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In Living Color
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the humor in this groundbreaking sketch series is edgy and smart and was in many ways ahead of its time when it debuted in the early 1990s -- but today's teens (and younger children, especially) probably won't appreciate it from that perspective. They're more likely to latch on to the outrageousness of the show's characters and memorable catch phrases like "I'm gon' rock yo world," "Homey don't play that!" and "Mo' money, mo' money, mo' money!" Another downside? Kids could inadvertently add words like "honky" and "breasteses" to their budding vocabularies.
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What's the story?
The brainchild of actor-producer-writer-director Keenen Ivory Wayans, IN LIVING COLOR is a 30-minute sketch comedy show that ran for five seasons on the Fox network from 1990-1994 and now runs regularly in syndication (and is available on DVD). Targeting primarily African-American audiences with a cutting-edge style that was ruder and cruder than its sole competitor at the time, Saturday Night Live, the series is perhaps best known for launching the careers of actor-comedians Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx and actress-singer Jennifer Lopez, who appeared as one of the show's "Fly Girl" dancers. In Living Color also showcased the talents of Wayans' many siblings, including Damon, Marlon, Shawn, and Kim. Skits like "Homey D. Clown," "Fire Marshall Bill," "The Homeboy Shopping Network," and "Men on Film" are just a few of the series' memorable contributions to pop culture.
Is it any good?
It's all really funny for grown-ups -- but the smartness of the show's humor is likely to be lost on most kids, and parents will be hard-pressed to find positive role models among the recurring characters. For example, at the end of a sketch about Jackson Five family patriarch Joe Jackson, who's hawking goods like face-whitening cream and chimpanzee clothes at Neverland Ranch while Michael is away in Europe, an announcer declares, "Joe Jackson: He beats prices just like he beats his kids." It's definitely not the kind of punchline you'd want kids repeating.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fine line between being funny and being offensive. When it comes to making a joke, why are some stereotypes fair game while others are considered taboo? Does making light of racism and ethnic stereotypes make it easier for people to discuss their differences or merely reinforce longstanding prejudices? Would an all-black audience view this show any differently than a more general audience would? Why or why not? And how does the show compare to similar series like Saturday Night Live and MADtv?