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Since 'Cosby,' diversity's not a laughing matter on family sitcoms

November 21, 2011 |  7:15 am

Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm Jamal-Warner in BET's "Reed Between the Lines"

BET''s comedy "Reed Between the Lines" fits comfortably within the safe cookie-cutter mold of the traditional family sitcom — successful parents with adorable kids tackle the daily challenges of life and resolve them in 30 minutes, minus commercials.

The show's upbeat tone reflects "The Cosby Show," the 1984-to-1992 program built around an African American family that helped revive the sitcom genre a quarter-century ago with a smart and gentle mix of humor and poignancy.

But "Reed Between the Lines," which stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm Jamal-Warner, is also an unexpected pioneer these days — it is one of a handful of prime-time shows centered on a family of color.

Despite hundreds of TV channels, the popularity of the groundbreaking "The Cosby Show" and subsequent series featuring minority families such as "My Wife and Kids" "George Lopez" and "Ugly Betty," ethnic families are still a rarity on the small screen today.

Why hasn't TV more accurately reflected the diversity of America? For more on this trend, read this feature.


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Photo: Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm Jamal-Warner star in BET's "Reed Between the Lines."

Credit: Kathy Willens / Associated Press