“In Living Color” returning to Fox after 18 years off-the-air

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In an attempt to bolster its comedy lineup and challenge sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, Fox is bringing back “In Living Color” 18 years after it last went off the air for two half-hour specials to celebrate the network’s 25th anniversary. If the two specials prove to be a success, Fox plans to bring back the series full-time. With long-running MadTV off the air and the short-lived, Jamie Foxx produced program “The Flow with Affion Crockett” not as successful as hoped, Fox is hoping “In Living Color” can fulfill its search for a sketch comedy show.

In Living ColorIn Living Color” originally aired between 1990 and 1994 and was created, written and starred brothers Keenen and Damon Wayans – it was a major vehicle for the Wayans family members and their various careers. Keenen Ivory Wayans will host the two specials, set to air in spring 2012, which will feature a new cast of unknown or up-and-coming comedians.

In it’s heyday, “In Loving Color” introduced the world to a slew of comedians including Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier and Jaime Foxx. The show even featured “American Idol” judge Jennifer Lopez and “Dancing with the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba as members of the Fly Girl dance group.

After two years on the air, the show featured its first musical guest, Queen Latifah, in 1992. She would reappear in 1993, but it was her first appearance that sparked the practice of hosting musical guests, which included guests such as Public Enemy, Kris Kross, Easy-E, Mary J. Blige and Tupac.

The title of the sketch comedy show was derived from NBC announcing shows as being broadcast “in living color” during the 1950s and 1960s. While the NBC announcements represent a direct translation of the title of the show, it also alluded to the fact that much of the cast was African American. Because of this, the series strove to produce comedy with a strong emphasis on black subject matter. Jim Carrey, back then known as James Carrey, was one of only two original cast members who were white.

Back in the early-90s, some of the series’ more-popular skits and characters included as Damon Wayans’ Homey D. Clown, Handi Man and Head Detective; Jim Carrey’s Fire Marshall Bill; and, of course, flamboyant critics Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather – Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier, respectively. Those latter skits – Men on Film, Men on Books, Men on Football, etc. – also popularized the catch phrase “Hated it!” – typically reserved for anything too focused on females.

It was a specific “Men on Football” skit that aired live during the Super Bowl XXVI Halftime show that lured 20-25 million viewers away from CBS’s half-time show. During the skit, Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier ad libbed a suggestion that Richard Gere and track and field star Carl Lewis were homosexuals. Following this skit, along with a later Men on Fitness skit which included a sexually-suggestive water-bottle squirt to the face, Fox began censoring the script before shows would air.

It was mostly due to this censorship that Keenan Ivory Wayans left the show. By the fifth and final season, no Wayans family members were involved in the show and Carrey and Grier were among only five cast members that were on the show all five seasons. Instead, the final season relied heavily on various guest appearances to drive ratings, including Nick Bakay, Barry Bonds, Rodney Dangerfield and Chris Rock.

The two 30-minute ‘In Living Color’ updates will feature a cast of fresh talent – musical performances and special guests will be thrown into the mix as well. It’s unclear whether any of the original cast members will make an appearance on the show, but considering Fox is hoping to drive viewers to tune in and thus establish the show for a full-time return to the air it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Photos courtesy QuasyBoy and Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons.

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