's "The Cosby Show."
Tina Lifford plays Joan Mosley, hard-working mother of three. Laid off from the school district where she logged 12 years as a do-it-all administrative assistant, she lashes out at her dutiful daughter, Tasha (Tasha Scott), who wants to sport a costly Cross Colours jacket and her son, Andre (Larenz Tate), who thinks it's high time he gets himself a beeper so his "honeydips" can reach him.
This leads to confusion and confrontations: Tasha can't understand why they can't afford the jacket (mom has kept her unemployment a secret) and Andre defies Joan by buying the beeper anyway, oblivious of the reason his mother treats it as a life-and-death situation.
Which, in South Central, it is. "Why don't you just carry a sign saying, "I'm young, I'm black, I'm stupid-shoot me'?" she says in the pilot, alluding to the way the LAPD relates beeper-carrying youth to drug dealing.
Later we learn Jane's overprotectiveness is justified-a son was gunned down in gang violence.
Keith Mbulo plays Deion, the Mosley's 6-year-old foster child, so traumatized that he simply sits in silence. Ken Page is a doctor and mentor to Andre; Paula Kelly is Sweets, Joan's running buddy; Clifton Powell is Bobby Deavers, manager of the neighborhood co-op market.
Getting on the air is just the beginning for "South Central," whose pilot was directed by Stan Lathan ("Roc"). CBS passed on the project, fearing the dramatic turns would leave a lot of viewers more depressed than amused.
That was an understandable, though gutless, move by CBS, but I wonder if Fox is the answer. Viewers expecting the silliness of "Martin" and "Sinbad" will be disappointed in "South Central," which will air 10 episodes. Disappointment leads to low ratings, low ratings to cancellation.
On the basis of one episode, it's difficult to tell whether "South Central" will live up to its pilot episode, one of the finest half-hours I've seen in a long while. If not, they certainly get an A for effort.
- Still sick over the cancellation of Fox's "Flying Blind," I figured "The Counterfeit Contessa" (7 p.m. Monday, Fox-Ch. 32) would give me a Tea Leoni fix. Not so.
"Contessa" is romanceless romantic comedy about an Italian girl (Leoni) from Brooklyn who poses as a contessa to win a young man's heart for the wrong reasons. Skip it.
- It's difficult not to recommend "Beyond Obsession" (8 p.m. Monday, ABC-Ch.7), if only to watch Victoria Principal go through her "mommie dearest" routine and Henry Thomas (Elliott from "E.T.") play a strange kid in this over-the-top melodrama.
A Review from Variety
By TONY SCOTT
Powered By Fox, Tues. April 5, 8 p.m.
Cast: Tina Lifford, Larenz Tate, Tasha Scott, Keith Mbulo, Paula Kelly, Clifton Powell, Ken Page, Earl Billings, Terrence McNally, Jennifer Lopez.
Filmed around L.A. by Slick/Mac Prods. and Twentieth TV. Executive producers/writers, Ralph Farquhar, Michael J. Weithorn; producer, William E. Baker; director, Stan Lathan; "South Central," latest sitcom about an urban black family struggling against terrible odds, plays like the summation that finally gets it right.
Straightforward, touchingly human and funny, the series depicts tough breaks laced with hope, and involves people worth pulling for.
Joan Mosely (Tina Lifford), South Central L.A. deserted mother of three, has already lost one son to gangs, and she doesn't want teenage son Andre (Larenz Tate) following that path.
Andre, daughter Tasha (Tasha Scott) and foster son Deion (Keith Mbulo) don't know that Joan was laid off work a month ago and can't find another job -- not exactly a stingingly new plot idea, but one that's worked for all its traditional worth.
Lifford is authoritative but ingratiating, even when she takes her frustrations out on suitor Dr. McHenry (Ken Page). When close friend Sweets (Paula Kelly) offers to help, Joan can take a breather.
Playlet, written adroitly by exec producers Ralph Farquhar and Michael J. Weithorn and ably directed by Stan Lathan, has things to say people will be listening to. Storyline's simple and direct, but Lifford makes Joan a rich study of a near-desperate womanwho won't give up. A scene in a co-op market run by Deavers (Clifton Powell) and cranked up by a checker shows Joan's dilemma and her fortitude.
The pilot's actors, including distinguished Kelly, know what they're about. Sitcom's based on the human condition, not just on one-liners. "South Central," if the signals are right, says honest things without going mawkish about courage , patience and love. It faces an uphill battle but could catch on.
A Review from The New York Times
Critic's Notebook; Beyond Slapstick to Show Perils Faced by Blacks
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: April 5, 1994
In the 1970's, in a sitcom like "Good Times," a black family struggling to survive in a high-rise Chicago ghetto would somehow always be good for a laugh, especially if the goofy son popped his eyes and shouted "Dy-no-mite!" And in "Chico and the Man," an ingratiating young Hispanic man in East Los Angeles could joke his way into a garage partnership with an elderly white, a harmless fantasy that dribbled to an end when the drug-plagued star of the show, Freddie Prinze, committed suicide. Prime time entertainment's ability to fudge the harsher aspects of reality is boundless.
Today? Where minorities are concerned, specifically blacks and Hispanics, there's no dearth of dopey escapism or broad stereotypes bordering on minstrelsy. But at least occasionally an unusual effort is made to go beyond the standard television props of one-liners and tidy uplift. This week, two very different examples of a new grittiness are on tap: "South-Central," a new comedy drama series starting tonight on Fox Broadcasting, and "Lives in Hazard," a documentary on NBC on Friday night. In each case, the setting is Los Angeles.
The Mosely family in "South-Central" is headed by Joan (Tina Lifford), who after 12 years has lost her job as a schoolteacher and has yet to tell her family: teen-age Andre, or Dre (Larenz Tate); his younger sister, Tasha (Tasha Scott), and little Deion Carter (Keith Mbulo), a foster child. Joan's husband has long since gone and is rarely seen by the children. She has already lost a son to drugs and gangs, and is determined that Andre won't go the same route. Life in South-Central is an unending challenge. When Tasha wakes up and talks about fresh air and "the smell of gunpowder in the morning," she isn't entirely joking.
There are laughs in "South-Central," but they are secondary to a permeating sense of danger and looming disintegration. Determined that she is not going to be anybody's welfare recipient, Joan looks desperately for a job only to come up with a possibility paying $350 a week as opposed to the $525 she had been making. A harrowing new report that 18 percent of full-time workers live below the poverty line is driven home on this series.
Still reeling from the death of her oldest child, Joan tends to get overprotective about the remaining children, often with good reason. She will not allow the words "nigger" or "bitch" to be used in her home, no matter how casually they are tossed around on the streets. And when Andre comes home with a beeper and insists it has nothing to do with drug dealing, Joan is adamant: "Don't play me stupid." Andre is told he is the man of the house but when, in the second episode next week, he does come home with pockets full of money for his jobless mother, Joan explodes. She insists he return the money and tells the drug dealer's unapologetic mother, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
The language is sometimes earthy. The comic moments can be typically sitcom contrived. But "South-Central" has a steady ring of truth, right down to Andre finding the family glued to "Beverly Hills 90210" and making a crack about "watching those uppity white folks again."
Part of a continuing NBC focus on violence, including several new public-service announcements, "Lives in Hazard" was actually made a couple of years ago. The documentary, produced by Susan Todd and Andrew Todd, is narrated by the actor and director Edward James Olmos. It was made as worked on his 1993 feature film "American Me." The scene is East Los Angeles. The intensely emotional Mr. Olmos (on one Oscar telecast he kissed the hand of a startled Max von Sydow, one of his idols) is clearly committed to the project, describing the sad spectacle of children killing children as "an epidemic never seen before on the planet."
The material is by now familiar, but the compilation of wasted lives remains unsettling. Mr. Olmos used a good many Hispanic gang members in his movie. Some were subsequently killed or severely wounded by other gang members or the police. Some ended up in Folsom Prison, where Mr. Olmos was allowed to take his cameras and use real inmates as performers. "It's dangerous in here," says one, "because people got nothing to do but be dangerous."
East Los Angeles is seen as a world where young people, male and female, consider a prison term an ordinary part of growing up. A gang counselor recalls how he "aspired to San Quentin." Warnings about violence are shrugged off with a fatalistic "you got to die sometime." The film ends with a note that one neighborhood woman who figured prominently in both Mr. Olmos's film and this documentary was murdered by members of her own former gang. Prime time, and the rest of us, have come a long way from the cozy reassurances of Chico and the man's garage.
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
--By Ken Tucker
Few sitcoms have been as ambitious and nervy as South Central, a show about a single mother trying to raise her three children in inner-city Los Angeles. Joan Mosley (Tina Lifford) has been unemployed for a month, a fact she's trying to keep from her teenage son, Andre (Larenz Tate); daughter, Tasha (Tasha Scott); and 6-year-old foster son, Deion (Keith Mbulo). Tasha wants money to buy a stylish jacket and gets angry when her mother says no; Joan doesn't have the heart to tell her that she's already bouncing checks at the grocery store. Andre wants an electronic beeper, but his mother forbids it, saying it will only make the LAPD think he's a drug dealer: ''Why don't you just carry a sign saying, 'I'm young, I'm black, I'm stupid; shoot me'?'' Does this sound like a downer? It's not.
South Central, created by Ralph Farquhar (Married With Children) and Michael J. Weithorn (Family Ties), is unusually frank about the problems of the poor and the struggling, and is wise about the complexities of family life. Every role is wonderfully acted. On the basis of one episode, it is impossible to tell whether South Centralwill sustain its delicate tone-this is the only prime-time half-hour that seesaws between riotous hilarity and abject despair-but it deserves the best of luck. A-
An Article from the LA Times
Hard to Have Respect for 'South Central'
April 30, 1994
Anyone who is connected with "South Central," the new television show that purportedly reflects "true lifestyles" of African Americans residing in South-Central Los Angeles, should hang his head in shame. In actuality, what we are asked to digest are the same old stale servings of stereotypes and sensationalism.
Of course, the mother is the head of the household, and the father's whereabouts are unknown. Naturally, the mother finds it difficult to support the family and is a potential candidate for welfare. Predictably, the children are ill-mannered, disrespectful, profane and unable to converse in standard English. There are the expected references to crack, OGs (original gangsters), homies, bitches, prisons and neighborhood gunfire; and the omnipresent drug dealers swarm in the background like ravenous vultures.
What is especially offensive about "South Central," though, is that it comes cloaked in a shroud of honesty and respectability. Failing miserably to entertain, it pretends to educate. In that guise, it is an extremely dangerous series.
As an African American resident of South-Central Los Angeles for most of my life, I contend that the show is far from realistic. On the contrary, the real South-Central is largely reflective of middle-class America; yet the first two episodes of the series featured as many denigrating images of African Americans as time would allow. Such images increase the ratings, and high ratings mean profits. Once again, African Americans are being auctioned for a price!
While others are reaping profits from the series, young people will suffer losses. I, for one, will never watch another episode, but I am greatly disturbed by the fact that many of the teen-agers whom I teach will undoubtedly become regular viewers of the show. Vulnerable and lacking the sophistication needed to distinguish between crass commercialism and reality, they often regard television characters as heroes and strive to emulate them. Considering the limited number of African American characters on television, it is unconscionable to subject people to predominantly negative images of those characters.
Producers of "South Central" should consider the deleterious effects of the series on our children. That reason alone is just cause to remove "South Central" from television.
DOROTHY CLARK SAMS
I am writing in response to Howard Rosenberg's column "Fox Looks Inside 'South Central' " (April 4). The critique of "South Central" was insightful. The latter part of the column, however, conveyed a misunderstanding of African American culture.
Rosenberg referred to the "minstrelization of blacks" by such shows as "Def Comedy Jam," "In Living Color," "Martin" and "Living Single." The major difference between these shows and the shows of old is that minstrels were done, for the most part, by whites for the entertainment of and indoctrination (racism, stereotypes) of whites. With the exception of "In Living Color" (now done in the absence of Keenen Ivory Wayans, with the flavor of a minstrel show), all of the aforementioned shows are done by African Americans for the entertainment and education of African Americans.
And what is idiotic about "Living Single" using humor to deal with the burdensome expectations placed on females to be either in a serious relationship or married?
I'm well aware of (creators) Ralph Farquhar and Michael J. Weithorn's view of "South Central." I catch subtle glimpses of it on a daily basis because I live where teen-age boys are sometimes obsessed with video games and often dress in a style that can be mistaken for gangster wear. These same young men are also obsessed with getting into college and leading productive, responsible lives. But none of these young men would ever get away with using profanity in or even near their homes.
The parents of teen-agers I know in South-Central are dreadfully aware of the number of children that are reported missing each year, from all over. So they consider providing pagers for their children as a means of better communication; an act of responsibility.
My South-Central is proud, colorful and rich in heritage. A single mother struggling to feed and shelter her children would indeed beg for simple consideration in the matter of being chosen for a job in my South-Central, just as naturally as a father would read a bedtime story to his children.
Simply put, this black writer is issuing the challenge to Farquhar and Weithorn to do something responsible and at least consider a balanced view of South-Central from a writer who has lived here for 25 years.
SERAFIM DAVID CONCEICAO
South-Central Los Angeles
Once again we have been subjected to the redeeming values of another black situation comedy ("South Central") on Fox Television. We as blacks are tired of seeing us portrayed only as comedians, gang members, drug dealers or athletes. I ask the question: When will we have shows that are dignified? When will we have a predominantly black show like "L.A. Law" instead of "Family Matters"?
What we are experiencing again is the black renaissance of the '70s with all of its gangland pimp-style movies. The moral injustice being perpetrated against our youth is a travesty. All they see on TV is themselves being belittled, put down, made to look stupid, all for the white man's amusement. It makes me sick. Is this the best that we can expect from the TV execs? I dare any TV exec to answer that question.
RAYMOND E. HARDY
To watch clips of South Central go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=south+central+tv+show
For the Official Site of Jennifer Lopez go to http://www.jenniferlopez.com/
For an article on South Central go to http://www.vulture.com/2014/10/south-central-a-sitcom-20-years-before-its-time.html
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN9ZHQlwjjg
� Date: Mon February 14, 2011 � Filesize: 33.5kb � Dimensions: 403 x 450 �
Keywords: South Central Cast (Links Updated 8/3/18)