Black British Dramas Finding Success Online

Why are black British dramas headed online instead of making their way onto British television screens?

Entertainment writer Bim Adewunmi poses that question in a new article for The Guardian. The writer cites “small-screen traditions of whitewashing big cities” in both the United Kingdom and the United States as one of the reasons behind networks ostracizing black shows on television. Adewunmi singles out hit television shows like HBO’s Girls and Sex and the City for their all-white casts set in cities where their large black populations are often ignored and not represented on screen.

We take a look at the new black dramas that have taken advantage of a worldwide audience on the internet.

All About The McKenzies

Starring Samuell Benta, Ria Horsford, Frankie Clarence, Destinee Tombling, Sheldon Nichols, Fenella James and Jason Pennycooke

“Flicking through channels, I was just seeing American stuff. In the US, there’s an abundance of black shows, but in the UK, we’ve got little to nothing – and in what we do have, we’re negatively represented,” Benta says. “Desmond’s, The Real McCoy, all of that. I saw the most recent was The Crouches and thought, “why didn’t that work?” and went from there. There’s a difference between the US and Britain – it’s not the talent; it’s the creative idea behind it, the direction. I think over here they water our stories down, just to suit what they think the audience wants.”


The Ryan Sisters

Starring Angie Le Mar, Josie D’Arby, Eddie Nestor, and Somalia Seaton

“We decided to make [new sitcom The Ryan Sisters] ourselves and put it up online because we just can’t get TV networks interested. There really is a lot of racism in the industry: they’re not ready for black women,” says Le Mar.

Venus vs Mars

Starring Letitia Hector, Jamie Charles and Aaron Fontaine

“I don’t like the representations of ‘blackness’ on British TV. For me, as a young black female, I cannot turn on the TV and find a character I can relate to, that I can identify with,” says writer Baby Isako. “Every time, they’re the girlfriend, the drug-related/gang/estate role. I’m not surrounded by people like that so I can’t watch those shows and relate. That’s why I became a writer, to write different roles. We want to show that there’s an audience for this type of series, it’s different to what’s on TV.

Brothers With No Game

Starring JC, The Yak, Don Kwelu and Maverick

“I don’t think we’re given a chance to really showcase what we’re all about in terms of the black British population. I mean, Top Boy and My Murder are brilliant TV and really engaging viewers but I think there’s also space for dramas and sitcoms and thrillers,” Says JC. He continues: “Variety is the key message here. There’s a narrow representation of what it means to be black; there need to be different stories told.”

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