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 twentysomethings living in the middle-class Park Slope 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.
This show provides examples of:
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 quips that she's 'never heard of it' and shoots a quick glance to camera as she walks away.
Later at dinner, while telling Blatant Lies to make Max seem more successful to her ex-beau, its mentioned that Max has made partner at her firm, the first African American woman to do so, "because that Clair Huxtable wasn't real."
Melvin and Mario Van Peebles play a father and son.
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.
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.
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.
Downer Ending: The episode in which the girls install a complex security system after being robbed, although for a moment is about to end with Khadijah refusing to live scared, ends with a police siren in the background and all the girls unable to sleep due to fear of their safety.
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.
Drop-In Character: Maxine has her own apartment, but is rarely seen there. Lampshaded the first time the cast is there in person.
Kyle has the childhood nickname of "Lumpy". He also used to be known as "Meatball" (to Overton's "Spaghetti").
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.
Fake Hair Drama: To Regine's annoyance everyone seems know she is wearing a wig. But they all agree it's a great one. Scooter later gifts her with "100% human hair" but still counts as this trope since it is still not hers.
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.
The reactions to him at his high school reunion implies that he was teased about it. It's more likely something that he's managed to put behind it rather than never having issues in the first place.
The Friend Nobody Likes: Max ... almost. With the exception of Khadijah (her best friend), everyone else can see (and often point out) how cold and harsh Max can be, how insulting she is towards everyone and antagonistic she can be towards men in particular, and, of course, how she just invites herself over and eats all of the other girls' food (and never pays them back for any of it).
Fun with Acronyms: For a while Regine is involved with an organzation called E.L.B.O.W. - 'Enterprising Ladies Benefiting Our World'
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 Stephanie wrote on her wall when they were kids, "Khadijah's got big jugs".
Gamer Chick: Maxine, though it is not a huge part of her character she has been shown to pass her time with the game boy and import from Japan. Khadija has a milder but still mentioned interest in video games.
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 Stephanie. Different in that they grew up in different households and Stephanie 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.
She goes back and forth with this but instead settles on only wanting to date men with a purpose or motivation in life. She eventually settles down with A millionaire anyway, however.
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 Jerk Ass.
Jerkass Has a Point: While Max can come across as a Straw Feminist she does have her moments, such as when she lampshades the fatal flaw in wanting a big, strong man around to protect a woman from an armed attacker, pointing out that the only thing a man has that woman does not would not stop a bullet.
Justified Title: 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".
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.
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. This backfires on everyone, however when Regine snaps and demands everyone's meat products for herself.
Mrs. Robinson: In "Grumpy Old Man," Khadijah says she is looking forward to turning 30 "because of 20-year-old men, looking for Mrs. Robinson."
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.
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.
Averted with Khadijah's half-sister, Stephanie, 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.
Never Live It Down: In-Universe Regine, who was caught having sex with one of her boyfriends on the roof by her mother still gets razzed a bit over it once in a later season.
Regine: Man, when are you going to let that go!?
Khadijah: Oh god - when it stops being so funny!
Not So Similar: Maxine, when Khadija says she is just like Regine because of her flirting. Max says she only does it for fun while Regine is in it for the money.
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, Stephanie, 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.
Post Robbery Trauma: Happens to Regine after she gets her purse stolen, as she starts annoying Khadijah and Synclaire with her obsession of getting hi-tech security system ... then the same mugger (who now had Regine's driver's license and keys) breaks into the apartment and robs them. Soon after all the main characters (Max and the boys included) are suffering for fear of their safety.
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.
Put on a Bus: Khadijah's childhood friend and new beau Scooter gets put onto this not long after the two hook up, as he is asked to go touring with one of the groups he represents. The two share a failing long-distance relationship for awhile before they finally call it quits.
The Bus Came Back: Scooter does pop back up a few times, to re-ignite the relationship between himself and Khadijah, to propose to her, then officially break up, and then finally getting back together with Khadijah again near the end of the series.
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, at one point in the series he even manages to get his tailor to remain the particular way he does his collars for him the "Barker Lapel".
They are somewhere between Slap-Slap-Kiss and Abhorrent Admirer as while he usually ends up pissing her off eventually it's only by the end in most situations as he usual ends up charming her during somepoint at any given exchange. Eventually this leads to nothing, as Russel eventually tired of waiting for her to wait around for her to decide on him one way or another. When she did want to actually give him a chance, while at Synclaire and Overton's wedding, he'd moved on.
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.
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.
Unfortunate Name: "Khadijah" means premature, which surprisingly is not used for many jokes.
It's worth noting that Regine warned her not to wear it but wouldn't say why and max took it anyway.
Weight Woe: Notably averted, as all the varied body types were presented as both desirable and beautiful. In fact, amongst all their dating mis-adventures throughout the series, body image was the only thing never referenced or made an issue of.
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.