Why did they ever have to end?
But before Atlanta or even Real Housewives of Atlanta was on the air, the South was the setting for many incredible television shows, some of which were tragically short lived. Take a walk down television memory lane with this list of ten of the best Southern television shows that you forgot you loved.
Any Day Now
Annie Potts (of Designing Women fame) and Lorraine Toussaint (most recently seen on Orange is the New Black) starred in this show about a friendship that dared to cross racial lines in the 1960s. Toussaint’s Rene was a single career woman and tough attorney, while Potts’ Mary Elizabeth (called "M.E.") played a stay-at-home mother of two coping with her teen daughter’s pregnancy. The drama was poignant and personal, discussing the realities of race relations within the safety of a life-long friendship.
This show from Designing Women creator Linda Bloodsworth-Thomason starred Burt Reynolds as a pro football player who returns to Evening Shade, Arkansas to coach the high school team in the hopes of breaking their long losing streak. There was a lot of star power in the mix with Marilu Henner playing Reynold’s wife, Hal Holbrook as his father in law, and Ossie Davis as the owner of the local rib joint. It was a fun show that had some of the same charm as Designing Women but with a lot more football and a lot less interior design.
I’ll Fly Away
Before he was making the case in Law & Order, Sam Waterston played a district attorney in a fictional Southern town in the Emmy Award-winning show I’ll Fly Away. The drama premiered on NBC in 1991, and revolved around two families, the Bedfords and the Harpers, living in the deep South, just as the civil rights movement got underway in the early ‘60s. Waterston played attorney Forrest Bedford, with Regina Taylor playing Lilly Harper, the Bedford family’s housekeeper. It was a heartwarming, thoughtful show that portrayed the realities of the civil rights movement. Sadly, the series ended after just two seasons. Luckily, PBS stepped in to give the show some resolution, airing a two-hour movie, I'll Fly Away: Then and Now, in 1993.
The Royal Family
This early 90s sitcom had some serious star power both on camera—Redd Foxx and Della Reese starred in it—and behind the scenes—it was created and executive produced by Eddie Murphy. The show had great ratings, until tragedy struck. Foxx, who famously faked heart attacks on his hit TV show Sanford and Sons, suffered an all too real heart attack on the show. The show carried on in the wake of his passing, with Jackée Harry joining as a younger sister coming in to live with her now-widowed sister.
Years before CSI or Criminal Minds, Profiler gave crime fans their weekly thrills. Ally Walker (and later Jamie Luner) played a forensic psychologist who worked with the FBI’s Atlanta-based Violent Crime Task Force as a criminal profiler. Each week, the profiler would use her special ability to see through the eyes of the criminals to take down the most violent, twisted offenders.
A Different World
This show started when Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) from The Cosby Show left for the fictional Hillman College in Virginia. Bonet only lasted one season on the show (she got pregnant with her daughter Zoe Kravitz), but the series continued with Southern belle Whitley Gilbert (played by Jazmine Guy) and Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison) with his flipped up-glasses and slick fashion taking over as the stars. Sinbad, Jada Pinkett, Marisa Tomei, and more also appeared in the show.
Years before Justified, crime writing-legend Elmore Leonard gave the world U.S. Deputy Marshall Karen Sisco. Played by Carla Gugino, Karen was a law enforcement officer with nerves of steel who hunted fugitives up and down Florida’s Gold Coast. Whenever she got in a corner, she’d turn to her retired police officer father, played by Robert Forster. This wasn’t the first time that Marshall Sisco made it to screen, though—in the 1998 film Out of Sight, Jennifer Lopez played the character in pursuit of a fugitive George Clooney.
This ‘80s sitcom brought two stars of WKRP in Cincinnati to a restaurant in New Orleans. Tim Reid starred as Frank, a Boston college professor who inherited his recently deceased father’s New Orleans restaurant. Chez Louisiane—or as the locals called it, The Chez—was populated with a memorable crew of staff and customers, including a cook (not a chef, as he insisted), preachers and lawyers, the waitress Miss Marie, and a cat named Hank Aaron. It was a sitcom that felt more like a stage play, in the best possible way, and was far too short-lived.
Grace Under Fire
Comedian Brett Butler starred in this series from the Carsey-Werner production company who was behind shows like The Cosby Show and Roseanne. Butler played a single mother and recovering alcoholic raising three children in a small Missouri town. While the family was still reeling from years under an abusive husband and father, the show was very much a comedy revolving around a tough mother doing her best for her kids and herself and laughing all the way.
Malcolm & Eddie
After The Cosby Show, Malcolm Jamal-Warner starred alongside Eddie Griffin in the odd-couple comedy Malcolm & Eddie. Jamal-Warner played the responsible Malcolm who roomed with Griffin’s irascible tow truck driver Eddie. When they got a windfall of cash they teamed up to open a sports bar in their town of St. Louis, Missouri. Malcolm did his best to keep Eddie on track as they try to grow their businesses and turn a profit at the bar and keep their regulars happy.
Have a favorite show that you wish was still on? Or at least that you could watch on Hulu? There are just too many to name. The list goes on and on.