synclaire james

Quickie Post: The Best of Maxine Shaw

I mentioned in this post that I live for the show Living Single.

My absolute favorite character being Maxine Shaw,  who was reading everyone in sight before it was popular.

Get into the queen!!!!

A Tribute: Living Single

We all know that 90’s were an amazing time.  Buzzfeed has been making so many coins off of lazy lists of nostalgic shows, music, and toys for what feels like forever now.  But it’s just like when the “I Love The 80’s” series happened on VH1.  It was the perfect timing for that age group to look back fondly on their formative years.

One of the best things about the 90’s, especially for African-Americans like Class & I, was the sheer volume of sitcoms and television with Black casts.  We could watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin, A Different World, or Family Matters.  And that’s not even scratching the surface.  This is so important because seeing successful Black families, adults, and children.  It is so important! Even with Lupita N’Yongo, she mentions how important representation (i.e. Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple) was and how it inspired her to pursue acting.

Living Single was one of those shows that spoke so much to me as a child.  The show features six young people living and working in New York and their lives dating and working.  If you think it sounds similar to Friends, it’s because Friends was inspired by the Living Single setup.  To speak to the point above, when I watched the show, I thought I could be a stockbroker or own a magazine.  We’ll jump back to this topic in a bit let’s talk about the show itself and dance!

OOOOH and in a 90’s kind of wooooorld! I’m glad I GOT. MY. GIRLS!

So what is this show about?  Besides flawless dance moves and graphics.  Synclaire (Kim Coles) is a recent transplant to New York from Minnesota and is moving in and working for her cousin, Khadijah, the owner of a well received, but struggling magazine.  Khadijah lives with her snobbish nouveau-riche childhood friend, Regine (Kim Fields) who works in fashion throughout the series.  Divorce lawyer extraordinaire and Khadijah’s college friend, Maxine (Erika Alexander) lives across the street but spends most of her time at the place with her friends eating up their food and dispensing her acerbic advice.

Upstairs, bachelors Kyle Barker (TC Carson) and Overton Wakefield-Jones (John Henson) seem to spend more time downstairs than in their apartment.  Kyle, a rising stockbroker is a hot shot at work and in the bedroom while Cleveland-son Overton works as the handyman for the building.

Now as the show progresses, the relationships grow and change and we really see into these individuals’ worlds.  We meet their families, their co-workers, their friends, and their exes.  It’s a fantastic show (THAT YOU NEED TO WATCH) so I won’t spoil the best aspects of the story line.  But I will talk more about my favorite aspects of the show.

The Relationships

Now this is no shade to divas of reality television (Hey Joseline!) but this show had 4 women with a strong friendship that lasted throughout the entire run of the show.  Did they argue?  Sure.  Did they fight over men?  Occasionally.  But the core of the show really is how different each lady is and how they work together as they grow up.  It’s amazing.  At one point, one of the roommates moves out because the fighting gets so bad, but it’s all fantastically written and deep for a sitcom.

And even the romantic relationships are treated with maturity.  Whether it’s a cutesy relationship developing from a simple crush to marital bliss, or a love/hate relationship that develops into sexual attraction and true love unfulfilled.  The romantic adventures of the cast made sense for their personalities, whether it’s shallow Regine expanding her dating pool with a mailman, Maxine dating a college student, or Khadijah dating her anesthesiologist after an embarrassing procedure.

 The Guest Stars

This show had so many amazing stars.  Khadijah’s role allowed for celebrities to be on the show in an almost reasonable way.  Her dalliances with NBA & NFL players, the introduction of Morris Chestnut & Terrance Howard, and fun appearances from Heavy D & Naughty By Nature . Living Single even has an early appearance from Will Ferrell and delightful showing from Gilbert Gottfried.  With all of the attractive and up-and-coming stars, going back to watch the episodes is like a time capsule.

The Comedy

Now, the writing on this show is spectacular.  I could do a whole post on Max’s quips alone much less Overton’s homespun logic, Synclaire’s healing words, and Regine’s superficiality.  I can’t think of a single episode that doesn’t make me laugh.  Even serious storylines like breast reductions, dating a man with children, and unemployment are treated honestly but bring smiles.  One particularly fantastic moment comes from Max and Kyle pranking each other over a parking spot until Kyle is served with false divorce papers at a party.

The Characters

But as I mentioned above, this show is based on the strength of their characters.  Each of these characters are painted broadly, but they are nuanced, real people.  Synclaire is sweet and naive, but she also enjoys the occasional skin flick and a talented comedian.  Kyle is a driven stockbroker with a track record of success but harbors a secret desire to show off the pipes on Broadway.  And that’s just it!  We are all complex people who are bigger than just one character trait.

It allows the six mains to make believable connections despite different lives and histories. Kyle and Regine share vanity and fashion.  Khadijah, Max, and Kyle are driven and work to be the best in their field.  Synclaire and Overton are light-hearted and relaxed but offer the levity needed to make the other three relax.  Kyle and Khadijah also share the love of Afrocentricity.  We have six attractive, diverse friends working through life.

The show feels like it could be made with my group of friends (Me being a combination of Max and Regine, obviously)  We may have different interests but there’s something that obviously connects the lot of us.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, representation is important.  Living Single is one of the best representations of African Americans on network television ever and served as inspiration for me and many others.

So take a moment and watch the show!  It’s on TVOne and Logo currently but they may be on the internet if you look on the tube hard enough.

What are your experiences with the show?  Who is your favorite character?  What’s your favorite episode?  Let us know in the comments section or over on Twitter at @ClassNTrashShow.