Whatever happened to the kids that graduated from Hillman College? What would their lives look like after getting out into the real world? Well, enter Living Single. (A bunch of the A Different Cast showed up in different episodes too. Who was giddy about that? You get one guess.) As I said in my previous post about A Different World, representation is key. My mother and I had a conversation about this show, and she had stated she thought the show was corny. I explained to her that I saw it differently. Here was a show where the Black characters were hugely successful. Max was an attorney, Khadijah owned her own magazine, Kyle was a stockbroker, and Overton kept the brownstone running like a well-oiled machine. I have a lot of disdain that we do not see black characters of this caliber on television any longer.
So why am I suddenly waxing romantically about black 90’s sitcoms? What is great about this time in my life is watching how television has changed. Streaming services are great. I have a few. But the phenomenon is younger people are being exposed to old sitcoms. (I watched the Odd Couple the other day on Hulu. Great show.) There is chatter as a new generation is talking about old shows and appreciating the old stories. And thank goodness for streaming services. Otherwise… I wouldn’t be able to see these shows (A Different World, Living Single…etc., etc.) because many of these have not been released on DVD save for season one. There have been several petitions online to get the rest. (I am glad that Netflix is added black shows to their line up this year.) Especially since Friends… has not been removed from Netflix in years. But I digress.
Living Single was a show that I watched about 10 years after it disappeared from the air… (roughly 2008.) I was living with some roommates at the time, and my friend was talking about how much she had enjoyed the show. I had never heard of it, so I was intrigued. She was blown away by the fact that I had never seen it. I have always aimed to shock people. What I enjoyed most about the show were the strong female characters. They didn’t back down from what they wanted, and they didn’t compromise who they were or what they wanted for the sake of being in romantic relationships.
The show was created by Yvette Lee Bowser. She was a writer on most black 90’s shows, including A Different World and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. She just wanted to see stories that mirrored her own life and experiences with dating in the city. (Much like I would like to see more of. BLACK WOMEN… dating in the city and the issues they face.) It isn’t until Issa Rae comes with Insecure that I found a show to satisfy that need. But in the ’90s Bowser helps out with Living Single (which kicked off FRIENDS.)
Rewatching it now, I still think that it is as funny as when I watched it, to begin with. It was great for me because it meant that my judgment isn’t clouded with nostalgia. Let’s get a rundown of the characters:
- Khadijah James (Queen Latifah) – The owner of Flavor magazine. Editor in Chief. This magazine is her baby, and she puts her all into it. She is no-nonsense and is pretty blunt. She gives her friends the sound advice they need, whether they want to hear it or not. She is the voice of reason to her friends. Every group of friends needs a Khadijah James. Her plots revolve around keeping her magazine afloat and paying her bills (as is the case for most adults.) as well as her romantic relationships… or lack thereof.
- Synclaire James (Kim Coles) – Khadijah’s interesting cousin. She sweet-natured and wants the best for her friends and family. She has an annoying habit of looking at the bright side of all situations with her trademark (woo, woo, woo.) And she is half of the power couple Syncloverton.
- Regine Hunter (Kim Fields) – She is cultured, classy, and somewhat uppity. She lives for drama and gossip. She is fashion conscious right down to her matching wigs. She is on the hunt for the perfect husband (aren’t we all.) She is the image centered diva that I want to be. Her and Khadijah have been friends since childhood.
- Maxine Shaw (Erika Alexander) – Ride the damn maverick. She is the Black feminist we all needed. She was never afraid to speak her mind. She was the baddest public defender. She always had a dig for Kyle. I still say her famous catchphrase: “Maxine Shaw, Attorney at Law.”
- Kyle Barker (T.C. Carson) – He is the self-proclaimed hardest-working man on Wall St. Like Regine, he is a fashion horse and always exquisitely dressed. He can be pompous and arrogant. He lives upstairs from Khadijah, Regine, and Synclaire with Overton. He and Overton are old friends and are complete opposites. (Reminds me of the Odd Couple.) I live for Max and Kyle’s sparring sessions… and their eventual love sessions.
- Overton Jones (John Henton) – Overton is head over heels for Synclaire from day one. He was always handing out advice to the crew that he learned from his uncle smoke eye. He was the world’s best handyman (my opinion.), and he kept the brownstone up and running. He is the other half of the power couple Syncloverton.
As is always the case with these types of blog posts… I will jump into my favorite episodes. Also, as is the case with these types of posts… there are episodes that I know were impactful to me and to Black people as a whole. It is tough to have something continue to be fresh as it ages. But Living Single continues to captivate new audiences because even after 25 years, the stories are still real. On that note, let’s jump into some of my favorite episodes. (I have consulted my friends on this list.)
- Mommy Not Dearest (Season 3, Episode 11) – Maxine Shaw is an acquired taste. She is a great friend and a BADASS lawyer, but in this episode, the crew’s interest is piqued when they learn that her mother is paying her a visit. Max’s mother, Nina, coming to accept an award. Max is confused when her mother insists on staying at her apartment and trying to bond with her, as they never had a particularly close relationship. (Max seems to relish in the idea that she and Nina were never really close.) I found it interesting that Max has told her mom about EVERYONE in the brownstone… even Regine… who she supposed to HATE…. but she didn’t mention Kyle. ( I have my own theories on that… and they are not far off what Kyle came up with… so you know.) What I enjoyed about this episode is Max saying her mother gave her space to become her own person but that changing their relationship will take time. Her mother comes to court to watch her closing arguments as she was not around to see Max perform as the Rat King in the Nutcracker. They eventually agree to try to work things out.
- Space Invaders (Season 2, Episode 21) – Overton and Synclaire’s love is great, but it annoys the hell out of Kyle… and in this episode, annoyed the hell out of me too. I get being in a new relationship and wanting to be with your significant other all the time. Synclaire becomes a permanent fixture in the boys’ apartment. (Now I could see this being an issue if they lived further apart… but Overton only lived upstairs… I mean, she saw him every day.) During her stay, Synclaire and Overton hog the 1 bathroom in the apartment, used Kyle’s iron to make grilled cheese (this was so unacceptable.), and scares away his date. Overton and Kyle end up in an argument after Kyle throws her out. Overton points out that Kyle uses the apartment as his own “little sexual romper room.” While Kyle states that his dates come, they play, and they go home… they don’t move in. And I see both points. But I do not tolerate messing up my stuff. DO NOT TAKE MY THINGS WITHOUT ASKING. In the end, Kyle and Overton work things out…. while being stuck underneath a waterbed…(Fittingly that Kyle and Overton agreed that they shouldn’t buy, but Synclaire suckered Overton into getting anyway.)
- Forgive Us, Our Trespasses (Season 5, Episode 9) – Maxine has lost her lust for law. Especially since she and Kyle split for what seems like good. Max is burying herself in her work. But not actually taking clients to court. She encourages her clients to plea bargain so that she can get through as many cases as possible. She meets with her next client, Walter Jackson who is accused of trespassing at a hospital. He refuses a plea deal and makes her take his case to trial. He believes that he is the Son of God, and says he was only trying to comfort the sick. Max thinks he is BONKERS. The crazy man believes he is Jesus. Khadijah can’t resist a good story. She does some digging and learns that he is a former corporate raider who became disgusted by his work. Max is disturbed when Walter asserts that she is trying to get over a broken heart, and describes in detail incidents from her childhood that he couldn’t possibly have known about. (Her brother cheating her at Monopoly.) He dissuades her from withdrawing from the case (which was her initial plan) by challenging her to overcome her fear of losing. Walter urges her to tell the truth. He forces her to realize that she has relied on her career as a crutch because she doesn’t know who she is. Max attacks the dishonesty of the legal system but loses anyway. Walter forces her to examine her life and her choices. (Been there done that.)
- The Shake-Up (Season 2, Episode 27) – Kyle and Max’s cat and mouse game come to a head here. I have probably watched this episode a million times. Maxine is in a grocery store when it is held up. Kyle stumbles in and disarms the gunman. Max is confident that he saved her life… (he did. As Overton points out later.) Max is able to put away her razor-sharp tongue long enough to invite Kyle to dinner. Khadijah is me in this episode… (“You’re gonna cook?”) In this episode, we get to watch Kyle and Maxine get real about their attraction to each other and try and figure out how to move forward. I remember doing that with a guy I used to know… the most uncomfortable conversation I had up to that point. Poor Kyle wants to and eventually tells Maxine that he accidentally swooped in and saved her. It doesn’t matter to her. (As it wouldn’t to me either.) For the rest of the group, they are dealing with the fall out of their appearance of the Talk Showdown. Regine wants to move out after it is revealed that Khadijah was pushed by her mother to ask Regine to move in… (That is what she gets for acting like she was swooping in and saving everyone.)
- Wake Up to Break Up (Season 3, Episode 17) – Max and Kyle romantic relationship comes to an “end.” Max seems to know how to ruin a good thing mostly because she doesn’t want to admit she cares. Nothing wrong with caring and letting people in Max. A cable repairwoman flirts with Kyle and asks him to visit a museum. Max pushes him to go out with her, claiming that they are not in an exclusive relationship. (She knows damn well she doesn’t want him seeing anyone else.) Kyle stresses that he is tired of being involved with a woman who refuses to respect him or show him any affection. (Remember she never even mentioned his existence to her mother.) He breaks up with Max. And when I watch this it seems she wanted this outcome (easier to force people to leave you because that makes it not your fault. Do I know a person like this….? I digress.) but she is still a bit shocked by it. Regine takes the group to a Brian McKnight concert after getting free tickets from a co-worker, but in 100% Maxine and Kyle fashion they get thrown out prior to the concert after they get into a shouting match and nearly come to blows. In the security offices, they look back on their relationship. Max claims that she only cares about food, shelter, her career, and good sex. Kyle tries to offer her a ride home, but she refuses to give in. As quickly as it began, it is over.
- Burglar in the House (Season 1, Episode 14) – What sitcom didn’t have a burglar episode… I have seen several. As a woman that lives on her own… the fear in these episodes is always palpable. Regine has her purse stolen on the way home on the subway, and the crew determines that now that the snatcher has her ID (therefore her address) that they need to invest in some security measures. The girls ask Overton to install better locks in their apartment. Here’s where the paranoia sets in. Khadijah can’t sleep because Regine and Synclaire have decided to burst in and share her bed. It doesn’t help that they are robbed while they are in the house. The police are useless, so the girls ask Overton to install a security system and bars on the windows. The fear and anxiety doesn’t go away and causes the girls to spend many nights awake. No matter how many security measures they add… it doesn’t help their fear. The girls realize that they cannot turn the apartment into a fortress and hideout from the world. In the end, they strive to do more in their neighborhood with the neighborhood watch. I enjoy this episode because of the way the group bands together and tries to see each other through this traumatic event. The bickering that they usually do doesn’t stop them from being there for each other.
- Friends Like These (Season 1, Episode 21) – Khadijah’s friend, Jackie (Charnele Brown, A Different World), shows up unannounced. (The worst kind of visitors.) While Jackie, Khadijah, and Maxine attended the same college… Maxine dislikes Jackie because she views Jackie as a mooch and will eventually hit Khadijah up for money. Although Maxine is a lot of things (cheap and another mouth to feed…), she’s not an opportunist. But her complaints fall on dead ears. Maxine tells Regine that in college, Jackie convinced them to put up cash to start up a sandwich business only to leave them holding the bag a few weeks later. Jackie boasts that she can get Arsenio Hall to for the cover of Flavor…. which Max shoots down… (“Come on, Khadijah. She don’t know no Arsenio.) Max is incredulous when Jackie starts working for Khadijah… (I would be too. ) True to Max’s word, though, a few days later, it is revealed that Synclaire gave Jackie $200, and she asks Khadijah for money for a new tattoo business. Khadijah delivers a line that I still use on people to this day. “You don’t need to pay back money you ain’t gonna get.” I have known a few friends that pop up when they need something. They lack the focus to sit and do the work for the payoff, so they are always looking for the quick payoff… this is totally Jackie. For me, it took a long time to realize what was happening and weed those people out. It helped to have real friends like Maxine. PS: Arsenio does show up.
- A Raze in Harlem (Season 3, Episode 21) – This episode is a tribute to the Harlem Renaissance. Kyle is devastated to learn that a historic jazz club, the Showboat, is to be demolished. The crew chips in and tries to help Kyle campaign to save the club. Even Max tries to pull some legal maneuvers to keep get the club declared a historical landmark. Kyle fantasizes about the club in its heyday, with all of his friends assuming other roles. I usually hate episodes like this but this one was fun. It was fun to see what roles Kyle subconsciously gave to his friends based on what he perceived as their personality. Kyle is a busboy with a dream of singing on stage; Max is Big Max, the sexist club owner who constantly comes on to him; Khadijah is Kay, the club’s singer; Regine is Zelda Fitzsimmons, a diva who seems to be missing a few marbles; Synclaire is Claire, a no-nonsense bible thumper; and Overton is Hooch Jones, the moonshiner who wins her heart when she learns he is funding orphanage repairs. Dream Kyle is fired from the club because he refuses to sleep with Big Max. However, his luck turns when Kay quits to become a movie star. Big Max is forced to let Kyle take the stage. Before he can sing his first note, the police raid the club. Poor Dream Kyle. All the efforts to save the Showboat prove fruitless and Kyle heads down to the club to say goodbye. He bribes the construction crew into allowing him a few moments alone. This is where he gives the clubs final performance. This was one of my favorite episodes.
- My Cups Runneth Over (Season 2, Episode 11) – Regine goes to the doctor because she is experiencing severe back pain. The doctor recommends a breast reduction that Regine initially turns down. She tells her second doctor (a woman.) that they are part of a package, part of what makes her a DIVA. Regine’s character had some shallow tendencies and thought of herself as a knockout and had a hard time dealing with the fact that her breast would need to be reduced. It was polarizing because the discussion was about what men will see when they look at her… and she was actually putting off a health issue to be what she saw as attractive to get a man. After the surgery, Regine loses her self-esteem and begins throwing herself at men. It is the conversation that she has with Kyle at the end of the episode that does it for me. Kyle assures her that she doesn’t look any different, and states that her confidence and personality are what make her attractive to men. Kyle is usually the other seemingly superficial one of the group so it was great to see him lend Regine and hand in getting her back on track.
- Fatal Distraction (Season 1, Episode 16) – This episode is both funny and sad. Sometimes you believe people are more intelligent than their actions forgetting that everyone is human. In this case, Khadijah is hiring a new writer for Flavor Magazine. She hires Xavier St. John, who has everyone in the office buzzing with how handsome he is. The problem: Khadijah didn’t check his writing samples or check his references. (Sis, what?! Never give in to the pretty face. lol.) Xavier lays it on thick, trying to impress Khadijah so much so that her friends claim that he must like her too. (Mom always told me ‘Don’t get your honey where you get your money.’) Khadijah and Xavier share a cab home from the office, and when it seems like Xavier is coming onto her, Khadijah leans in for a kiss only to be rejected. When Xavier turns in his first article the next day, Khadijah is stunned to discover that he does not possess any writing ability. He claims that she is punishing him for rejecting her advances, and threatens to sue her for sexual harassment. I have often wondered if Xavier tried this at those other jobs on his resume or if he lied about those jobs, to begin with. Khadijah decides to call his bluff. She fires him and tells him that she knows he will continue to get over on his good looks but her magazine is not going to suffer because of her mistake. The sad thing is… I know several men like this. Usually, life goes pretty well for them… using their looks to get over (by means of making someone else do the deed) and around anything in life, they don’t want to do. Khadijah’s lesson was don’t let them catch you slipping.
- U.N.I.T.Y. (5 Card Stud) (Season 1, Episode 23) – Kyle’s coworker, Lawrence, is just unlikeable. No redeeming qualities at all and no way around it. And I am going to add another episode where he continues to be a douche. (He is not a character that gets redemption arc. Nor does he deserve one.) In this episode, Kyle hosts a poker game in the hopes of impression the Junior VP. He wants a promotion. But the drama sets in when pizzas for the party are delivered to the girls instead. They decide to crash the party, but Kyle’s co-workers refuse to let them into the game citing it’s a “Man’s Game.” The implication being that women don’t know how to play poker. (A Different World anyone? Didn’t Walter have this same attitude? And Jaleesa had to teach him a thing or two?) But it is not so much the fact the men want to be left alone with their cards as it is what happens with Lawrence and Regine. Sparks fly between Lawrence and Regine and they decided to go on a date. Even though he is a gentleman on the date, Kyle walks in the next day to Lawrence telling his little peanut gallery about sexual exploits with Regine that he didn’t have. Kyle agonizes over whether to defend Regine’s honor because he fears that Lawrence could derail his career. Kyle gets his chance though because the girls crash another poker game and Lawrence (the arrogant, chauvinistic SOB that he is) allows the girls to play. Khadijah puts a spanking on him with the help of Overton (who had spilled the other’s weaknesses.) Lawrence then complains to his cohorts “I didn’t come here to get bussed by these bitches.” Kyle confronts him. He tells Lawrence off for insulting his friends and lying about Regine and orders him to leave. Now of course, this was aired around the same time that Queen Latifah dropped her single U.N.I.T.Y. (If you haven’t heard it, go check it out.) Both the song and this episode, address the same issues. But I enjoyed the fact that it was the black men in these women’s lives that step up and defend their honor. Could they do it themselves? Sure. But watching Kyle put his male counterparts in their place is badass.
- Singing the Blues (Season 2 Episode 15) – The relationship between Maxine and Kyle has to be my favorite aspect of the show. They argue, they bicker and they belittle. It is all a facade. There are certain instances that we, the audience, get to see the real feelings behind the masks. In this episode, the group pushes Kyle into singing at the open mic night. Overton agrees to perform his stand-up comedy act in exchange for Kyle’s participation. While Overton jokes land well, it is Kyle’s singing that has us believing he is destined for 1st place. All is going well for Kyle until Max shows up in a tight dress throwing Kyle off his game.
Poor Kyle ends up flustered and runs out mid-performance. Thus he is disqualified which Maxine won’t let him forget. Overton provides Kyle with someone insight on his Maxine issue. He believes Kyle’s unresolved feelings for Maxine are the reason for his issues. Overton tells Kyle that he needs to return to the contest the next week and try again to conquer his issues. The second time around… Kyle performs a sultry edition of “My Funny Valentine” and leaves Maxine a swooning puddle. (It is a funny scene to watch but it also where their relationship changes slightly. In the end, everyone in the room can tell they have some feelings for each other.
- Oh, Solo Mio (Season 4, Episode 16) – Kyle is appointed the church’s new choir director. Regine, seeing an opportunity to be the star, bugs Kyle until he gives her the solo. The issue is Regine can’t really sing. Kyle finds this out the hard way…. at choir practice. Now the church is supposed to be putting on its 50th-anniversary celebration and Kyle decides to spare Regine some humiliation. He gives the solo to the talented Latrice (Cece Winans). Regine accuses Kyle of finding Latrice attractive and wanting to win her over. Regine throws a tantrum and Latrice gives her the solo back. (Like this was a lot… and you can’t sing ma’am.) I was with Overton when he called her a BRAT. Meanwhile, Khadijah has missed out on church for 2 years. She tries to come up with a way to put off fellow parishioner’s questions about her absence. She comes up with highlighting the bible in several colors to “make it look like I really been reading this.” Yeah, none of these people are worth all this. Like Max tells her… “Put on your pantyhose and GO.” Overton and Synclaire force Regine to face the truth about her singing. (They recorded her singing in the bathroom. It wasn’t pretty.) She thinks if she just rehearses more she will be ready. But all she does is give herself laryngitis. Thank Goodness.
- Baby, I’m Back… Again (Season 3, Episode 9) – Throughout the 5 seasons of Living Single… We watch Khadijah go back and forth with her relationship with Scooter… her childhood friend. Were they friends? Were they more? The Scooter and Khadijah saga left off with his job in the music industry taking him around the world on tour managing an all-girl singing group called Jasmine. They promise to write and call every day but as time wages on… we see in the events leading up to this episode that Khadijah isn’t getting any sleep because she is staying up day and night just to speak to him. Her life becomes her sitting by the phone… and in true long-distance fashion the calls slow and eventually stop. In this episode, when Khadijah FINALLY decides to start dating again (a year later.) … Scooter shows back up… with his famous line “Baby, I’m back.” Leave it to Maxine to cut a brother down with one line… “Yeah… Khadijah… Look at that! I told you we can count on Scooter. I mean he drops by every 11 months just like clockwork.” The great thing is before Scooter shows up, we get to see a glimpse of Khadijah’s dating life which usually bland when compared to those of her girls. She leaves one date, changes clothes, and heads out again. What I did like was the fact that even though Scooter shows up unannounced… when Khadijah’s date shows up… she still leaves. Because her life still went on. Scooter makes a desperate attempt to hold onto their relationship by proposing. Khadijah forgets being angry and accepts. Maxine is the good friend that points out this is a horrid idea. Overton and Kyle give Scooter the same speech. Both parties have friends that point out that they are rushing things and will ultimately regret it. They both start having doubts, and while sizing her ring at the jewelry store she asks Scooter why he proposed… when he doesn’t give her a good answer she points out… they were not ready for marriage before Scooter left, and spending about a year apart did not strengthen their relationship. They call off the engagement and decide to go back to being friends. Were they endgame? Sure. But poor timing comes between even the best couples.
- Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder (Season 2, Episode 9) – Onto my favorite couple of the series: Overton and Synclaire. Quirky…? sure. But whatever they had worked for them. These two definitely taught me that (Black) love doesn’t always look a certain way. And this episode touches on a conversation that I have had with several of my female friends. How long should you wait? While showing some pictures from her trip to the Bahamas that she took with Overton, Regine and Max learn that Synclaire and Overton have yet to seal the deal. They probe her mind and wonder out loud if it is odd to wait 8 months before having sex. They aren’t making fun of her, just wondering what the hang-up could be. Granted this conversation comes from the fact that when the friends are all together Overton and Synclaire can’t seem to keep their lips off of each other. Khadijah tells them… “I was praying one of ya’ll would chip a tooth.” But here is where I learned that just because something may be right for Jane it doesn’t mean it is right for me. Kyle is upstairs having a similar conversation with Overton about finally romancing Synclaire. Influenced by their friends… they decide that they are ready to have sex. They plan a romantic evening in Overton’s apartment while Kyle is out of town. As clumsy as only these two can be… (Overton has a fit of sneezes because he is allergic to Synclaire’s perfume.) Synclaire admits to him that she is scared and is not ready for sex just yet. She admits to him that she is feeling some pressure from her friends. Overton agrees. Overton understands and tells her that they should wait and that he is okay with her decision.
- A Kiss Before Lying (Season 1, Episode 4) – Maxine, our resident feminist, is out of depths with trying to impress her ex. More like she is showing that his absence in her life really has done nothing to hamper her. (I have been there done that. There is no point.) Greg and Max broke up after 5 years together and her career starts taking off. In her words, “He packed his old sorry duffel back and left.” As exes do… Greg returns out of the blue, calls Max, and wants to have dinner with her. Khadijah, like the friend she is, tells Max that Greg needs to kick rocks. (I’ll add the phrase “with bare feet.”) Max tells the girls that she was cool having dinner with Greg. It is Regine that points out that she would seem stronger with a man on her arm. (Leave it to Regine.) It is enough to cause Maxine to reconsider. She agrees to dinner at Khadijah’s and when Kyle shows up… She ropes him into playing her boyfriend after Greg shows up with his fiancee. Kyle seems a bit too eager to play her man which is indicative of what his feelings actually are for Max. (What is the point in bringing this woman? I didn’t get the point of having dinner with an ex and introducing a new love. It happens to Whitley in A Different World too. Ugh. I get it. I am still on your mind. Just say that.) Everyone begins inventing tales about the couple’s courtship and Max’s phenomenal professional success. Max can no longer stand the lying and admits that it was all an act. She comes to admit that she knew that her relationship with Greg was coming to an end. She did say that after 5 years she figured Greg would at least have said goodbye without disappearing. She gives Greg a kiss and wishes him luck on his life. She effectively closes the door on the past. I found that her friends all jumped in to help her. Even Regine who we know doesn’t like Maxine all that much.
- A Hair-Razing Experience (Season 2, Episode 13) – Black people are way too familiar with the idea of hair politics. The notion that their hair needs to be toned down to get a job or get a promotion has been discussed for decades. The strategy of straightening your hair to make non-POC comfortable enough for them to hire you is nothing new for the black community. Actually, the topic remains a hot button issue to this day with new laws saying that dreads and ethnic hair can be discriminated against. In this episode, Kyle has an idea and suggests that his firm take advantage of the financial potential of Africa. He proposes to head up the project and is told the big wigs they will deliberate and get back to him. When he doesn’t hear from them for a few days, Kyle is antsy and decides to speak to Lawrence about what his prospects look like. Lawrence informs Kyle that the firm is concerned about using Kyle as a representative, as his appearance, specifically his hair, isn’t “corporate” enough. Kyle weighs the pros and cons of conforming in order to advance in his career. He considers cutting his hair… and Regine tries to help him by saying he could wear a wig and still be who he is underneath.
Kyle calls a meeting with the bosses and lets them know he will not be changing his appearance even if it means they will not promote him. He made it clear that he believed the firm made it’s decisions based on merit and will not compromise himself. It is revealed that Lawrence was the one that pointed out Kyle’s hair. (It really is your own people. Now, this could be because Lawrence is still mad at Kyle revealing his true nature and while that could be a possibility… There really are people that will try and curtail your successes.) Lawrence’s concerns were dismissed. The African mutual fund is approved, and Kyle receives a promotion.
- Shrink to Fit (Season 3, Episode 19) – Here is an episode that is close to my heart. Not only because Jasmine Guy guest stars but it tackles how mental health is looked upon in the black community. This is still a conversation being had today. There is less stigma attached to it as my friends and I discuss what was told to us by our therapist… I would not have gotten through college without being able to speak to someone so I recommend it to everyone listening… (Speak to someone. Find someone you like and speaks with them about your thoughts and feelings.) In this episode, Khadijah takes a second job as a night security guard at a retirement home. She needs the extra money to pay for improvements at Flavor. She also is facing pressure because of an announcement of a copycat magazine “Savor”. Legitimate stressors. Let’s add to that that Khadijah learns that Scooter is seeing someone new. Poor Khadijah develops insomnia and at her mother’s instruction begins seeing a psychiatrist. It was sad to see Khadijah come into the office in a wig and sunglasses. She can’t get real about how she is feeling because she wonders how her friends will see her. She fears that her friends would treat her like a mental patient if they knew about her session. Dr. Bryce notes that Khadijah seems to put everyone else’s needs ahead of her own (yeah I remember being told that. It has been an adjustment for some people in my life too), and believes that she is suffering from depression. The good news is the copycat magazine flops, but Khadijah’s mood didn’t improve. She confesses that she has begun to think about all she has sacrificed for her magazine, and wonders if it is worth it. She agrees to continue to see Dr. Bryce, but the doctor first instructs her to take a one-week vacation.
- Love Takes a Holiday (Season 1, Episode 13) – Kyle is very rarely out of his depth. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Like Synclaire says in the episode… “Everybody plays the fool sometimes.” Shout out to Main Ingredient where Synclaire got the line from… they go on to say… “There’s no exception to the rule.” Stacey is the photographer for Flavor. She and Khadijah are having a disagreement about the photos for the Christmas issue of Flavor. Stacey is unable to supply any cheerful photos for the holiday issue because she is depressed and angry over a break-up with her boyfriend of 5 years. Khadijah and Synclaire talk her into hanging out with the girls to try and lighten up her mood. During the ladies’ night, Overton and Kyle show up… Kyle and Stacey hit it off right away and before long Kyle is head over heels. The only issue is Stacey is not. Stacey brings it up to Khadijah and Synclaire and says that she is not looking for anything serious right now. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, when Khadijah and Synclaire point out that Kyle may want something more and if that is not what she wants… she needs to be upfront about it and not string him along. Khadijah and Synclaire ask her to break up with him before he gets hurt. As Thanksgiving comes upon the group, Stacey still hasn’t broken up with Kyle.
She shows up to Thanksgiving dinner with Kyle on her arm. He reveals that he bought her an expensive bracelet. Everyone around him seems to know that is coming but he is like a lamb to the slaughter. Max steps in and points out that it is horrible watching him make a fool of himself.
She promptly breaks up with him. Everyone struggles to boost Kyle’s spirits, and he later thanks Max for looking out for him.
- Woman to Woman (Season 3, Episode 22) – Max is excited that her college roommate, Shayla, is coming to town for her wedding. However, when Shayla shows up, it is revealed that her intended is a woman. Max is hurt to learn that her ace kept this secret from her. Even more so when she learns that Khadijah knew in college. Apparently, Shayla felt comfortable enough to tell Khadijah she was gay and not Max. Maxine often lashes out when she is hurt or upset. So she is bitter and rude at the bridal shower. Shayla confronts Max and it is revealed that Shayla didn’t tell her because she was in love with Max. Despite the admission, Maxine opts not to attend the wedding. (So dramatic. On some level, I get it… but also how long are you going let this bother you?) Max feels as if their whole friendship was a lie. Khadijah disagrees, pointing out that Shayla hid her true feelings because she was afraid of losing Max’s friendship. Max gets real when she tracks Shayla down at the beauty parlor to apologize. She admits that in the past she may have overreacted but she did want her friend to have given her the chance to rise to the occasion. I get where Max was coming from but honestly… coming out to people is a hard thing. (I will never understand how hard.) So it was more than just about her.
- Glass Ceiling (Season 3, Episode 23) – I don’t think I appreciated this episode until I was much older. The idea of making more money doesn’t always mean satisfaction. The American Dream has people believing the more money I have the happier I will be and that is not true. Kyle receives a promotion but becomes extremely disenchanted after realizing the entire job consists of attending meeting after meeting. He realizes he is no longer allowed any contact with clients or to buy and sell stock. When Kyle is asked to speak before a church youth group, he admits that he doesn’t like his job. A young man who has followed his career closely suggests that he use his creativity to make his job more interesting. Kyle proposes an intermediary position, in which he would be involved in middle management, yet still work with clients. He must take a pay cut, but feels it is worth it.
- The Last Temptation (Season 2, Episode 18) – It is Overton and Synclaire’s anniversary. Overton has a great evening planned and Synclaire is looking forward to it. Prior to the anniversary celebration, Synclaire has a study session with John Mark. She needs help in psychology and he offers to be her tutor. But it becomes obvious that he has more on his mind than studying. John Mark misreads Synclaire’s intentions and kisses her. Synclaire pushes him away but is still gripped by guilt. She admits the kiss to the girls. They listen and advise her not to tell Overton as it would kill him. Max points out that she is guilty because she enjoyed the kiss and she feels as though she shouldn’t have. At her anniversary dinner, Overton lays it on thick and Synclaire blurts out that “her” indiscretion. “Oh Obie, I’m a slut!” When she tells him the story, Overton storms out and refuses to talk to her. (I can get why he was upset but she really didn’t see it coming and was kissed. She didn’t kiss him.) Synclaire forces him to sit and talk things over with her. She is determined to move past it. The girls and Kyle grow interested in what is going on with them in Overton’s apartment. Khadijah sends Kyle up to the apartment to check on her. He finds Overton and Synclaire’s clothes strewn throughout the living room. They are shown in bed together looking extremely satisfied. (Remember the group used to tease them for not having slept together prior to this. Maxine even states at the beginning of the episode: “And how will you be celebrating your anniversary? Another night of chastity?”
Up the Ladder Through the Roof (Season 5, Episode 6) – Khadijah dreams that she is Flo, a member of a pop group called the Flavorettes. The other members are Maxy (Max), the brassy lead singer and founder; Cynthia (Synclaire) a militant woman with ties to the Black Panthers; and Regina (Regine) a woman who cares little for glamour and is hopelessly devoted to their manager Rupert (Russell, no accent). They take a gig at a club run by her boyfriend Sonny (Tripp). When Maxy trips over a microphone cord during the performance, Flo takes over the lead. Suave producer O.W. Jones (Overton) is very impressed and takes the group under his wing–with Flo as lead singer. This episode is a favorite of a friend of mine. Homage to the Supremes much. What is fun is when we were sitting down figuring out which should go on this list and we were thinking… “It is not a blog post if I just write all of the episodes are my favorite.”
Not so Honorable Mentions:
Tibby or Not Tibby (Season 3, Episode 18) – It is not so much that I hate this episode. But J. Anthony Brown’s depiction of a rude relative is too close for comfort. I don’t stand for disrespect… It doesn’t matter who you are. And showing up unannounced and then being rude to my significant other will cause me to kick you to the curb. Overton receives an unexpected visit from his beloved Uncle Tibby. He is not impressed with Synclaire, as he believes she is trying to “”get her hooks”” into Overton. He urges Overton to dump her immediately.
For a final note, I love this show and wish we had another like it. Remember when I said that the actor/actresses from A Different World made their appearances too? Yeah I wasn’t lying. Check it out:
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