Following the overwhelming success of "The Cosby Show" in the 1980s, an unprecedented shift took place in television history: white executives turned to black dollars as a way of salvaging network profits lost to videocassettes and cable TV. Not only were African-American viewers watching disproportionately more network television than the general population but, as Nielsen finally realized, they preferred black shows. As a result, African-American producers, writers, directors, and stars were given an unusual degree of creative control over shows such as "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Roc," "Living Single," Martin, and "New York Undercover."
Locating a persistent black nationalist desire--a yearning for home and community--in shows produced by and for African Americans, Kristal Brent Zook shows how these productions revealed complex and contradictory politics of gender, sexuality, and class. Incorporating interviews with such prominent executives, producers, and stars as Keenen Ivory Wayans, Quincy Jones, Robert Townsend, Charles Dutton, and Yvette Lee Bowser, this study looks at both production and reception among African-American viewers. Zook provides nuanced readings of the shows themselves as well as the political and historical contexts in which they emerged.
Though much of black television during this time was criticized for being "trivial" or "buffoonish," Color by Fox reveals its deep-rooted ties to African-American protest literature, autobiography, and a collective desire for social transformation.
"Kristal Brent Zook bears witness to black writers and producers' struggle for control of authorship and authentic ethnic representation in prime-time television. She provides a valuable behind-the-scenes look at the combative reality of TV production."--Warrington Hudlin, President, The Black Filmmaker Foundation
"Engaging....Zook raises significant issues and wriotes in an accessible style."--Publsihers Weekly
"Zook conveys the spirit of modern TV programming strategy as well as providing a cogent account of a flourishing entertainment phenomenon at the time of its budding."--Booklist
"Zook details how in American television, ethnicity, gender, and race are marketable commodities just like beer and apple pie."--Kirkus Reviews
"[A] well-written, extensively researched study....Zook persuasively argues that these often-criticized productions are landmarks in their presentation of 'African-American characters as multilayered, historical subjects who are ever-conscious of the collective. Especially fascinating is her description of how the fledgling Fox Network created a core African American audience and then abandoned it in the quest for a mainstream white audience."--Library
"Zook conveys the spirit of modern TV programming strategy as well as providing a cognent account of a flourishing entertainment phenomenon at the time of its budding." --Mike Tribby, Booklist
"Fascinating and in-depth...Color by Fox is a very well-written and intriguing book...easily accessible for anyone and hard to put down." --Tri-City Herald, Pasco, West Virginia