On this day in comedy on January 23, 1996, Moesha premiered on UPN
Originally ordered by CBS, the Tiffany Network got cold feet at the prospect of a sitcom starring a teenage black R&B singer (Brandy Norwood) set in South Central L. A. so they pulled out and gave the new UPN network its first hit and one of the greatest successes in the history of that network.
Moesha centered on the escapades of the title character, her prank playing younger brother (Marcus T. Paulk) and her friends (Yvette Wilson, Shar Jackson, Countess Vaughn, Lamont Bentley). The show tackled issues such as teen pregnancy, premarital sex, drugs, gang violence, racism, parental death and infidelity. On the show Moesha’s father, Frank (William Allen Young) is a car salesman and a widower. The latter part is where we get our conflict because he married Moesha’s vice-principal (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Moesha doesn’t like it. Additional conflict comes in a pivotal episode when it’s discovered that Frank was unfaithful to Moesha’s mother and his nephew is actually his son. Moesha moved out and the show got very real.
Created by Ralph Farquhar and written by Sara V. Finney and Vida Spears, Moesha featured Fredro Starr as Moesha’s love interest and real life brother Ray J as TV brother, Dorian. Bernie Mac was a recurring character as were Ricky Harris, Kara Brock, Jo Marie Payton, Antwon Tanner, Jon Huertas, Merlin Santana, Jazsmin Lewis, Ginuwine, Olivia Brown, Usher, Lahmard Tate and Master P. The list of guest stars was staggering: Kobe Bryant, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Doctor Dre, Faith Evans, Jamie Foxx, Adele Givens, Meagan Good, Robert Guillaume, Bo Jackson, Quincy Jones, Jermaine Dupri, Sanaa Lathan, Lisa Leslie, Marsha Warfield, Kym Whitley, Russell Simmons, Sinbad, A Tribe Called Quest, Lil Kim, Nancy Wilson, Octavia Spencer, DMX, Deion Sanders, Keith Sweat, Shaquille O’Neal, Nia Long, Jessica Simpson, MC Lyte, Shemar Moore, Vanessa Bell Calloway, LeAnn Rimes, Silk, Kellita Smith, Gabrielle Union, Morris Day, Johnny Gill, Boyz II Men, Maureen McCormick, Ja’Net DuBois and Loretta Devine.
Moesha was nominated for almost 40 awards over its six season run, winning an Image Award for Best Supporting Actress for Countess Vaughn and an Outstanding Youth Actress for Brandy as well as The SHINE Award for Comedy Episode for Brandy. The highly acclaimed series also spun-off the sitcom, The Parkers, starring Countess Vaughn, Mo’Nique and Yvette Wilson.
Moesha aired its last episode of May 14, 2001, but its appeal internationally is impressive for an American sitcom. Not only was it syndicated in the UK, but since 2008 it’s also been seen in Spain, Italy, Russia, Jamaica, France, Korea, Singapore, South Sudan, India, China, Israel, Australia, Mexico, South Africa, The Netherlands, Kenya, Germany, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Brazil, Ireland and Ethiopia.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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