*TV One’s “Love That Girl” returned this week for its third season with Tatyana Ali as that girl, a young divorcee who returns to southern California while trying to figure out her next move.
The show is among a healthy crop of African American sitcoms that have found a warm embrace on cable. In fact, viewers set a cable ratings record for the premiere of former WB series “The Game” when it premiered on BET last year. The network’s newest offering, “Reed Between the Lines,” is already building a loyal fan base, while TBS has no complaints about its Tyler Perry one-two punch of “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns.”
Just as cable has become the hotspot for black sitcoms, the big broadcast channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and The WB) have just stopped trying altogether. Ali, who plays Tyana Jones in “Love That Girl!” says she doesn’t know why the major networks have practiced black flight, but she believes she knows why cable has picked up the slack.
“It’s because people want to see them. People want to laugh, and they want to have that feeling that, people had with “Fresh Prince,” she says of her first sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. “I still get it, even though it’s been so many years ago. People really felt like we were a part of their lives and a part of their families, like they were growing up with us. People want to feel good and laugh.”
As for “Love That Girl!” which featured another black sitcom veteran, Jaleel White, in Monday’s season premiere, Ali says it’s “wonderful” that TV One has taken a chance on the sitcom genre.
“I started working with them doing ‘TV One Access’ a few years ago and being their first show is just – it’s really amazing. But, yeah, I think they’re feeding an audience that’s underserved.”
In the bonus audio below, “Love That Girl!” creator and executive producer Bentley Kyle Evans says cable networks – and specifically TV One – are more willing than the majors to fall back and trust that the show runners know what they’re doing.