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Before there was Sex and the City, and just before there was even Friends, this fearless foursome of 90s friends showed everyone how to find the fun and the best BFFs during their single years in New York City.
The legendary Queen Latifah (now starring in / executive producing The Equalizer), Kim Fields (Facts of Life, now starring in The Upshaws), Kim Coles (Wanda, One on One), and Erika Alexander (The Cosby Show, Get Out).
Living Single‘s jazzy, R&B-infused theme song sums up the show’s premise in one perfect line: “In a 90s kind of world, I’m glad I got my girls.” The 90’s kind of world? Pre-gentrified Brooklyn, New York. The girls? Level-headed Khadijah James (Queen Latifah), the fabulous Regine Hunter (Kim Fields), Khadija’s cousin and dreamer Sinclair James (Kim Coles) and the quick-witted Maxine Shaw, Attorney-At-Law (Erika Alexander).
Living Single wasn’t the only show about roommates living in a lavish apartment located in one of New York’s five boroughs during the 90s (ahem, Friends). But with a cast that included a pre-Set It Off Queen Latifah and a post-Facts of Life Fields, its episodes were cleverly written, modern and funny. It’s also worth mentioning that Sinclair and Max’s respective affairs with neighbors Kyle Barker (Terrence C. Carson) and Overton Jones (John Henton) provided a clear blueprint for the relationship dynamics of a certain other show (coughFriendsagaincough).
Also, in following the trend of 90s sitcom celebrity cameos, the show has an Easter egg basket’s worth of other star sightings, including Black Lightning‘s Cress Williams, R&B girl group TLC and the late, more-than-great, Eartha Kitt to name a few.
In a post-90s world where Black TV shows insert teachable moments of Black culture for their non-Black viewers, or make their characters contend with both their excellence and existence in society, Living Single stands out in that it allows Blackness to simply be. The characters exist and are, therefore, excellent. But most importantly, they portray regular 20-something-year-olds doing regular things like dating, navigating the corporate world and adjusting to life as newlyweds. Regardless of who you are, it’s easy to find kinship with the characters because they’re handling the ups and downs life hands them the same way most of us have done at one time or another.
This isn’t to say the show is without its flaws. Characters you come to love are written out and replaced with new faces towards the series’ end, and episodes touching on issues like sexual harassment and mental health only receive a 30-minute spotlight and aren’t revisited afterward. But, when it comes to groundbreaking television, the fact that Living Single introduced these subjects to Black audiences in an honest way is part of the reason it still stands strong amongst its modern-day contemporaries after nearly 30 years.
And, again: it’s funny.
Your real-life girlfriends, or alongside other TV shows where Black women are front and center. Some recommendations: Mara Brocks Akil’s Girlfriends and Issa Rae’s Insecure.
The show’s creator and executive producer, Yvette Lee Bowser, has gone on to be involved in shows like TV Land’s Happily Divorced, ABC’s Black-ish and Netflix’s Dear White People. It was recently announced that Bowser is the showrunner for a new Starz series currently in pre-production.