Offering a fascinating examination of the explosion of black television programming in the 1980s and 1990s, this book provides, for the first time ever, an interpretation of black TV based in both journalism and critical theory. Locating a persistent black nationalist desire—a yearning for home and community—in the shows produced by and for African-Americans in this period, Zook shows how the Fox hip-hop sitcom both reinforced and rebelled against earlier black sitcoms from the sixties and seventies. Incorporating interviews with such prominent executives, producers, and stars as Keenan Ivory Wayans, Sinbad, Quincy Jones, Robert Townsend, Charles Dutton, Yvette Lee Bowser, Ralph Farquhar, and Susan Fales, this study looks at both production and
reception among African-American viewers, providing nuanced readings of the shows themselves as well as the sociopolitical contexts in which they emerged. While black TV during this period may seem trivial or buffoonish to some, Sly as a Fox reveals its deep-rooted ties to African-American protest literature and autobiography, and a desire for social transformation.
"Zook's analysis is both judicious and fascinating. A journalist by profession, Zook integrates a decade's worth of behind-the-scenes reporting and interviews into a cogent and fluid writing style ... Zook arrays a wealth of material and admirably struggles with the polysemy of black television." - Dale A Bertelsen, Critical Studies in Mass Communication 16 (1999)