TV Land’s 'The Soul Man' Gives Black Viewers an Alternative to Reality TV
Sitcom starring Cedric the Entertainer follows in the tradition of 'The Cosby Show'
Television has changed drastically in the last five years when it comes to predominantly black programs on both broadcast and cable networks. Gone are the days of our favorite comedies like "Martin" and "The Bernie Mac Show." Family programs such as "The Cosby Show," "227" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" are no more. Instead, bottle throwing, hair pulling and neck rolling reality stars on some of the country’s biggest cable channels have replaced them. However, not every television network is giving into the dramatic reality fad. TV Land, which is known for showing classics that include "The Jeffersons," the Cosbys and even "Gilligan’s Island," to name a few, is not following the reality show blueprint to drive ratings. No, TV Land has made their mark in original programming with their highly-rated show “Hot In Cleveland.” Recently, the network added a bit more diversity to its line-up with the new series, “The Soul Man.”
“The Soul Man” features R&B superstar-turned-minister Reverend Boyce “The Voice” Ballentine (Cedric the Entertainer) who was living the fast life in Las Vegas at the top of the music charts when he received the call to take over preaching duties at his father’s church. The call causes him to relocate to St. Louis with his wife, Lolli (Niecy Nash) and his daughter, Lyric (Jazz Raycole). Suzanne Martin ("Hot in Cleveland") and funny man Cedric the Entertainer joined forces to create the show.
“Suzanne and I thought that it was a great idea to show something that actually happened in the African-American community,” Cedric the Entertainer told Loop 21. “We depict a real family with the leading character going through the transition of being a huge star in the music world to turning his life around and being a preacher. People like Mase and Hammer came to mind when we were thinking of the show. Everyone, especially family might not be ready to make the transition with you and we knew we could make a great story and characters out of the idea.”
The show, which premiered on June 20, had over one million viewers and was the second highest rated show debut in TV Land’s history. Although there’s a lot of competition from predominantly black reality shows on other networks, the cast of "The Soul Man" is not worried. “We focus on what we do as a cast and as a show,” Wesley Jonathan who plays Burrell told, Loop 21. “We don’t spend our days trying to live up to the success of 'Hot In Cleveland' or any other show, we just have fun and love what we do.”
As many black scripted shows decline and young black girls aren’t left with many options to relate to on television, “The Soul Man” star Niecy Nash is proud to offer another option. “Well-weaved black women that look like me are getting a bad rap right now,” Nash jokingly stated to Loop 21. “Seriously with all the fighting and cussing going on when it comes to our people on television, I know that some in our community have an appetite for something else and I’m extremely happy to be on the menu.”
Although no other black scripted show has lived quite up to what "The Cosby Show" provided to not only black America but the world, there are a few that have been compared and “The Soul Man” is the latest. “I have no problem with being compared to The Cosbys,” Cedric the Entertainer said to Loop 21. “'The Cosby Show' was truly the first of its kind and to be compared to something that set the benchmark like that is an honor. Really we just want to give America and especially our community some good family humor to relate to and enjoy.”
Be sure to tune into "The Soul Man" every Wednesday at 9p.m. ET on T.V. Land.