'In Living Color' First Episode: THR's 1990 Review

'In Living Color'

On Sunday, April 15, 1990, television viewers were introduced to a new half-hour comedy from Fox: In Living Color. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.

It's hip. It's cool. It's fabulous. It's Fox Broadcasting Co.'s In Living Color, the new half-hour ensemble comedy from comedian writer-producer Keenen Ivory Wayans (I'm Gonna Git You Sucka).

Drawing its inspiration from the streets, In Living Color represents comedy-variety in the '90s, much like The Jackie Gleason Show did for comedy in the '50s and the '60s.

Where Gleason had his June Taylor Dancers, Wayans has his Fly Girls, choreographed by Carla Earle; where Jackie had the Ray ("The Flower of the Musical World") Bloch Orchestra, Keenen has house deejay Shawn ("I Spins 'Em as I Sees 'Em') Wayans.

Where Gleason had his family of regulars (including Art Carney, Audrey Meadows, Joyce Randolph among them), Wayans has his own family — sister Kim Wayans and brother Damon Wayans — plus a top-flight ensemble, including Jim Carrey, Kelly Coffield, Kim Coles, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier and T'Keyah Crystal Keymah. And together, they parody life in America with irreverence and bite.

The top sketch in the opening half hour is the finale, a satire on movie review shows called "Men on Films" in which Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier are brilliant as a pair of on-air critics a little light in the loafers. Damon joins brother Keenen for "Home Boys Shopping Network," a razor-sharp spoof of video shopping channels with a back alley as its home base. Grier is back as Mike Tyson, fixed up by Carrey's Chuck Woolery with Coles' Robin Givens in a take-off on "Love Connection." Funny, though too long. And Damon joins Kim Wayans in a send-up of the old Sanford & Son series, lacking the teeth of its companion sketches but causing belly laughs nonetheless.

Like all good satire, In Living Color will upset some, if not many. When it pokes, it pokes hard, aiming right for the funny bone by way of the heart. Ironically, black viewers may be the most offended by Wayans' humor, so precise is his accuracy. It is a chance Wayans is obviously willing to take to bring laughter to a new generation of variety viewers.

Yet, by its very hip foundation, In Living Color may be limiting its audience. His street-smart humor could easily be lost on the massive older generation of viewers to whom The Golden Girls is legend. But it certainly fits perfectly into FBC's projected demographics — teens and young adults will love it. And so will progressive moms and dads.

Credit much of the salt on this mixed salad to In Living Color's writers: Ex-Late Night With David Letterman and Saturday Night Live writers Sandy Frank, Joe Toplyn and Matthew Wickline; stand-up comics Damon Wayans, Franklyn Ajaye and Barry "Berry" Douglas; performers Jeanette Collins and Keenen Ivory Wayans; plus Mimi Friedman, Howard Kuperberg and Bud Sheffield. — Richard Hack.

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