||THE BERNIE MAC SHOW
Married couple take care of his sister's three kids while she's in drug rehabilitation..
104 episodes of 22 minute duration. 2001 - 2006
At first glance, The Bernie Mac Show looks like your typical domestic comedy series with an African-American cast, headed by a stand-up comic who until the show's premiere was barely known to mainstream audiences. But after just a few months on the air, the sitcom clicked with both critics and television viewers of all races.
Mac himself may have known the answer. In an interview with "Electronic Media", the comic noted that "what happens with a lot of players--especially minority players--is they just want to be on TV and they take anything....The Bernie Mac Show is my life. It's the truth, and I'm not ashamed of a minute, an hour or a second of my life."
Mac plays himself, a successful stand-up comic who lives well with his executive wife Wanda (Kellita Smith), until the couple ends up taking care of his sister's three kids while she's in drug rehabilitation. Landing on the doorstep are smart-mouthed teenager Vanessa (Camille Winbush); eight-year-old troublemaker Jordan (Jeremy Suarez) and cute-as-a-button Bryanna (Dee Dee Davis). Right from the start, Bernie Mac gave his charges the house rules: "First rule: It's my house. Don't get me wrong, this is our home. But it's my house.
Second rule: In my house is all my stuff, and you are not to touch my stuff without my permission." That includes his home entertainment system with the DVD player and his collection of James Brown records. Bernie may love the kids, but not enough to pass up a weekend in Las Vegas with his friends. And he believes in good-old fashioned discipline, thinking today's kids are "too sassy, too grown, and talk back too much".
He also addresses the audience with his thoughts. It's not a new plot device; George Burns used it on his 1950's TV show with wife Gracie Allen and for a time, it became a regular feature on a number of American comedies and dramas. On "Bernie Mac", the gimmick works because he confesses his feelings, whether you like them or not ("America, you know what I'm talking about!"). The show also lacks a laugh track; soul and rap music is heavily used in the background, and there are plenty of on-screen graphics to help the plot along. Still, the humor comes from the situations and the characters. It's a traditional family sitcom with no tradition--and it works.
"Bernie Mac" certainly has struck a cord with viewers (especially this past season, after Fox slotted "Mac" after the mega hit reality show American Idol). One fan of the show, comic and Dick Van Dyke Show creator Carl Reiner, likes it because of an "instant appeal that's universal". Reiner tells "TV Guide" that Bernie Mac "speaks the truth about life, about families, about kids, and he draws you in with his big heart. One look at the show and you know this guy is here for all time".
But not the man who created the show, Larry Wilmore, who sold it to Fox and became its executive producer. In March 2003, Fox fired Wilmore over slumping ratings (Fox had moved the show against ABC's competing African-American family comedy My Wife And Kids, which hurt "Bernie Mac" until Fox moved the show back to its original timeslot, where it benefited from the American Idol boost). For his part, Wilmore accused the network of interference in the show's direction; in a "TV Guide" interview, Mac blamed both Fox and Wilmore for the dispute that led to Wilmore's pink slip.
Still, the behind-the-scenes drama should not affect Mac's message--or the show itself. Bill Cosby proved shared experiences and situations could transcend race and reach a wide audience with The Cosby Show in the 1980s. The Bernie Mac Show is in some ways a mirror image of "Cosby" where race is front and center, and reality is a bit more real than some may want. But the vision is all Bernie Mac's, and after two seasons on the air, television is a little bit better for it.
Questions Site Information Contact
Return to Top of Page