8 Black Woman-Led Series to Add to Your Binge List

The Ladies of A Black Lady Sketch Show
HBO

There's a refreshing wealth of cultural diversity across programming on TV today — but it wasn't always that way.

Those unique perspectives we have access to now are a credit to the groundbreaking creatives in the latter half of the 20th century who insisted on producing the stories of people previously not well-depicted in the mainstream. Of course, there's still much work to be done when it comes to authentic representation, but we have definitely come a very long way. 

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Here are some selections, from 'Watchmen' and 'BlacKkKlansman' to classics like 'Do the Right Thing.'

Black women in particular have made great strides in their small-screen presence. Building on the legacy of sitcoms like Julia, 227, and Good Times, we now have a number of series on-air focusing on these women living fully-realized lives.

From Netflix biopic Self Made to sketch series A Black Lady Sketch Show and buzzy British comedy-drama I May Destroy You, scroll down for some of the Black woman-led television programs we think you should be watching right now.

Issa Rae in Insecure
HBO

Insecure (HBO)

Insecure is executive produced and written by its star, Issa Rae, and tells the story of Issa and a cohort of Black professionals and friends as they navigate relationships, work, and the complexities of their 30s in sunny Los Angeles. 

With an eye on relatability, Insecure gets down to the hilariously awkward and painfully messy moments of all of our lives. Given its success with a diverse demographic of viewers, it’s no wonder it’s been renewed for a fifth season. You should definitely add this title to your “Self-Care Sunday” routine. 

Octavia Spencer in 'Self Made'
Netflix

Self Made (Netflix)

Self Made tells the inspiring story of Madam C.J. Walker (Octavia Spencer), a pioneer early on in the hair and beauty industry who is largely heralded as the first self-made woman billionaire in America. The miniseries was executive produced by LeBron James for Netflix as part of an effort to revive the inspiring legacies of little-discussed titans of Black American history.

Spencer brings her acting chops in her turn as Madam Walker, starring alongside a supporting cast that includes Blair Underwood, Tiffany Haddish, and Garrett Morris. Though some historical liberties are taken, the performances and production are well worth watching, and the story told is universally inspiring.

Niecy Nash in Claws
TNT

Claws (TNT)

Claws gives Niecy Nash her chance to shine as the star of a compelling and truly unique story. She plays Desna Simms, the owner of a nail salon that serves as a front for the Husser family’s illegal pill mill. With the cash flow from her drug scheme, Desna hopes to save for a state-of-the-art salon.

We follow Desna and an ensemble of supporting characters as they maintain this criminal enterprise while navigating their own personal lives. While its final season is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the chemistry of the cast alone makes Claws worthy of repeat viewings.

Still from Mama I Made it
HBO

Momma, I Made It! (HBO)

This stand-up special is the first for Yvonne Orji, best known as Issa’s more successful best friend and confidante Molly on Insecure. In Momma I Made It!, Orji makes hilarious and refreshing commentary on her Nigerian heritage, and specifically touches on her parents, immigrants who wanted her to be a doctor. (The special’s title is a reference to this dynamic.)

Nola Darling in She's Gotta Have It
Netflix

She's Gotta Have It (Netflix)

Spike Lee’s first feature length film, She’s Gotta Have It, was a character study in female sexual autonomy and polyamory in contemporary society. Netflix’s series picks up with the same storyline and scenarios in modern day Brooklyn, following artist Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise) as she balances her romantic and sexual relationships with three vastly different men.

The production sticks to its roots, constantly breaking the fourth wall and featuring stylized musical montages referencing the classic tunes on the soundtrack. While it was prematurely canceled after its second season, She’s Gotta Have It is still worth a watch.

Still from I May Destroy You
HBO

I May Destroy You (HBO)

This British comedy-drama just premiered at HBO, and it’s already earning buzz for its fresh storytelling and riveting take on the Me Too movement. It’s written, executive produced and co-directed by Michaela Coel, known for Netflix’s Chewing Gum (another show you should check out).

The story follows Arabella (Coel), a writer who goes out with friends for a debaucherous night in London’s club district, only to become heavily intoxicated and endure a life-altering sexual assault. The series unfolds as she tries to piece together that night and come to terms with the devastating violation, all while maintaining her burgeoning writing career.

Logan Browning in Dear White People
Netflix

Dear White People (Netflix)

Dear White People, based on the critically acclaimed and equally controversial film of the same name, stars Logan Browning as Samantha White, a film studies student at fictional Ivy League college Winchester who lives in the campus’ all black dormitory. 

The show’s unique structure jumps between the perspectives of its many characters in the same timeline at Winchester as they navigate the racial tensions that arise in the aftermath of an on campus “blackface” party. Samantha gets caught in the throes of this controversy, capturing it on film for her thesis project, and keeping her foot on the neck of the campus’ racial agitators through her radio show, “Dear White People” (the series’ namesake). With its witty screenplay, Dear White People does a great job of tapping into the current conversation on race in America, especially as it transpires on college campuses. 

The Stars of A Black Lady Sketch Show
HBO

A Black Lady Sketch Show (HBO)

This sketch comedy series comes from the mind of Robin Thede, former head writer of The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, and stars Thede herself, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, and Quinta Brunson. It’s received universal acclaim for its timely cultural commentary and strong comedy writing, holding a stunning 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

As its name suggests, A Black Lady Sketch Show challenges the historical lack of Black women in sketch comedy series like Saturday Night Live, and builds on the legacy of sketch comics like Debra Wilson of Fox’s MADtv and Kim Wayans of In Living Color.