Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York. She's worked with clients like Instacart, Tailwind, Columbia, Esurance, and LifeLock.
What Does BIPOC Mean?
The majority of on-screen stories are based on the lives of people that aren't Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC). However, increasingly more TV shows are giving us a peek into the lives of those from other cultures, which is a beautiful thing.
It's almost like traveling to another country without buying a plane ticket. Or sitting in the living room of your BIPOC friend and learning what it's like to live in their world.
More diversity in Hollywood is exactly what we need and I'm here for it. If you are, too, here are some shows that can give you a peek into a new and different world.
Top 10 BIPOC Shows
- Never Have I Ever (Netflix)
- Rap Sh!t (HBO)
- Lovecraft County (HBO)
- Queen of the South (Netflix)
- Insecure (HBO)
- A Black Lady Sketch Show (HBO)
- Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
- Awkwafina is Nora From Queens (HBO)
- Cristela (Hulu)
- Jane the Virgin (Netflix)
1. Never Have I Ever (Netflix)
Never Have I Ever follows the life of an Indian-American teenager navigating the ups and downs of being a teenager of color at Sherman Oaks High School in southern California.
Based on the life of Mindy Kaling, the show details Devi Vishwakumar's daily life as she pines over her elementary school crush and struggles to maintain friendships after a sudden tragedy shakes her to her core. So much so that she temporarily loses the ability to walk.
The show is a great peek into the lives of Indian Americans. It's well-written, funny, witty, and even tugs at your heartstrings with several emotionally-charged scenes. It also tackles real issues, like coming out to your parents, dealing with grief, and getting older.
It's easy to relate to almost every character in some way or another. It's definitely going on my re-watch list. The only thing I thought was weird was that it was narrated by John McEnroe—though that is explained later in the show.
2. Rap Sh!t (HBO)
Rap Sh!t is Issa Rae's newest show on HBO and it follows the lives of two Miami girls: Shawna and Mia, former high school friends who reunite one night. While sitting in the car on Live after going out for drinks, they sit there talking for a while and soon come up with a catchy rap song called "Seduce and Scheme."
Mia is the hype girl and Shawn brings the bars. Both girls are doing what they can to make ends meet while pursuing the rap thing, but Shawn gets caught up in something that might end her career before it begins. The show's season finale ended with quite a cliffhanger.
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If you want a peek into the drama-filled lives of two young up-and-coming Miami female rappers, check out Rap Sh!t on HBO.
3. Lovecraft Country (HBO)
If you're looking for a BIPOC show with supernatural elements, then Lovecraft Country will definitely satiate your desire. The show was created by Misha Green, but Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams helped executive produce.
Lovecraft Country is about a black man who joins forces with his friend, Leti (Journee Smollet), and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to find his missing father. The show is set in the south in Jim Crow America, so the characters have to face both natural and supernatural evil.
Even though it lasted only one season, it's worth watching for the supernatural elements and the well-executed social commentary. If you plan on bingeing Halloween movies this year, why not add this to your list?
4. Queen of the South (Netflix)
Queen of the South follows Teresa Mendoza, a Mexican woman who starts out as a money changer in Sinaloa, and ends up running for her life from the cartels in both Mexico and the United States. The story is interesting from the very beginning.
From the moment she meets a handsome gringo named Güero (blond in Spanish) and her soon-to-be-best friend, Brenda, we're completely entrenched in the story. Brenda's husband and Güero are killed for stealing from a drug cartel, so Teresa and Brenda have to go on the run. And Teresa's life gets worse before it gets better.
Queen of the South is a gritty series that keeps you wondering what's going to happen to Teresa throughout her horrendous ordeal. Her tenacity and will to survive through dangerous and insane situations is totally gripping.
Watch her rise from the lowest (i.e. poorest) on the socio-economic totem pole to one of the richest drug kingpins in Mexico. It's an exhilarating thrill ride you don't want to miss!
5. Insecure (HBO)
Issa Rae's Emmy-nominated show, Insecure, is a look into the lives of four professional African American women in their late 20s and early 30s. It's Los Angeles as seen through a non-violent lens. Issa Rae's gives us a fresh take on the black experience throughout the show's five seasons.
Rae plays Issa Dee (pretty much herself) and does it brilliantly and hilariously. Molly Carter (a lawyer with perpetual relationship issues), Kelly Prenny (an accountant and the goofiest of the bunch), and Tiffany DuBois (the married one) are her best friends, and Insecure tracks their ups and downs over five seasons.
It's a show worth watching if you want a taste of the black experience that's different from the stereotypical narratives. It highlights the black experience in all the best ways, showing multi-faceted layers in every character and touching on important issues facing the black community in a non-preachy way.
6. A Black Lady Sketch Show (HBO)
A Black Lady Sketch Show is kind of like the black version of SNL, except without the live audience. It's a series of sketches performed by...you guessed it...all black ladies.
Celebrities like Issa Rae, Tia Mowry, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Williams, Laverne Cox, Kelly Rowland, Gabrielle Union, Pattie LaBelle, Wanda Sykes, Omarion, Miguel, Kyla Pratt, and Raven Symone all appear, so you're always in for a treat.
Gabrielle Dennis is a permanent part of the cast, which is a huge plus. Ashley Nicole and Robin Thead (the creator) are also part of the main cast, and each brings their own hilariousness to each episode. Let's not forget Emmy-winner, Quinta Brunson, who was a part of season one.
7. Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
Fresh Off the Boat is a series based on the life of Asian American restaurateur, Eddie Huang, and his somewhat Americanized family. Created by Nahnatchka Khan, the show is a highly entertaining mix of humor and coming-of-age drama.
The show is a refreshing look inside the lives of an Asian American family trying to make it in Orlando, Florida, after moving from the Chinatown area of Washington, D.C. The show also takes place in the '90s, so there's a nostalgia element at play.
The mother, Jessica Huang (Constance Wu), is one of the funniest characters, aside from the son. Her behavior is decidedly Asian in a funny, quirky way that makes you laugh out loud sometimes.
The show has a 7.8 rating on IMDB and ran for six seasons from 2015 to 2020. You can find it on Hulu.
8. Awkwafina is Nora From Queens (HBO)
From the moment the show begins, it's full of laughs. Nora is dreaming she's dead, only to be snapped out of it by her grandma complaining that her room is filthy. They proceed to have a back-and-forth exchange that's hilarious.
Nora then goes to take out the trash and gets savagely burned by her high school neighbor who's also taking out the trash. The exchange is laugh out loud funny..
The show is well-written, witty, and showcases the life of a 27-year-old Chinese American woman in a refreshing, non-stereotypical way. I love that Nora is an underachiever, a stark contrast to the typical Asian characters we see on TV.
She's a quick-witted, pot-smoking, wise-cracking, vibrator-collecting lesbian (who used to be bi-sexual in high school, according to her). If that's not enough of a reason to watch, I don't know what is.
9. Cristela (Hulu)
Cristela Alonzo is the hilarious Mexican American daughter of an immigrant working on her law degree. She lives with her sister Angie, her brother-in-law Felix, their kids, Isabella and Henry, and her mother Natalia.
Even though the show only lasted one season, it's guaranteed to have you in stitches. You'll also be scratching your head, wondering why the show was never greenlit for a second season. Perhaps, Netflix will pick it up? (*Ahem*)
The wise-cracking Cristela is often finding funny ways to deal with her difficult life situation. The topic of race is tackled with humor and Cristela delivers her lines pretty much flawlessly throughout the show.
If you haven't already done so, go check out one of the greatest one-season sitcoms you'll ever watch.
10. Jane the Virgin (Netflix)
Jane the Virgin is the story of an early 20-something Venezuelan American girl named Jane Gloriana Villanueva, who aspires to become a romance novelist.
It centers around her struggles with deciding whether to uproot her life because of an unplanned pregnancy. Not to mention the love triangle she gets caught up in after she breaks things off with her fiancé after falling in love with her baby's father—the man by whom she's impregnated due to artificial insemination.
It's a messy back and forth that's highly entertaining and introduces numerous interesting cultural elements into the show. For example, I liked learning about Alba (Jane's grandmother) and her past.
BONUS: Abbott Elementary (ABC)
Abbott Elementary is an Emmy-award-winning show with a unique cast of characters that all bring something unique to the show. Abbott centers around Janine Teagues, a second-grade elementary school teacher in Philadelphia's low-budget school system. Her quirkiness, naivete, and drive to make things better make her a lovable character.
The entire cast is hilarious. Take Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), one of the school's most senior teachers, who knows there's not much the school can do. Her struggles with technology when the school gets tablets is laugh-out-loud funny.
Melissa Schemmenti, another fellow teacher, is tougher than an elementary school teacher should be. She reveals in one episode how she had to threaten a parent and a grandparent. From knowing people who can boost stuff to asking the cameraman if he's Italian to asking if he's from South to asking whether he's with the police, it's extremely well-written and well-acted.
Let's not forget Ava Coleman (Janelle James), the principal who often makes questionable decisions, like when she spent the $5,000 they got from the school board on a sign for the front of the school with her face on it. Or when she made a Tik Tok video to get Janine more school supplies.
If you haven't seen Abbott Elementary, go watch it on ABC or Hulu before Season 2 premieres on September 21, 2022.
© 2022 Shanea Patterson