Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

Color Adjustment

  • Rating: *****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $89.00
  • Date: Copyright 1991. Released 1991.
  • Descriptors: Race relations. Television - and blacks. Blacks - History.
  • Production Information: Live action, Film transfer. Produced by Marlon Riggs, Vivian Kleiman. Color, b&w. 87 min.
  • Available from: California Newsreel 149 9th St., #420 San Francisco, CA 94103 (415)621-6196
  • Cataloging: 302.23'08 United States - Race relations|| Afro-Americans and mass media||Mass media and minorities - United States
  • Print Entry #: 3:485
  • Reviewer: Kwasi Sarkodie-Mensah

    In recent years, more than any other time, television has been the medium where the African-American family has been watched and welcomed in the majority of American homes. The reasons behind this acceptance and the concomitant issues associated with including African Americans in television's typical mythical families - along with a historical and critical analysis of black programs - are what this video strives to portray.

    The 87-minute program is divided into two parts: "Color Blind TV, 1948-1969" and "Coloring the Dream, 1969-1988." Careful, stimulating, and objective critiques are made of various programs and events by such personalities as actress Esther Rolle; sociologist Herman Gray; Henry Louis Gates, Jr., chairperson of the Harvard University Afro-American Studies Department and director of the DuBois Institute; Hal Kanter, television producer and writer; actress Diahann Carroll; and Alvin Pouissant, psychiatrist, educator, and consultant on the "Cosby Show."

    Appearances of blacks on television in the 1940s-1960s were so minimal and rare that advance hints of programs featuring blacks like Nat King Cole and Diahann Carroll would trigger phone calls alerting relatives or neighbors. The black person was usually portrayed as a clown, a crook, lazy, audience-pleasing, or domestic. The "Amos and Andy Show" bears testimony to this fact. Where positive images were portrayed, such as on "Julia" and "I Spy," the situations were neither representative of the black family nor too good for the white audience to accept.

    Part two of the video shows the strides made by blacks on television. Such shows as "All in the Family," "Good Times," "Roots," and the "Cosby Show" represent the realities of the African-American situation, though not in all cases acceptable to blacks or even the viewing audience as a whole. This section reinforces the reasons why black shows are either accepted or criticized. "Roots," for example, seemed to portray the familiar family saga of the United States and brought home the migrant factor of the American family. "Frank's Place," killed by the ratings, was too real because it did not affirm the logical reward of the American dream of working hard.

    The video is a strong and objective analysis of the role of black contributions to prime time television. Using formidable footage, strong and vital historical materials, and quotations from The Price of the Ticket, Color Adjustment by Marlon Riggs explores how the various program directors, television producers, and themes of black programs did not always "adjust" their "colors" to reflect the realities of the group they were portraying. This video is a must for all types of libraries.

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