While it may now be home to a popular reality TV show, Fox certainly got off to a great start in the early 1990s, with shows like The simpsons and Married with children. Fox then provided a platform for raw, dark comedy in the early 90s with In living color and shortly after, Martin.
Viewers were no strangers to dark comedies, but until then, families were at the heart of their concerns. With the possible exception of A different worldBlack-centric prime-time sitcoms always offered family-friendly charm, while Martin ushered in a bold new wave of entertainment that took physical comedy from i love lucythe attitude of Sanford and sonsand thrown in a little 90s attitude. All of that combined, plus the pure celebration of black culture, made Martin a fan favorite and proven that when comedy is done right, it’s timeless. A reason Martin is doing so well, it’s not just syndication, but also streaming platforms like Amazon Prime, BET+, and most recently, HBO Max.
Streaming has allowed older shows to gain new fans, much like Nick at Nite on Nickelodeon once did for millennials. While Nick at Nite still exists, streaming is where most young people discover shows from yesteryear like Martinand fall in love like in 1992.
Martin’s enduring nature manifests itself in a myriad of ways – the first being this physical comedy. As Lucille Ball (i love lucy), Martin Lawrence (Martin) could pull off a scene with just his movements and facial expressions. Add props to the gag and the 1992 jokes are just as much riot in 1922. One of Martin which stands out in this regard comes from the episode “Baby It’s You” from the show‘s second season. In this episode, Martin was due to deliver a baby, and a doll without an umbilical cord flies off a woman and into her arms. When the lack of a cord was mentioned, Martin simply said, “It’s TV.” This ability to break the fourth wall and also break scenes like jimmy fallon often did on Saturday Night Livealso gave Martin a sharper feel. Perhaps something admirable for today’s young viewers who have spent their lives bombarded with “perfection” via social media.
It’s nice to remember that imperfect greatness can and does exist. Oh, and how can one mention Martin without praising the way Lawrence masterfully played not only the titular character but also several other characters, including Sheneneh Jenkins, Martin’s neighbor who arguably invented the idea of being extra? That element of sketch comedy paired with flawed appeal and top-notch physical comedy Martin for being a classic then, but in addition to the laughs, this sitcom has always made sure to celebrate black culture throughout the series.
Black pride as a movement took off in the civil rights era and gained even more momentum in the 1970s. It was then that the small screen finally gave way to predominantly black programs like The Jeffersons and Good time. Between that time and the 90s, The Cosby Show delivered a family hit that went straight to the top of the ratings. Then the emergence and popularity of hip hop quickly laid the foundation not only In living color and The prince of Bel-Air, corn Martin as well as.
With primetime television being the powerhouse it was before streaming took over, getting a guest spot was huge for 90s musicians. But, in many cases, the stars who are past Martin were even bigger. The end Notorious BIG, Keith sweatshirtand Boyz II Man were just a few of the iconic acts to make an appearance. Watching these artists now is a nostalgic trip for those who were old enough to watch initially, but for young viewers seeing these episodes for the first time, it’s like a lesson in black music history and something more. On the surface, Martin was a show about a group of friends in Detroit with a radio DJ at the helm, but it was rooted in a celebration of black excellence.
In many ways, Martin’s Black excellence bridged the gap between what came before it and what is seen today. Martin paid homage to the past with guest stars like Sherman Hemsley (The Jeffersons) and Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) while paving the way for future sitcoms to simply be about a group of black people who live simply. He helped set up To live alone then and later gave way to NBC Great crew and HBO Unsafe. One of the characters in the latter is even called Martin Lawrence Walker (Jay Ellis).
Martin’s the physical comedy and approach could be compared to what came before it, but the show – in just five seasons – has clearly inspired a generation of creative minds. Marlon Wayan‘ The Netflix series adopted similar character tropes, and Lil Rel Howery got into the game of several characters on Relative. Now that Martin has found its way to streaming services, it will be interesting to see the show’s influence on a new generation of fans as they continue to listen to the show’s black excellence and timeless comedy.
Off the cuff and on the air.
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