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Think of it as Friends before Friends ever existed.
Living Single is a sitcom that ran from 1993 to 1998, beginning a year before Friends. It featured an ensemble cast of New York twenty-somethings living in the middle-class park section of Brooklyn. The one obvious distinction is that the cast was African-American, but the audience was never hit over the head with it (too hard). The show gained points for showing blacks succeeding in corporate America, from law to stocks to entrepreneurship.
One of the show's main draws was its realistic depiction of women. The show passes the The Bechdel Test with flying colors, the ladies have a varying range of body types, and it's never a plot point. The two male characters live next door, and while they're seen as annoying at first, they soon develop friendships with the women and eventually romance.
The main characters are:
- Khadijah James (Queen Latifah, who sings the theme song): An ambitious journalist who runs her own magazine, Flavor. Her various romances drive the plots of several episodes.
- Synclaire James-Jones (Kim Coles): Khadijah's quirky cousin and secretary at Flavor. Is also an aspiring comedic actress. Dates and eventually marries Overton.
- Regine Hunter (Kim Fields): A childhood friend of Khadijah's. She's a fashion-conscious boutique-buyer on a hellbent quest to marry a rich "Chocolate Ken", as she puts it.
- Maxine Shaw (Erika Alexander): Another childhood friend, and sharptongued attorney. Later delves into politics. Is known for her constant bickering with Kyle but developes an on-and-off relationship with him. She doesn't actually live with the girls but has her own apartment across the street.
- Overton Jones (John Henton): The building's superintendent and a Cleveland Browns fanatic. Has a sense of humor which leads to his attraction to Synclaire.
- Kyle Barker (TC Carson): Overton's best friend and roommate, a handsome but vain stockbroker/jazz musician. His sparring with Maxine does nothing to hide their mutual sexual attraction.
- Actor Allusion - During a dinner involving Max's ex & his new girlfriend/fiancé, Regine comments that she looks familiar and asks her where she went to school. When she mentions that it's a small private school called Eastland, Regine puns that she's 'never heard of it' and shoots a quick glance to camera as she walks away.
- Aerith and Bob: Khadijah and Max, or Overton and Kyle.
- Considering that Max is short for Maxine, this mostly applies to Kyle only.
- Almighty Janitor: Overton Wakefield Jones.
- There was also the time the garbagemen were on strike, and Alderwoman Shaw tried to get them back to work. After they started dumping trash outside her apartment, Max apologized. The strike leader then laid it out for her, along with gestures showing the ascending levels of power in the city.
The people...Alderwoman...City Council...Mayor...Garbagemen...God.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Regine is usually embarassed by her mother's behavior (not to mention her style in clothing), although its shown they have a lot in common and really do love each other.
- Amoral Attorney: Maxine Shaw, Attorney at Law.
- To put the amoral aspect into perspective, while Regine is working as a wedding planner she discovers the groom's, her friend Darryl's, fiancé is only marrying him for his money. Max advises Regine to keep her mouth shut, comparing the situation to her own law practice in that there was nothing wrong in cashing in on the pain and suffering of others.
- This is likely more of a reaction to a prior experience in where she advised a high powered client to get a prenup and it caused her to be suspended for the time span of a few episodes.
- Aside Glance: Khadijah gives us one during a "Queen" Stealth Pun.
- When working in a discount store, Regine gives an amazed one after a customer says she thought a dress she'd tried on was too big. (TC was actually quite the opposite.)
- The Facts of Life (Eastland) reference from above had one.
- During one episode setting during a dream, Regine's character in the flashback mentions an aversion to synthetic hair & wigs and Khadijah gives us one.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Kyle and Max.
- Berserk Button: Do NOT break Khadijah's glass giraffe that her Nana gave her!
- Big Applesauce: Brooklyn, to be precise.
- Big Breasts, Big Deal: Regine calls this type 4 trope into action while explaining her "Date Laugh".
Regine: You put one hand on your date, one hand on your chest. *laughs* See it’s a kind of laugh that says: "I’m amused and I have these."
- She then switches to type 2 when she had to get a breast reduction because her large breasts were causing chronic back pain and again in real life when Queen Latifah did the same.
- Big Eater: Max is constantly eating the girls' food, yet remains thin.
- Big No: Regine with a side of corn bread in On The Rebound, when Khadijah's caught kissing Grant Hill.
- Overton gets one when Khadijah threatens to flip a troll doll to decide if Synclaire should stay in Brooklyn or get shipped back home to Minneapolis.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: After a particularly bad date in Mystery Date, Khadijah actually turns towards the camera and blames the audience for it.
Khadijah: *glares at the audience* You did this to me. I thought y'alls were my peoples!
- That particular episode was in fact the subject of an audience voting event.
- Broken Aesop: From Five Card Stud, hustling/cheating at poker is perfectly acceptable as long as you do it against a Straw Misogynist.
- Can Not Tell a Lie: While she is usually a master of deception, by the end of the series Regine is struck honest by the man who ends up being her true love.
- Canon Immigrant: Kyle and Max resurfaced in UPN's Half And Half, along with their daughter, Kyla, whom Max was pregnant with in the final episode.
- Milton The Baker from a Different World, showed up.
- Catch Phrase: It had a couple:
Regine: Aww sookie sookie now! (or) Smooches!
Synclaire: Woo woo woo!
- Characterization Marches On: Both Maxine in Kyle, at the end end up more enlighted & family focused and less career oriented by the show's end.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Russel will do anything to put a smile on Regine's face . . . because then she's more likely to shimmy for him.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Synclaire, though Overton isn't far behind.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Played with in the episode where Max fights the garbagemen on strike.
Khadijah: Let me clarify the situation. Regine and me living with garbage is like you being barefoot and pregnant - and liking it.
Max: (Horrified) For real?
- Cool Old Lady: Khadijah's grandmother, Grammy James.
Synclaire: I haven't had this much fun since Grammy James's 80th birthday, okay.
Khadijah: Word. Grammy was kicking wasn't she?
- Deadpan Snarker: Kyle and Max, especially toward each other.
- Disappeared Dad: Khadijah's father left her and her mother when she was young, although they seem to have reconciled at some point before the show's timeline (somewhat).
- Disproportionate Retribution: An escalating Cycle of Revenge occurs between Regine and Max in the episode Mr. Big Shot. Max wants to borrow a dress Regine is working on for her Soap Opera Palo Alto for a function at the mayor's house, and Regine won't let her have it. Turns out the dress is actually a tear-away dress for a cat-fight on the soap, but when Regine discovers Max stole the dress anyway, she decides not to try and warn her and let Max be publicly humiliated instead. If that wasn't enough, after Max discovers Regine knew the dress was a prop and didn't try to warn her after she stole it, Max completes a long list of things to get back at her, including: letting the air out of her tires, putting sugar in her gas tank, canceling her credit cards, ordering two dozens pizzas to be delivered in the morning, and fixing her up on a date with RuPaul.
- Do-It-Yourself Theme Tune: The Title Theme Tune was performed by Queen Latifah.
- Dodgy Wig: Only dodgy in-universe, everyone seems know Regine's wearing a wig. But they all agree it's a great one.
- Dresses the Same: During one episode where the girls go out, Regine, who thinks she's wearing a one of a kind dress, is shown throughout the rest of that setting running after women in the same dress to mess theirs up.
- Dropped a Bridget On Him: Synclaire dresses up as James "Jimmy" Overton to get into a comedy troupe.
- Drop in Character: Maxine has her own apartment, but is rarely seen there. Lampshaded the first time the cast is there in person.
- Dueling Shows: With Friends.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Max seems very unwilling to divulge her middle name. It's Felice.
Kyle: What's your middle name?
Max: You will never know.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Regine does not like being called her childhood nickname of Nay-Nay.
- Even the Girls Want Her: An inversion of Experimented in College, Max's college roommate harbored a rather large crush on her, which was a large part of the reason said roommate never came out to her (although she did come out to Khadijah, who agreed in keeping it from Max for her own good).
- Evil Lawyer Joke: Averted, if you can believe it. Max may be aggressive and ruthless, but even Kyle comments that as much as they bicker, he respects her as a professional and competent lawyer.
- Fate Worse Than Death: We learn Max's idea of this trope in the aforementioned Cool and Unusual Punishment. Its so bad, she wouldn't even wish it on Regine!
- Foot Popping
- Formerly Fat: Kyle, though it's only mentioned once or twice in passing, as well as by Overton's uncle Smoke Eye who still calls him by his childhood nickname 'Lumpy'. Notably, he never had issues with this nor did it make him insecure though it was something he didn't mention often.
- For Your Own Good: The reason Khadijah doesn't tell Max about her one-night stand with the college professor that Max had a crush on, or that Max's college roommate was a lesbian and had a crush on Max.
- Four-Girl Ensemble
- Fridge Brilliance: The end of the series, Overton and Synclaire are Happily Married, Max and Kyle end up together, Regine finds her "Chocolate Ken", and Khadijah runs off with Scooter in the final scene of the series, the show literally ends when all of the original cast are no longer "Living Single".
- Gainaxing: Russel loves to ask Regine to "shimmy" for him. Khadijah also gives the watchers a pretty heavy bounce when complaining about what her half-sister Ashley wrote on her wall when they were kids, "Khadijah's got big jugs".
- Fun with Acronyms: For a while Regine is involved with an organzation called E.L.B.O.W. - 'Enterprising Ladies Benefiting Our World'
- Gay Bar: The girls go to one when they get sick of being hit on in straight bars. Remember this was the mid-90's when homosexuality was still something of a taboo subject on network tv.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry - Khadijah & her sister Ashley. Different in that they grew up in different households and Ashley had the benefit of their father being around while she grew up.
- Gold Digger: One of the prerequisites to being Regine's "Chocolate Ken" is having a lot of extra money to spend on her.
- Good Bad Girl: Regine.
- Gossipy Hens: Regine is the biggest hen of them all, not even court-ordained community service with monks under a vow of silence could keep her mouth shut.
- Happily Married: Overton and Synclaire.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Kyle and Overton up until the 5th season.
- Hey, It's That Girl!: Khadijah, Regine, Sinclaire and Max are also a famous rapper, a Tootie Ramsey, a Cosby character and a featured player on In Living Color.
- Hollywood Pudgy: Notably averted, as all the varied body times were presented as both desirable and beautiful. In fact, amonst all their dating mis-adventures throghout the series, body image was the only thing never referenced or made an issue of.
- Hollywood Tone Deaf: Regine, to the point the characters jokingly suggest her voice is punishment from God for Khadijah missing church.
Khadijah: Oh my God! That voice! My God! My God, why hast thou forsaken me?!
Overton: I guess that's what happens when you don't go to church for two years.
- Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Regine's mother loves to dress like this (and encourage Regine to do the same), Regine once worked for a boutique that specialized in selling extremely tacky clothing.
- Ironic Echo: From the episode Great Expectations.
Max: I don't know. The club scene is tired. There's nothin' but a bunch of brothers there with beepers and gold teeth talkin' about "Baby, I'd like to put you on a plate and sop you up with a biscuit."
(later at the club)
Goldie: *to Max* So the funny thing is, right? The cop forgot to read me my rights, ok? So here I am ready to put you on a plate and sop you up with a biscuit!
- Ironic Echo Cut: Happens with Overton's Mother's Day gift of less than pleasant smelling perfume.
Khadijah: Damn! Smell like . . . cheese!
Overton: Does not!
Regine: *suddenly walks in* Mmm! Who got some nachos?
- Jerk Jock: Khadijah's old basketball rival, Denise Hatcher. Not only does she, a professional woman's basketball player, challenge Khadijah, who hasn't played in years, to an unfair basketball game because she claims Khadijah cheated to win an MVP trophy years ago, but then after admits she lied the whole time about Khadijah cheating, and takes the trophy anyway. What a Jerkass.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Max's campaign slogan when running for Alderwoman, when she says "Ride the Maverick . . . she means it!"
- Large Ham: Most of the cast has a chance to ham it up from time to time, but Kim Fields gets to do it at the end of every one of the revamped opening credits. After her credits pop up, she starts pantomiming with trumpet before dramatically lipsyncing with the last note of the song.
- Last-Minute Hookup: Kyle and Max, Khadijah and her boyfriend, Scooter.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Regine gets one in She Ain't Heavy, She's My Mother, when complaining about her mother just before she realizes the company she's keeping.
Regine: Yeah, she was a riot upstairs, rifling through my underwear drawer. Man, thank god I hid my . . .
Kyle: *who is sitting right next to Regine, just grins and chuckles knowingly*
Regine: . . . Christmas List.
- The Masochism Tango: Kyle and Max's on again/off again love/hate fest.
- One episode had the two in a literal Masochism Tango, complete with insults and ending with Kyle leaving Max on the floor and walking away without helping her back up again.
- Meaningful Name: It's no coincedence that "Regine" is French for "Queen", given her diva-like personality.
- Meat Versus Veggies: When Regine becomes a vegetarian, she attempts to force her roommates to be the same by throwing out all the meat in the apartment. Her roommates counter this by throwing out all her veggies and having a huge meat-only BBQ in the backyard.
- My Friends and Zoidberg: In the episode Come Back Little Diva, Khadijah, Synclaire and Max run into Regine, who has moved out, at the laundromat. Regine greets them by saying “Hey ladies!... Khadijah.” Regine and Khadijah's argument on a talk show was the reason for Regine moving out in the first place.
- The Nineties: The show does date itself between television and musical references, but the most obvious reference comes right from the theme song:
Queen Latifah: "Ooo in a 90's kind of world, I'm glad I got my gurls!"
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking: After Max delves into her Past Life Memories, she realizes after numerous lifetimes of being a man, this is the first time she's ever been a woman. As such, she realizes her purpose in life is to be a mother, and thus, needs to have a baby.
- My Sister Is Off-Limits: Overton is less than pleased when he discovers that Kyle is dating his sister, Olivia.
- Averted with Khadijah's half-sister, Ashley, to whom she practically begs Ivan to take out to get her off her hands for the night.
- Never Lend to a Friend: Khadijah is against borrowing money from friends. Unlike the usual examples of the trope, this is because Khadijah cannot handle being in debt to a friend and will go crazy trying to pay them back, even if said friend is perfectly content in waiting.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Minor example with Maxine "Max" Felice Shaw, although she was referred to by her first name much of the time, as well. Major examples include Regina "Regine" Hunter, Khadijah's on/off again boyfriend Terrence "Scooter" Williams, and 5th season newcomer Ira Lee "Tripp" Williams.
- Out-of-Character Moment: During the show's Christmas Episode Kyle states his preference for celebrating Kwanzaa, a holiday dedicated towards sharing as opposed to the commercialism of Christmas. This is the same Kyle who works for a brokerage firm and once claimed Greed as a business asset. Lampshaped immediately afterwards, however, when Kyle excuses himself to supervise a hostile takeover.
- It does fit in, however, with his love of all things from the african culture.
- Overprotective Dad According to Khadijah's younger sister, Ashley, their father was very much like this. Although Khadijah didn't get to experience this personally due to him leaving when she was young.
- Parrot Exposition: We get this exchange in A Kiss Before Lying. Interesting to note, all the characters already knew who Greg was, so this bit of exposition is purely for the audience's benefit.
Max: Greg called.
Khadijah: Tell me this is not the Greg I'm thinking of. Tell me this is Greg the mailman. Tell me it's Greg the bald-headed barber. You better tell me it's Greg Brady.
Max: No it's the Greg. He left four messages on my machine today.
Khadijah: Oh, that's nice. Don't call him back.
Syclaire: Greg? The one you went out with for five years and then when your career took off and his didn't, he packed his raggedy old duffle bag and left, that Greg?
Max: Okay, you might have heard me mention him.
- Prince Charming Wannabe: Ivan tries desperately to be suave and romantic towards Khadijah, but at best he comes off as a Stalker with a Crush.
- Public Exposure: Synclaire agrees to do a nude scene for a play in the episode Raw Talent. Definitely Played for Laughs.
- Partially Averted by Max when she steals a dress from Regine that she didn't know was a prop tear-away dress for a Soap Opera. Good thing she decided to wear underwear!
- One episode features Regine & her boyfriend Keith having sex on the roof and her mother catching them afterward.
- Another episode features Max posing nude for Keith for one of his paintings.
- Real Life Relative - Khadijah's mother and grandmother were played by Queen Latifah's real mother and grandmother. Averted with her baby half sister and her father.
- Regine's mother is played by Kim Fields' real mother Chip Fields
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kyle delivers one to Lester, the bully who made his High School life a living hell.
Kyle: How did someone who comes from the same place as me, who had the same opportunities as me, end up as self-loathing and pathetic as you?
- Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Lester Tate, Kyle's old High School bully.
- Sexy Walk: Played straight by Max when the girls are trying to teach Sinclaire how to do this, but sadly averted when Synclaire's "Sexy Walk" looks more to say "I have bunions and look at my butt" according to Khadijah.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Kyle.
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Overton and Synclaire, who are a rare case of this and Happily Married, complete with kissy faces and cutsey pet names, even after they are married.
- Slap Slap Kiss: Max and Kyle, except they seemed to always go back to Slap Slap after the Kiss until the end of the series, that is.
- Soap Within a Show: the Soap Opera Regine works as a costume assistant for, Palo Alto.
- Southern-Fried Genius: Overton.
- Stalker with a Crush: Ivan for Khadijah, some of things he says to her can get really creepy, but its always Played for Laughs.
- Russel for Regine, although he mostly comes off as a Chivalrous Pervert.
- Stealth Pun: At least twice in the series they refer to Khadijah, played by Queen Latifah, as acting like a 'Queen', one use of this joke included an Aside Glance though, so it wasn't as subtle.
- One Such example -
Khadijah: Synclaire! this is a queen sized matress! that means there's only enough room for the queen!
- Straw Feminist: Max will occassionally slip into this from time to time, although since the format of the show centers around a Four-Girl Ensemble she's rarely, if ever, called out on it. Played for Laughs every now and again when it turns out the feminist example she's rambling on about turns out to be linked to an old ex-boyfriend that she still misses.
- Straw Misogynist: Lawrence from the episode Five Card Stud, although he seems to rubber band between being an alright guy to acting chauvinistic until the end of the episode, where he turns into a full Straw Misogynist.
- Sometimes Kyle is a lesser example of this, but he usually gets called out on it.
Kyle: (while over the women's apartment & eating their chinese food) You women are so indecisive. Men, on the other hand, move with a swift and deliberate purpose. Goes back to prehistoric time when we men were the hunters and you women did what we told you to. And you liked it.
Khadijah: Uh-uh *swipes the food from his hands*
- Straw Vegetarian: Regine becomes a vegetarian because she saw it was good for you and could keep you young looking on a daytime talk show. Despite the shallow reasoning which led her to become a vegetarian in the first place, she does end up remaining one permanently from that episode forward.
- Team Mom: Khadijah.
- Title Theme Tune: The theme song is titled "Living Single", sung by none other than Khadijah herself, Queen Latifah.
- Tragic Hero: During the first season finale Max recommends that her wealthy client seek a pre-nuptial agreement with her fiancé, although does so without first getting approval from the firm's partners. This advice leads her client's fiancé to call off the wedding, and said client to blame Max for the reccomendation, causing Max's subsequent suspension from the firm.
- Wardrobe Malfunction: Max steals a dress from Regine to attend a function at the mayor's house. What Regine didn't tell Max was the dress is actually a prop tear-away dress for a catfight scene in her Soap Opera, Palo Alto. Hilarity Ensues!
- It's worth noting that Regine warned her not to wear it but wouldn't say why and max took it anyway.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: In the episode A Hair-Razing Experience, Kyle is told by one of his superiors that his hairstyle isn't business appropriate and he should consider cutting it. In the end, Kyle turns it into an argument for his right to represent his African heritage . . . until it turns out it was just one of his superior's opinion and all his other higher-ups didn't care about his hair.
- It's worth noting that he was also a black man himself.
- What Happened To The Dog?: Kyle and Overton's dog, Sanford, appeared in all of one episode and is never heard from again. Strange case in that we're also told they've had the dog for a few months when the episode starts although he was never seen before.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Overton is afraid of clowns.