Fox gambled a lot when coming up with this idea of presenting the lives of 4 single African-American women living in New York. It was a somewhat original concept, which improved an already existing one: unlike The Cosby Show or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (or even The Jeffersons), this new series wanted to remove some of the stereotypes.
The 4 female characters weren’t ones that have already moved on up the social ladder from working class to the upper one, just like they weren’t the African-American mothers exiled in the kitchen. An improvement was made also if we are to consider how the lead actresses were selected, since they didn’t personify what it was then considered the standard of female beauty.
And since the show revolved around these women, it was supposed to be called My Girls – the studio executives didn’t approve with this, since they were afraid that such a title wouldn’t attract the male audience. But the gamble still remained: it was a new perspective as to how African-Americans were, without the embellishments seen in other shows.
It was a realistic approach.
And by all means the bet was won, even if Living Single rarely tackled any serious social issues, such as racism and even labeling. And even if women were at the center of it all, all the African-Americans were attracted to it. While Seinfeld was ranked at number 1 in 1994-1995 and Living Single wasn’t even in the top 30 (as far as the general audience is concerned), the latter was the most popular show among the African-Americans living in the US.
While it can be argued that the issues presented in the series didn’t have a great impact, it was OK with the viewers. It presented the lives, the ambitions, the desires and the relationships of the characters in a much more realistic way than seen in other shows.
From this point of view, Living Single was indeed a groundbreaking television series, not because it had an original concept, but because it improved an already existing one.
In other words, it didn’t follow the same stereotypes imposed by other successful shows, but tried to come up with its own, realistic perspective about how an African-American can move on up.