by Latoya Peterson
Living Single recently popped back into my mind after I overheard a woman on her cellphone loudly telling a friend “I’ll be right there, but first I need to go home and change my wig!”
That one little comment uttered on the metro brought back one of my favorite Regine lines of all time, after she broke up with the toy maker guy – “Of course the doll is me! It comes with five interchangeable wigs!”*
And with that, I found myself scouring the internet looking for information on Living Single. I remember watching the reruns around 1996 and 1997 – I was in middle school at the time. Wondering if my memories of the show withstood the test of time, I watched a few episodes on YouTube - and I was pleased to find out that the show has gotten better with age, now that I understand a lot more of the references.
A few things that stand out to me now:
1. The show was excellent with its portrayals of black love. Just excellent. Sinclair and Overtons’ relationship was a given, but all the other characters had dalliances back and forth that were for the most part, respectful and loving. I’m wondering what happened to these kinds of portrayals of black romance.
2. Their lifestyles look decidedly normal. Though I remember reading criticism somewhere that the kind of brownstone they had in New York would probably be out of reach, watching the show as an adult reinforces to me that the 90s were a time of more realistic TV. There are four successful professional women on the show, but only one lives alone (Max.) More often than not, the people on the show were dressed down in jeans, jerseys, and in Sinclair’s case, overalls. And what’s even better to me is that they act like friends. Even within the ridiculous comedy set ups, the dialogue is gifted in showing how people actually talk and relate to each other.
3. Everyone was doing something of note – check out the descriptions of the characters:
The series focuses on two different households in one brownstone (although, as the later seasons revealed, there are more apartments in the building): one shared by a trio of upward-mobile women and another shared by a pair of male friends who have known each other since they spent their youth in Cleveland, Ohio. Khadijah James, a hard-working editor and publisher of the fictional urban independent monthly Flavor, shares an apartment with her sweet but naïve cousin Synclaire (originally the role of Synclaire was to be played by British rapper, Monie Love, a long-time friend and music collaborator of Queen Latifah), an aspiring actress who works as Khadijah’s receptionist and has an affinity for Troll dolls; and her childhood friend Regine Hunter, an image-conscious boutique buyer who was in constant search of a well-to-do man to spend her life with, often referring to said potential man as her “Chocolate Ken” and later became a costume assistant for a soap opera called Palo Alto with a fondness for gossip and wigs. Maxine “Max” Shaw, a sharp-tongued attorney and Khadijah’s best friend, stops by frequently to share her unique insights and make sure the girls’ refrigerator isn’t overstocked.
Living in the apartment above are Overton Wakefield Jones, a friendly handyman who holds deep affection for Synclaire; and Kyle Barker, a handsome stockbroker whose constant verbal sparring with Max does little to mask their obvious sexual attraction.
And the best part is by the end of the show, all of the characters have shown some kind of growth within their careers.
4. It occurs to me that Kyle and Overton may have been the first metrosexuals on TV. Watching some of the back episodes I was shocked to see how nice their apartment was – especially when compared to Khadijah’s. They devote themselves to their grooming habits with almost religious devotion and are much more image conscious than their female counterparts. After watching one episode in which Kyle complains that Overton got hair in his oatmeal soap, I started to wonder if the Metrosexual Guide to Style owes them a check.
5. The Living Single intro is still on the internet, though it is cut out of most of the videos on YouTube. Still as good as I remember.
Finally, some fun trivia!
From the Wiki:
* Future Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard appeared in the first-season episode “The Hand That Robs the Cradle” as a college student involved with Maxine (Erika Alexander). Howard and Alexander would later co-star in the Showtime drama Street Time.
Queen Latifah and Erika Alexander both starred in the 1998 TV miniseries Mama Flora’s Family (based upon the novel by Alex Haley and David Stevens).
* The first-season episode “U.N.I.T.Y.” takes its name from the Queen Latifah song of the same name, and the plot of the episode relies heavily upon themes reflected in that song. An excerpt from Latifah’s video for “U.N.I.T.Y.” is featured during the episode’s closing credits.
* Before portraying surgeon Preston Burke on Grey’s Anatomy, Isaiah Washington appeared as Dr. Charles Roberts, an anesthesiologist who became a love interest for Khadijah.
* Erika Alxander and T.C. Carson reprised their characters (Max and Kyle) on an episode of Half & Half, another Yvette Lee Bowser series. In this episode, they are engaged with a child which tells how their characters’ relationship lasted even after the show finale.
And from IMDB:
*Many main cast members of “Different World” appeared on the show: Jasmine Guy as a psychologist, Kadeem Hardison as Khadijah’s reporter-rival-romantic-interest, Darryl Bell as Max’s romantic-interest, Cree Summer as Overton’s romantic-interest and Charmin Brown as Khadijah’s and Max’s college friend.
And while the “memorable quotes” section is a bit on the skimpy side, there is still a lot to laugh about.
*Couldn’t find the exact quote, but y’all get the gist.