As we watch relationships evolve between Issa (Issa Rae) and her crew every Sunday night on Insecure —portraying a realistic view of young black men and women— it must be noted that the show is a rarity on screen.
In the last decade, shows like Being Mary Jane, The Game and Girlfriends (thanks, Mara) approached storytelling from a female protagonist’s point of view. But a sitcom worthy of homage and inspiration for Insecure would be Living Single, that followed four female friends and their two male neighbors in a pre-gentrified Brooklyn over a span of five seasons.
Living Single is the silent subject of Jay-Z’s “Moonlight” video, which satirically pictures today’s up-and-coming talent starring in the black version of Friends, a cult-classic show widely criticized as being stolen from Living Single‘s concept and excelling due to mainstream (read: white) appeal.
If Living Single were to air today, we’d sit glued to our phones every Thursday night before New York Undercover as we watch the hardworking Khadijah run Flavor magazine, penning think pieces. We’d live for shade thrown by GIF-queen Maxine and her antagonist and low-key lover Kyle, who leave us with quotables every episode. Synclaire and Overton are obvious #CoupleGoals, and we’d watch their friendship blossom into the relationship we’d been actively predicting for seasons. Regine would bring the sass, the wit, the intelligence, plus the fashion.
Issa Rae intially struggled with bringing her vision, derived from her popular web series Awkward Black Girl, to life through failed deals with major networks. They wanted to replace the protagonist with a lighter, straighter-haired version of her. Ultimately, Issa declined and landed a deal with HBO that produced an authentic comedy that black millenials can relate to as they see glimmers of their worst selves in each of the highly relatable characters.
Shows like Living Single paved the way for Insecure, and other shows like it of today, displaying the intricacies of friendships and the importance of those friendships to navigate love and jobs in a major city. In 1993, there’s no way Queen Latifah and Yvette Lee Bowser would have known they were building a ladder for future generations to climb— but they did.
Thank you, Living Single, for paving the way for the visionaries of today.