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Colored But Canceled: "Where I Live" (1993)

25 March 2008 5 Comments

“Where I Live” March 1993 – November 1993

The Premise: Doug St. Martin lives in Harlem with his traditional Trinidadian parents (Lorraine Toussaint, Sullivan Walker) and kid sister, and spends most of his time on the stoop with his two friends Reggie (Flex Alexander) and Malcolm (Shaun Baker, the Jamaican dude Russell from “Living Single”). There was also a wise-cracking neighborhood kid played by the same fresh lil boy who was in Friday and a bunch of other actors and guest stars you’d recognize. They were “good kids” from “good families” who just so happened to be black. Factoid: This show was syndicated in Europe, where it went by the title “Harlem Hip-Hop.”

How Did This Get On Televison?: Doug E. Doug co-wrote and created the show after his own life. Bill Cosby latched onto the series, considering it ‘good’ black television and a great way to continue The Cosby Show formula of a strong black family with normal everyday concerns. He lobbied fiercely for the critically-acclaimed show and became a consultant during the second season (I guess we can’t say he never put any walk behind all of his recent talk). Although Where I Live was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 1993, it was cancelled before it ever even ran a full season.

Why It Was Good: Lorraine Toussaint and Sullivan Walker are “real” actors and could have carried this show on their own. Doug E. Doug was so goofy and fugly, Shaun Baker was what I’d call a “cupcake” (short, brown, and stocky), and Flex was just funky-haired and cute. I had a crush on each of them for a while and the authentic dialogue made them genuine characters from the start. From a more scholarly perspective, Where I Live had humor but very little coonery, featured cute kids but not bad kids, and was set in a colorful neighborhood but not a depressing one. I believe that had there been a UPN in 1993 this show would have had a good run.

Why It Was Bad: ABC murdered this show from the start. It was a mid-season replacement in the 9:30 slot in the TGIF line-up right before 20/20, then moved to Tuesdays after Full House, and THEN ended up on Saturday night, traditionally the most mediocre evening on television, between George Foreman’s sitcom George and The Paula Poundstone Show. That strategy probably didn’t sound quite as ridiculous fifteen years ago as it does now, but it should have at least been suspect.

Best Episode: Only a measly 15 out of the 21 episodes ever aired and I’d be lying if I said I remembered any, but if I recall correctly the plots were basic and mildly black – a lot of playing the dozens, talking trash on the stoop, and figuring out how to get over on girls, parents, and teachers, but all in a wholesome way.

What Happened and Where Are They Now?: In 1993 the networks just hadn’t gotten it right yet – this was just around the start of Martin and Living Single and Fox’s creation of black tv Thursdays. Perhaps because of the mainstream success of Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air ABC treated this like a family show, not a black show, something that hasn’t really been done since. In fact, ABC hasn’t held onto a black family comedy since (Sister Sister and The Hugleys ended up booted to the WB and UPN). Yet somehow According to Jim still thrives.
Flex gave himself a last name, married singer Shanice, and found a home on UPN’s One on One (and Homeboys in Outer Space…sigh). Shaun Baker, who I still have a crush on, has only worked sporadically since starring with Pamela Anderson in the cheesiness was the syndicated show V.I.P. Doug E Doug went on to Cosby and has barely been seen since. But, the best news of all is that TVOne recently acquired the rights to Where I Live, so watch for it . . . it’ll be like playing the unreleased singles on tapes you owned in the 8th grade . . . fantastic.

5 Comments »

  • Regina said:

    oooo, I remember that!

  • Invisible Woman said:

    I think you and I are the only Black women on planet earth that have had a crush on Doug E. Doug

  • Malcolm said:

    I remembered when this was originally on and I’m sorry that I didn’t watch it. I had heard about it airing on TV One… unfortunately, I don’t have that channel “where I live”.

    Good point about “Where I Live” most likely having a successful run if there had been a UPN. I would add “My Wife and Kids” (2001-2005) to the small list of ABC black family comedies that have had successful runs in the last few years.

  • Antonio said:

    I remember this show. I think there was an episode where Doug E. Doug was mad at his mom for appearing nude in a play in college. I liked it.

    And My Wife and Kids did have a good run. I remember it’s ratings were good enough for ABC to air an hour of reruns on the weekends. I don’t know why it was cancelled.

  • Monica said:

    this is the show that made me want to live in new york and have a stoop, which i eventually did. my favorite episode was when doug and his dad were in a class together. doug kept saying “malfeasants” which i just misspelled but it was hilarious. i love when people remember this show fondly. it was wonderful and we were all in love with flex.

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