During my years as a high school and then college student, I watched a lot of TV and one in particular network that aired some of my favorite shows was the United Paramount Network aka UPN.
UPN was launched in 1995 and was dissolved 11 years later in 2006. After dissolving, some of the shows that aired on UPN went over to the CW (formerly the WB) network.
During its time on the tube, the network featured a variety of shows in different genres such as sci-fi, sitcoms, dramas, reality, cartoons, sports, and more. Out of UPN’s vast programming, there were five shows that I truly enjoyed and watched on the regular.
1. Half & Half (2002-2004)
Set in San Francisco, the show focused on the lives of two paternal half-sisters in their twenties, who were estranged in their childhood-Mona (Rachel True) and Dee Dee (Essence Atkins) Thorn. Now grownups, the siblings begin to reconcile their feelings about each other and develop a close bond while also dealing with other issues of adulthood such as dating, co-workers and bosses and dealing with each other as people.
Though I could relate to both sisters, I found myself relating more with Mona. Like her, I was raised by a single parent, Jewish, and growing up I was (and still am) the awkward, nerdy, black girl. I didn’t fit in with the black kids or anybody else. In Mona I found someone who was similar to myself and by watching a character who marched to the beat of her own drum, it gave me even more confidence to be myself.
2. Moesha (1996-2001)
R&B singer Brandy starred as Moesha Mitchell, a typical teenage girl from a middle class African-American family living in the Leimert Park are of Los Angeles. Moesha’s father Frank works as a car salesmen and is a widower who marries Moesha’s vice-principal Dee. Moesha also has a younger brother named Myles.
The series focused on the experiences of Moesha along with her friends and family as they dealt with a variety of challenges and situations. I loved the fact that though Moesha was headstrong, independent and stubborn, she stood up for what she believed was right. What I also loved about the show was that it dealt with real-life issues that teenagers such as myself were going through. Issues such as teen pregnancy, drug use, race relations, premarital sex, the death of a parent, and day-to-day issues teenagers faced at home and school.
One memorable episode is featured Andrew Keagan guest starring as Moesha’s childhood friend who she hadn’t seen in a long time. Once reunited, the two rekindle their romance, though some other folks don’t approve of the interracial couple.
3. Girlfriends (2000-2008)
This show focused on four ladies who are best friends, Joan Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross), Maya Wilkes (Golden Brooks), Lynn Searcy (Persia White), and Toni Childs (Jill Marie Jones)-living in Los Angeles, as they dealt with the daily issues such as careers, relationships, sex, family, and more. Girlfriends was my Sex In the City. It was really cool to watch four successful black women who came from different walks of life on my TV. I had never seen that before and watching these characters empowered me.
4. America’s Next Top Model (2003-present)
This was one of the first reality shows that I got hooked on. It introduced me to the fashion world and despite its problematic elements, I learned that there is more to modeling than just having a pretty face.
5. The Parkers (1999-2004)
This Moesha spinoff focused on Moesha’s friend Kim Parker (Countess Vaughn) and her mother Nikki (Mo'Nique) as they attend Santa Monica College together. When she was a teenager, Nikki had Kim and was forced to drop out of high school. When Kim becomes an adult, Nikki makes the decision to go back to school much to Kim’s dismay. Throughout the series, their mother-daughter relationship evolves.
This show was always funny and constantly provided me with laughs especially on days when I needed them. I also enjoyed watching Nikki’s antics in each episode as she pursued her love interest Professor Stanley Oglevee.
While UPN is long gone, these shows and the many others the network aired continue to live on in syndication and will always hold a special place in my heart.