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Roc aired from August 1991 until August 1994 on FOX.
Roc Emerson ( Charles S. Dutton) was a hard-working black garbage man in Baltimore, just trying to make enough money to provide for his family. He had a good heart and good instincts , even if he wasn't too bright-when confronted with something he didn't understand, his usual response was " I ain't worked that out yet." Living with Roc were his loving wife Eleanor ( Ella Joyce), a nightshift nurse whose work schedule was not doing their love life much good; his freeloading kid brother Joey ( Rocky Carroll), an unemployed trumpet player with a penchant for gambling and other fast-buck schemes; and his opinionated father Andrew ( Carl Gordon), who distrusted white people and attributed almost everything of consequence to blacks. Roc's buddy Wiz ( Garrett Morris), so named because of a bladder problem, was a regular at the local bar where Roc hung out during his spare time.
After successfully airing an episode live in the spring of 1992, the producers of Roc decided that the entire 1992-1993 season would be live rather than on tape. All the regulars, who were primarily stage actors, felt that performing live would give the show more energy. At the start of that season Joey, living in the fancy apartment of a musician friend who was on tour, formed a jazz trio with a bass player, Curtis ( Wally Taylor) and pianist, Miles ( Oscar Brown, Jr.), both old-timers. When the friend with whom he was house sitting returned, Joey moved back into Roc's house and got free room and board for working as the superintendent for Roc's properties-an apartment house along with the adjoining row houses. Roc had gone into hock to buy them when his landlord decided to sell and move south. At the end of the season Eleanor got pregnant.
In the fall of 1993 with the series back on tape, 11-year-old Sheila Hendricks ( played by Kim Fields' sister Alexis Fields) , whose father Calvin , went to prison in the season premiere, moved in with the Emersons. Eleanor gave birth to Marcus Garvey Emerson in November ( viewers were given a 900 number to call and pick the name of the baby). Joey, living in an adjacent apartment owned by Roc, still didn't have a job. With both a new baby and a young girl living in their home, Roc and Eleanor became more involved with quality-of-life issues in the inner city. During that season there were more serious themes, including Roc's unsuccessful run for city council ( with Joey as his campaign manager) on a clean-up-the-crime-in-the-neighborhood platform and his periodic confrontations with local drug dealer Andre Thompson ( Clifton Powell).
Star Charles Dutton, who had himself been in prison before becoming an actor, was very concerned about the types of role models presented on Roc. In 1993 he won an NAACP Image Award for Best Actor.
A Review from The New York Times
TV Weekend; All in the Family, Updated and Black
By WALTER GOODMAN
Published: August 23, 1991
"Roc," the latest entry in the black working-class stakes, is set mainly in the home of a garbage man named Roc Emerson. Predictions are treacherous, but the show could clean up. "Roc," which will have its premiere on Fox at 7:30 P.M. on Sunday, will then join the regular Sunday schedule at 8:30 P.M., following and doubtless benefiting from the hit sitcom "In Living Color." The characters are likably quirky; the performances good. And although the situations are setups, they allow for funny cracks along the way.
The foreseeable problem is that the running jokes may soon run out of steam. Roc Emerson (Charles Dutton) works days, and his wife, Eleanor (Ella Joyce), works nights at a hospital, which, you guessed it, leads to conversation about their sex schedule. Roc's father (Carl Gordon) is a black Archie Bunker who hangs pictures of Malcolm X all over the house and maintains that no white can move fast enough to be a good basketball player. (He announces that Larry Bird's real name is Abdul Mustafa.)
Black-on-black jokes prevail. The free-swinging style of Roc's feckless brother, Joey (Rocky Carroll), mocks the middle-class aspirings of the Emerson household: Roc is saving up for a semidetached house, "a wall with nobody on the other side of it." And when Roc voices the suspicion that a brand-new VCR Joey bought from a pal at the local bar may be hot, their father says: "How do you know Duane stole it? Maybe he just looted it in some riot."
Whatever the fate of "Roc," which is put together by the people credited with "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Cheers" and "Taxi," it is welcome for giving such actors as Mr. Dutton, Mr. Carroll and Mr. Gordon, who were last seen on Broadway in "The Piano Lesson," a steady income. But let's hope that doesn't mean they are giving up the stage.
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
ROC (Fox, 7:30-8 p.m.) Remember when Fox was ''the upstart network,'' the maverick kid that was going to be so much more daring and wild and innovative than the Big Three? Ah, those were the days. Now Fox is busy obliterating talent with banal conformity just like ABC, CBS, and NBC, and here's proof: Roc is a standard little sitcom that manages to rein in the best instincts of its solid actors. Roc stars Charles S. Dutton, a stage veteran whose performance in August Wilson's play The Piano Lesson got him a Tony award nomination in 1990. Dutton plays Roc, a-well, let the Fox press release tell you: ''a hardworking garbage collector striving for the American Dream.'' Of course, in sitcoms, all working-class people are required to dream the American Dream, which is, each week for half an hour, systematically denied them. Dutton's Piano Lesson costars, Rocky Carroll and Carl Gordon, play Roc's brother and father, respectively, and Ella Joyce, cast as Roc's wife, was in another Wilson play, Two Trains Running. The best thing about this sitcom is that its cast is an instant ensemble-they immediately communicate a sense of ease and familiarity with each other's comic rhythms. Roc was created by Stan Daniels, one of the folks who gave us Taxi, and the series' pilot was directed by James Burrows, a cocreator of Cheers, so you just know that this show will probably never get any better than its first episode. This makes Roc's mediocrity all the more depressing, what with its condescending jokes about Roc's yearning for a ''semidetached house'' and his habit of furnishing his present home with items he picks out of the garbage he collects. The only semi-original twist in Roc is the character of Roc's father, Andrew. He's a black version of Archie Bunker, a grouchy racist who won't let Roc watch The Simpsons because, he says, black people should watch Cosby. In the premiere, Andrew straightens the portrait of Malcolm X that he's hung in the living room and not-so-amusingly inveighs about the perfidy of whites as the studio audience cracks up. In Roc, reverse racism is intended to be a real hoot. C -KT
An Article from the Chicago Tribune
After A Rocky Start, Dutton`s Life Now `Roc`-solid
August 25, 1991|By Kenneth R. Clark, Media writer.
By all odds, Charles Dutton should be dead. The life he was born to lead afforded hundreds of opportunities for an early demise, and he took advantage of most of them.
Yet here he is, this ex-street fighter, ex-con from the most feral of Baltimore`s concrete jungles, being hailed as one of the fastest-rising stars in the Hollywood firmament. From nine years in prison (``12 if you count reform school``) he has gone ``from jail to Yale,`` earned two Tony nominations on Broadway, made five feature films and several prime-time guest appearances, been featured on ``60 Minutes`` and now is starring in ``Roc,``his sitcom, produced by HBO for Fox Broadcasting.
``Roc`` is more than the name of Dutton`s new showcase, which premieres Sunday (6:30 p.m., WFLD-Ch. 32). It is his own personal nickname and its origin graphically traces the violence of his roots on the mean streets of Baltimore where the sitcom takes place.
``When I was a kid, we had rock fights,`` Dutton explained. ``My gang would line up on one side of the street and another gang would line up on the other side and we`d let fly. I was always out front, leading the charge, and I got my head busted about twice a month. As a result, the guys started calling me `Rockhead.` Somewhere along the line, the `k` and the `head` got dropped and it`s been `Roc` ever since.``
``Roc`` stars Dutton as Roc Emerson, a much-put-upon Baltimore garbage man shackled with an acerbic father who worships Malcolm X and a ne`er-do-well younger brother who worships a fast buck and isn`t above wheedling it out of his family. Matched with an ultimately sensible, if volatile, wife, the life and times of ``Roc`` emerge as sort of a cross-pollination between ``Sanford and Son`` and ``All in the Family.``
But there the resemblance to the average sitcom ends. Dutton, nominated twice for Tony Awards on the Broadway stage, for August Wilson`s ``Ma Rainey`s Black Bottom`` and ``The Piano Lesson,`` said he did not trust television, and the only way he could be persuaded to enter the prime-time ratings race was to be allowed to cast the vehicle from ``The Piano Lesson`` (which played at Chicago`s Goodman Theater before moving on to Broadway). Roc`s father, therefore, is portrayed by Carl Gordon and the younger brother by Rocky Carroll, who also won a Tony nomination for his work in the play. In the role of Roc`s wife is Ella Joyce, who also starred in ``The Piano Lesson`` and stage-trained from her starring role in Wilson`s ``Two Trains Running.`` The result is an ensemble cast that meshes like magic.
Things were not always so sweet for Charles Dutton. The rock fights of his childhood and, as he grew older, increasingly more serious encounters with law and society, all took place in the shadow of the Maryland State Penitentiary where Dutton and his peers confidently expected to wind up. Dutton got there early on when a fight turned ugly and his opponent drew a knife. When it was over, the opponent lay dead and ``Roc`` drew five years for manslaughter-a sentence he managed to stretch by four more years through unremitting rebellion and insubordination. No residue of bitterness, however, remains.
``Prison,`` Dutton said, without a trace of irony, ``saved my life.``
More specifically, solitary confinement saved his life. Dutton, a self-proclaimed ``troublemaker`` who refused to work and who fought with guards and fellow inmates alike, spent a lot of time there.
At Maryland, ranked one of the toughest prisons in the nation, solitary confinement meant a 5-by-7-foot cell with a sink, but no bed and no commode. The latter consisted of a hole in the floor which Dutton said vindictive guards could back up at will, flooding the cell ankle-deep in sewage.
Prisoners locked naked therein were fed once every three days and were allowed ``one piece of reading material,`` though the only light by which to read was that which seeped under the door.
In those days, inspired by the Black Panthers and convinced that the nation was ``on the brink of a bloody civil war,`` Dutton said he was a dedicated Marxist-Leninist. He had become an avid reader in prison, but he read only leftist literature. Then one day, he got into a fight with a prison guard and his reading habits, as well as his life, changed forever.
``As they hauled me off to isolation, I just grabbed a book from my cell without even looking at it,`` he said.
The book Dutton got was not the Leninist tome he thought he was taking. It was a book of plays, sent to him by a girlfriend on the outside. He had barely glanced at it, but for the next week, locked away in his tiny cell, it was to be his only companion.
``I had never read a play,`` Dutton said. ``I was mesmerized. Especially by `Day of Absence` by Douglas Turner Ward. It`s about the day all the blacks in a small Southern town decided not to come to work and the whites realized they couldn`t live without them. It`s played by a black cast in white-face and it`s hilarious. I read it over and over and told myself, `When I get out of here, I`m going to stage this.```
``I found my humanity in that cell and I was a changed man when I got out,`` Dutton said. ``The prison officials all thought I`d gone crazy, but they let me put on the play, and when I was up there delivering my lines, I looked out over that audience and they were rapt! This was a bunch of guys who wouldn`t be rapt over anything, but I (ital) had (unital) them, and a weird sense of power came over me. Suddenly, I knew what I was put on this earth to do.``
Dutton wasted no time in doing it upon release from prison. He earned a bachelor`s degree in theater arts from Towson State University and, urged by his drama coach, applied to Yale drama school. To his everlasting surprise, he was accepted.
The Ivy League launched Dutton onto Broadway, and Broadway launched him to Hollywood where he played the glib Leroy Brown in ``Crocodile Dundee II``
and a veteran cop in Sidney Lumet`s ``Q and A.`` Subsequent roles, soon to be released, include ``Pretty Hattie`s Baby`` with Alfre Woodard, ``Mississippi Masala`` with Denzel Washington and ``Aliens III`` with Sigourney Weaver.
If Dutton has made a successful transition from stage to screen, he also has come a long way from the radical leftist leanings of his youth. Now, street-smart and prison-wise, he conducts a one-man anti-drug, anti-crime campaign among inner-city kids from Harlem to his native Baltimore, and he holds some views that might shock fellow blacks and civil libertarians.
``Integration didn`t work,`` he said. ``Integration ultimately spelled disintegration. Before integration, every black community had its
professionals that kids could emulate-the doctor, the lawyer, the pharmacist. When integration came, they all left. Now the drug pusher-he didn`t leave. That was his area of operation, so the drug pusher and the thug became the only role models for black kids.``
Dutton, at least, offers a replacement for some of those professionals who fled their old neighborhoods. He, after all is a star-the guy who came from prison to the top of the Hollywood heap. If any of the kids now prison-bound, but audiences for ``Roc,`` can emulate that, there may be hope after all.
AN Article from The New York Times
Alumni of 'Taxi' And 'Piano Lesson' Team Up for 'Roc'
By HILARY DE VRIES;
Published: September 22, 1991
On a cavernous Hollywood sound stage, two actors, scripts in hand, run through their lines for their director. Charles Dutton and Ella Joyce are playing a husband and wife holed up in a hotel room for a romantic weekend, and there is some business with a bottle of lip-pursingly cheap champagne that has caught their director's attention.
"That's a funny picture -- your two faces together," says Stan Daniels, the director, framing the air to simulate a camera lens. "Hold it there for a minute so I can get you in one shot."The actors dutifully shove their grimacing faces together for an extra beat or two.
To anyone familiar with network sitcoms, Mr. Daniels's camera-savvy direction is yawningly obvious. This is, after all, a rehearsal for an episode of "Roc," the new Fox series on Sunday nights at 8:30.
The half-hour situation comedy about a working-class black family is produced by HBO Independent Productions, the new television production arm of Home Box Office. The show is the latest creation of Mr. Daniels, an acclaimed television writer and director whose credits include "Taxi" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." But for Mr. Dutton and Ms. Joyce, classically trained stage actors, this emphasis on laugh-provoking visuals is relatively new territory.
The series is exploring new territory in other respects; it is a show about a black family created in an era far different from that in which "The Cosby Show" emerged, less than a decade ago.
"Roc" was developed for Mr. Dutton, perhaps best known to audiences for his starring roles in two August Wilson dramas -- the Broadway productions of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (1984) and "The Piano Lesson" (1990).
Set in Baltimore in a modest inner-city apartment furnished with secondhand furniture, African masks and framed portraits of Malcolm X, "Roc" is the story of the Emerson family -- Roc, a hard-working garbage collector (played by Mr. Dutton); his wife Eleanor, a night nurse (played by Ms. Joyce); Joey, his cocky, out-of-work musician brother (played by Rocky Carroll) and Andrew, his outspoken retired father (played by Carl Gordon). The initial 13 episodes range from the overtly comedic, such as the hotel-room scene being rehearsed this afternoon, to more dramatic, even political, stories. One episode raises the issue of affirmative action.
"This isn't Shakespeare and it's not August Wilson," says Mr. Dutton, who had initially envisioned "Roc" as a remake of "The Honeymooners," the popular 1960's comedy series starring Jackie Gleason. "But we are showing the reality of black American life and culture. Even though it is a comedy, we want the show to have an edge."
Although its audience has been growing, "Roc" has a long way to go before qualifying as a hit; in the first week of September it was the 45th-ranked show out of 90. But the reviews have been positive; Walter Goodman of The Times wrote: "The characters are likably quirky; the performances good. And although the situations are setups, they allow for funny cracks along the way."
It was Mr. Dutton's performance in "The Piano Lesson" that led directly to this series. Mr. Daniels had seen Mr. Dutton on Broadway last winter and was introduced to the actor at the request of HBO, which had just signed Mr. Dutton to a five-year contract. "There was something in him that struck me as unique," says Mr. Daniels. "I thought, 'Here is someone who could do something worthwhile on television.' "
Mr. Daniels conceived of the show's premise as well as the protagonist's occupation as garbage collector (which, coincidentally, is the occupation of the central character of an earlier August Wilson play, "Fences"). Mr. Dutton was instrumental in hiring the series' cast -- all veteran stage actors -- including several cast members from "The Piano Lesson."
"I wanted to work with stage actors who still had their acting muscles and who would challenge me," says Mr. Dutton.
"Roc" is one of the few sitcoms about a black American family since "The Cosby Show" began in 1984. That decade has seen the arrival of Spike Lee and several black Hollywood directors as well as the advent of "In Living Color," Fox's hit comedy show that satirizes racial stereotypes and has attracted a large black viewership. For the creators of "Roc," such changes in the nation's cultural fabric have widened the parameters of television
"We don't have to make nice between the races anymore," says Mr. Daniels. "The atmosphere has been prepared for us by Spike Lee and the other black directors. People are more willing to talk about race honestly. You can have a broader selection of issues and reactions."
Series executives as well as the show's creative team, however, are divided over exactly where to position "Roc" within the spectrum defined by the mainstream "Cosby Show" and the more provocative "In Living Color." Although "Roc" is performed with an all-black cast and holds the prized time slot immediately after "In Living Color," the series has been created by a group of largely white writers -- Mr. Daniels and the show's executive producers, Brian Pollack and Mert Rich, who had previously written for the hit comedy series "Cheers."
"We don't think of this as a 'black show,' " says Mr. Pollack, who, with Mr. Rich, oversees a team of six writers, only two of whom are black. "It's a comedy where the humor comes from the characters and not the situation. Many of the recent episodes could have conceivably been played by a white cast."
Adds Jeff Chernin, president of the Fox Broadcast Entertainment Group: "We don't see 'Roc' as having the same audience as 'Living Color.' Most of the so-called black shows have been fairly silly. We simply thought that no one was dealing with the realities of working-class life -- black or white -- on television."
Mr. Daniels, however, characterizes "Roc" as "a metaphor for black rage."
"This is a man who buys into the American dream, who works hard and saves," he says. "At the same time he is still a garbage man whose wife has to work nights, his brother is out of work and he's got a father to support. He is weighed down by all these things. He is a frustrated black man, and that can be frightening to white America."
Says Rocky Carroll, who appeared with Mr. Dutton in "The Piano Lesson": "We don't have to paint the walls red, green and black to say this is a black show. There are definitely cultural things in it. I know there are people out there who will criticize us for not being black enough or eating enough barbecue on this show. But we aren't trying to do a politically correct or coded show so that you have to be black to get it."
Mr. Dutton says he "is not trying to do battle with the industry" with his first series. "No black show has exclusively black writers -- that is just not the way of Hollywood. But if we are successful I'm not going to sit around and let the show stay all white. I think we need more black writers and more women." Meanwhile, he says, "the controversy will come from the dramatics of the show, from the acting."
Says Mr. Daniels: "White Jewish writers writing for blacks? I have no answer there. Where do you stop writing? For people not your race? Your gender? Your creed? I sat down to write a show for actors." ON A ROLL
For Charles Dutton, the new Fox comedy series "Roc" is the most visible aspect of an increasingly visible career.
A former member of the Black Panthers who served a sentence for manslaughter before enrolling in the Yale University School of Drama in the late 1970's, Mr. Dutton first came to attention in the 1984 Broadway production of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," by August Wilson. Critics and Hollywood took notice of his humorously volatile performance, and he was flown to Los Angeles to audition for the villain's role in the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, "Commando."
Mr. Dutton elected to stay with the play, and for the next several years he divided his time between regional theater, Broadway and Hollywood, playing small roles in such films as " 'Crocodile' Dundee II" and Sidney Lumet's "Q and A."
Now the 40-year-old actor is starring as a garbage collector in "Roc" while awaiting the release of three films finished earlier this year -- "Aliens 3," the 1992 anticipated blockbuster starring Sigourney Weaver; "Pretty Hattie's Baby," starring Alfre Woodard, and "Mississippi Masala," with Denzel Washington. Mr. Dutton is also negotiating with the director Spike Lee over a role in his next film, "Malcolm X," and with Mr. Wilson for the lead in a new play, which is expected to have a workshop production next summer.
For Mr. Dutton, however, "Roc" may be the most crucial of these projects -- a possible hit series that could lead to more clout in Hollywood.
An Article from The New York Times
From Ashes, an Acting Career and a Role on 'Roc'
By BERNARD WEINRAUB,
Published: February 8, 1992
By the time he was approaching the age of 40, Carl Gordon's life was a shambles. His second marriage had just broken up, he had a dead-end job in a Brooklyn department store and his friends in Bedford-Stuyvesant were spending their time talking about their lost youth and what they should have done with their lives.
"One night I got so depressed I actually began to cry," Mr. Gordon said. "At that moment, some spirit inside of me said, 'Try acting.' "
Twenty years later Mr. Gordon, who is now 60, has emerged as one of the more engaging character actors on television in the Fox Broadcasting Company's successful series "Roc," about a working-class black family in Baltimore. This Sunday at 8:30 P.M., he and the rest of the cast will face an unusual challenge. In an attempt to upstage its network competitors, Fox will broadcast an episode of the series live. 'Not Really a Gimmick'
The decision to broadcast live came about because of the presence of New York actors in the cast who have worked together on stage in recent years. Charles S. Dutton, who plays the title character, along with Rocky Carroll, Ella Joyce and Mr. Gordon have worked together in Broadway plays. "We're still fresh from the stage, and working in front of a live audience is food for us," Mr. Gordon said. "It's not really a gimmick. It'll hopefully get more people to watch the show."
The show is third in its time period, after "Murder, She Wrote," and "America's Funniest People." But among adults 18 to 49 as well as teen-agers, the program comes in second, after "America's Funniest People." If "The Cosby Show" is essentially a sitcom fantasy about a black family, "Roc" is far more rooted in reality and depicts the lives of Roc, a stolid, hard-working Baltimore sanitation worker who aspires to achieve the American dream; his strong-willed wife (Ms. Joyce), a nurse who works the night shift; a brother who is a musician (Mr. Carroll), and Roc's father, Andrew, played by Mr. Gordon.
The character depicted by Mr. Gordon is an irascible, sharp-tongued retired train porter who hangs up pictures of Malcolm X around the house, attacks Roc for watching "The Simpsons" instead of "Cosby," and insists that Larry Bird cannot be a white man because he plays basketball so well. In one memorable episode, the older man's successful younger brother visits and announces that he is gay. What makes the older man irate, however, is not his brother's sexuality but the fact that his companion is white.
Mr. Gordon said he based his character on an uncle who owned a grocery in Philadelphia. "Andrew is a man who does not forget his history, a man who is tolerant of people who are tolerant of him but who makes no bones about the way he feels," said Mr. Gordon, seated in his small dressing room at the Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles. "He's a retired railroad porter and that tells you something about an individual automatically."
"These men had dignity, a special code of dress, on the job and off," Mr. Gordon continued. "They were a special breed of black men, and they had to endure a whole lot of racial things, from slurs to their own people calling them 'Toms' and things like that."
Mr. Gordon makes it plain that he has brought his own history to the role. Reared by his mother and grandmother, who worked as cleaning women and domestics, Mr. Gordon grew up in Brooklyn, served in the Air Force and held jobs as a sheet-metal worker and a stockroom clerk. His older colleagues talked about their wasted lives and what they should have done when they were young.
"I never wanted to look back on my life and say, 'I wish I could have done that,' " said Mr. Gordon, who still lives on the West Side of Manhattan and keeps a small apartment in Los Angeles.
A friend suggested he enroll at the Gene Frankel Theater Workshop. Not only was he the only black student but he was also the oldest student and the only one without a college degree. "I was very scared," he said. "But I found that not only could I do it, I loved doing it."
He studied for several years, supporting himself by working at the post office and the department store. By the mid-60's Mr. Gordon was working as a film extra, and in 1967 had made his debut in the national tour of Douglas Turner Ward's "Days of Absence/Happy Ending." Mr. Ward later formed the Negro Ensemble Company, and Mr. Gordon appeared in 30 of its productions. He was an understudy in August Wilson's play "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and appeared with Mr. Dutton in the Yale Repertory production of Mr. Wilson's "Piano Lesson."
The actor agrees with his character that "The Cosby Show" was needed on television. "The only time it becomes a problem is when you don't have any other kind of black show," he said. "It would be just as wrong to have a show that only had blacks as gangsters or prostitutes. But if you show these things, as well as have shows about blacks who are average joes, like our show, working and trying to make it, then it's all worth it."
An Article from the Orlando Sentinel
Dutton, Fox At Odds Over Demise Of 'Roc'
June 20, 1994|By Ken Parish Perkins
CHICAGO — Petitions have been circulating in Chicago and other cities to get Roc - the Fox sitcom about a multigeneration black family in Baltimore - back on the air. Fox recently canceled the show after three seasons, citing poor ratings.
According to Nielsen, official tracker of what we watch, Roc ranked 117th among 124 shows.
Fox says it made a decision simply based on that fact. To lure a larger audience, it had moved the series from Sunday to Tuesday, packaged it with the popular Martin, brought in a new character (teen-ager Alexis Fields), and even tried airing the show live.
Fox Entertainment president Sandy Grushow said he liked and respected the show but could wait no longer for the series to find the audience it needed to survive.
Still, Charles S. Dutton, star and principal visionary of the series, which used humor to deal with sibling rivalry, teen pregnancy, abortion and inner-city issues, has accused Fox of washing its hands of Roc long ago.
He says the network never promoted Roc the way it trumpeted such shows as Melrose Place and Married . . . With Children.
Dutton thinks Fox simply grew weary of trying to fit Roc into the traditional confines of a black sitcom.
To Grushow, Dutton's accusations are ''without merit.''
Dutton disagrees. ''I just find it interesting that a show Fox always said couldn't find an audience was never showcased in order to gain one,'' Dutton said by phone.
And there's more. The star says Fox began to lose interest in Roc after the show started getting ''the rap of being a racist show.''
Dutton describes his relationship with Fox as strained and that tension developed because of his insistence that he rewrite episodes, particularly story lines centered around race.
An example is the episode in which Joey (Rocky Carroll) dates a white woman.
''They said it was too one-sided,'' says Dutton, who rewrote the episode that at first had his wife, played by Ella Joyce, supporting Joey's decision to date outside his race. Dutton felt that, in reality, she wouldn't do such a thing.
''That wasn't realistic,'' he says. ''I know a lot of black people who have problems with it. TV always wants (black characters) to say, 'Oh, we are the world; let's all live together.' ''
That was only one of many run-ins Dutton had with the show's writers, mostly white, whom he called ''insensitive'' to black experiences.
''They always wanted us to be more funny,'' he said. ''Be more funny. That's been my frustration with Fox.''
''All you can do is battle for your vision and hope you can stay on to keep it going. I didn't. I hope someone else can.''
The prospects aren't great. Even on Fox, a network that actually seeks an ''urban'' (read: black) audience, television's unwritten rules still apply: few black characters after 9 p.m.; no black family dramas; no ''confrontational'' racial issues on sitcoms, such as Roc and the network's other canceled series South Central, about a single mother raising three kids in Los Angeles.
While Fox did the right thing in ending two other black shows - In Living Color, a comedy series that never lived up to its first season, and The Sinbad Show, which simply wasn't the right vehicle for the talented comedian - the dismissals of Roc and South Central tell much about the workings of commercial television as it pertains to race.
If humor is a way of relieving social tension, of making us comfortable with others we know little about, then the more exaggerated and ridiculous the character (Martin Lawrence on Martin, Jaleel White as Urkel on ABC's Family Matters) or the more pristine and colorless (The Cosby Show), the more comfortable the mass audience will be with black shows.
This is Dutton's point.
Making Roc or South Central hilarious is one way of making the problems of the inner city - America's chronic sore spot - funny and, thus, easier to consume. As long as popularity determines profitability and profitability determines success, black shows that also confront viewers with challenging messages will continue to struggle.
To watch some clips of Roc go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=roc+tv+show+full+episodes
For more on Roc go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roc_(TV_series)
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvqzv8CMg9M and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jQas0Sdw5Q
� Date: Tue June 24, 2014 � Filesize: 69.0kb, 154.3kb � Dimensions: 1000 x 796 �
Keywords: The Cast of Roc (Links Updated 8/2/18)