At night I lie awake searching for comfort TV shows to soothe the day's stress. My general taste doesn't require a particularly fast-moving plot or riveting character arcs—I prefer a sense of predictability and a laugh track to guide my lethargic brain. With two of my favorites, Reba and The Nanny, there's undeniable humor and characters I adore, but there isn't a bone-deep connection that reflects the familiarity and warmth of where I come from.
To be honest, I never thought I needed a show like that. As a Southern Black woman, I've grown accustomed, even numb, to not seeing myself and my cultural experiences onscreen. And then, after a recent mindless scroll through Hulu's “TV for You” suggestions, I hit play on the first episode of a show called 227.
I vaguely remember catching glimpses of the beloved sitcom, which ran from 1985 to 1990, flashing across the televisions of my childhood—reruns, I know now, given the fact that I'm 20 years old and the show premiered 16 years before I was born—but discovering the series on my own felt like a cultural awakening.
At face value, 227 offers a peek into the fairly ordinary lives of tenants in a Washington, D.C., apartment building, 227 Lexington Place. The series largely revolves around Mary Jenkins (Marla Gibbs), a down-to-earth, sarcastic housewife involved in the lives of her neighbors, whether its bantering with landlady Rose (Alaina Reed Hall), frenemy Sandra (Jackée Harry), or busybody elder Pearl (Helen Martin); navigating her marriage to sweet Lester (Hal Williams); and being a mom to teenage Brenda (Regina King, in her first role).
But look a little deeper and you'll find the comedy also makes a statement about how a Black community could be, in a word, regular. Its relative normalcy was the point.
“There weren't a lot of shows back then that gave us the sense that we had those kinds of relationships—mamas, daddies, aunts, uncles, and children that just want to go to school and [be] regular,” Jackée Harry tells me over the phone. “That we could have a regular life and it doesn’t have to be that deep. Everybody had each other’s backs and that’s what it’s about, and people related to it.”
It's a welcome affirmation to see my own Black community where life is intertwined with everyone around you and drama wasn't always at the forefront. I was raised in the South, and my childhood was the textbook version of Black families across the Bible Belt. My grandmother was the matriarch of the family, and her home—a reddish brick building with flowerbeds lining the perimeter—was our sanctuary.
We lovingly called it the Do-Drop Inn. Immediate family members, people who were only related to us through love, and meddling neighbors did in fact drop by without warning. At the Do-Drop Inn, I witnessed my first tableaux of what a Black community looked like: Sunday dinners, the spades table, our family's riotous card game, my unreasonable amount of uncles and aunts gathered in harmony.