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2 miniseries to headline your Black History Month viewing binge

It’s Black History Month, everyone! That means it’s also Black History Programming Month! As with the Black History Months of late, there have been some annoying pieces of media out there that ruin the meaning of the month itself … like the existence of Exodus: Gods and Kings and the upcoming release of this year’s erasure movie, Gods of Egypt (coming out February 26, making the disresepct even more palpable).

Who really wants to see whitewashed versions of the history of the African diaspora, when you could fill your time watching respectful, intellectual, and meaningful programming instead? If you’re getting your Black History Month viewing list ready, here are two TV miniseries to add to it: Roots and The Book of Negroes.

1. Why you should watch Roots.
Let me put it simply: If you’re an American and you haven’t watched at least one hour of Roots, either in a school setting or at home, then maybe you should rectify that before you go any further in your television-watching obsession.

I am a black person (in case you haven’t seen my EW Community profile picture), and speaking as a black person, Roots is one of the pinnacles of black American culture. There are certain films and television shows that have shaped black American culture in the late 20th century, and Roots is definitely at the top—because that was the first (yes, I’ll say first) realistic depiction of the brutality of slavery on national television.

Roots came out in the ’70s, and before that, no one had ever really depicted slavery as the awful, inhumane thing it was. Looking at films like Gone with the Wind and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, slavery (and whatever the black folks were doing in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; I’m guessing sharecropping) was always depicted as the way of the world—as if the enslaved black people didn’t have any feelings about slavery. When feelings were shown, it was as if we were supposed to be grateful about having our rights and humanity stripped away because, as the film plots would suggest, we were “being introduced to civilization.” Right. After Roots, though, films and TV would look completely out-of-date, not to mention horrendously insensitive, if they depicted slavery as a “Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah” affair.

From my own mother’s account, the aftermath of Roots was an interesting thing to behold. The racial divide in America was finally being explored, and the anger black Americans felt was finally expressed in the media on a much larger scale than it had ever been. My mom had told me that everyone at her school (which was all-black) was angry; the history books back then still didn’t showcase the depravity of slavery, and after seeing it on television, everyone was fuming. To make a long story short, Roots made television history, and if you are a true television fan, you’ve got to see Roots if just for the mere fact that it’s historic. But you should also see it because it can put you face-to-face with just a smidgen of the horrors that were inflicted on a group of people on a daily basis.

(If you’re a Star Trek: The Next Generation or Reading Rainbow fan, then it would also behoove you to watch it for LeVar Burton, who played the star of Roots, Kunta Kinte. But remember the history lesson, since that’s actually the most important reason to watch it.)

2. Why you should watch The Book of Negroes.
The Canadian-produced miniseries The Book of Negroes, starring Quantico‘s Aunjanue Ellis, is necessary viewing because it is slavery seen from a woman’s perspective. Traditionally, slave narratives (written, filmed, or otherwise) are generally told from a man’s point of view. But The Book of Negroes shows that while slavery was oppressive for all black Americans (and Native Americans), it was uniquely oppressive for the women. In the miniseries, Ellis’s character, Aminata, not only watches her father die trying to save her, is ripped from her homeland, and is sold into slavery, but she’s also raped by her master—and has her child, the child she had with her husband, taken away from her out of spite by that same master. The distrust between black and white women during this time is also explored (and that distrust, and the fight to get rid of that distrust, is something that is laced in the “white feminist,” “intersectional feminism,” and “womanist” discussions today).

The Book of Negroes is also new. Roots is an OG classic, but if you’re looking for something with more modern storytelling, then The Book of Negroes is your thing. The miniseries also touches on microaggressions that take place today, such as the aforementioned feminist divide … as well as how some self-described liberals aren’t really all that liberal, such as Aminata’s later master, Solomon Lindo (Allan Hawco). He thinks that because he’s Jewish and is also a minority in America, he’s more in line with African-American slaves, even though he still participates in white supremacy more than he realizes.

Roots and The Book of Negroes are stellar pieces of television that do more to inform than merely entertain (if you can call watching a story about slavery “entertaining”). Both give viewers a sliver of what it was like in the earlier years of our country. By looking at the past, both miniseries can help viewers come to terms with what happened, help rectify our present, and shape our future for the better.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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