The Bernie Mac Show
The Bernie Mac Show (often shortened to Bernie Mac in syndication) is an American sitcom television series created by Larry Wilmore, that aired on Fox for five seasons from November 14, 2001 to April 14, 2006. The series featured Bernie Mac and his wife Wanda raising his sister's three kids: Jordan, Vanessa, and Bryana.
|The Bernie Mac Show|
Season 1 DVD cover
|Created by||Larry Wilmore|
|Composer||Stanley A. Smith|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||104 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
|Original release||November 14, 2001 –|
April 14, 2006
The series was loosely based on Mac's stand-up comedy acts. In real life, Bernie "Mac" McCullough was married with one daughter; Mac's character on the show (a stand-up comedian) was married with no children of his own. The pilot episode, aired on November 14, 2001, set up the basic premise for the series: the character Bernie Mac takes in his sister's children after she enters rehab (a fictional premise taken from one of Mac's stand-up routines which was eventually featured in the 2000 film, The Original Kings of Comedy). "In reality, the story is a blend of two real incidents: Mac briefly took in his niece Toya who was an at risk youth and her daughter Monique; while a friend of his had to raise her sister's children long-term."
Much of the humor in the show was derived from Mac's continual adjustment to and his unique take on parenthood. A frequent motif of the show was the juxtaposition of Mac's acerbic comments, such as his threats to "bust the (children's) heads 'til the white meat shows," and the deep parental affection he felt towards the trio, which often brought him to the verge of tears during happy moments. Towards the end of the series, Bryana's long-lost father (Anthony Anderson) returns and drops by from time to time to help Bernie and Wanda with the kids.
Many of his most emotional scenes occurred in segments in which Mac, while still in character, broke the 'fourth wall' and talked to the television audience, which he referred to as America. This technique was most notably used before an episode during the 2005–2006 season, when Bernie, as himself and wearing a Chicago White Sox cap and jacket, delivered a heartfelt congratulatory message to the baseball organization and its staff on their recent World Series Championship. Bernie, who grew up on Chicago's south-side, was a die-hard fan of the White Sox and was seen at Game 1 of the World Series, in a front row seat. As was also the case during his stand-up routine, Mac habitually addressed the audience as "America" for humorous effect.
Mac's character's celebrity worked as a plot device allowing other celebrities to appear on the show as themselves, including Neve Campbell, Don Cheadle, Halle Berry, Serena Williams, Courteney Cox, Chris Rock, Ashton Kutcher, Dom DeLuise, Natasha Lyonne, Billy Crystal, Carl Reiner, Don Rickles, Parker Posey, Angela Bassett, Ellen DeGeneres, Ice Cube, Isaac Hayes, Flavor Flav, Lucy Lawless, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Matt Damon, Wesley Snipes, Charles Barkley, Jon Garland, Jules Sylvester, Sugar Ray Leonard, India Arie, Shaquille O'Neal, Sugar Shane Mosley, Hugh Hefner, and Phil McGraw, and Marcus Allen have all appeared as themselves over the course of the show.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||22||November 14, 2001||May 15, 2002|
|2||22||September 18, 2002||May 14, 2003|
|3||22||November 30, 2003||June 29, 2004|
|4||16||September 8, 2004||April 8, 2005|
|5||22||September 23, 2005||April 14, 2006|
- Bernard "Bernie" McCullough (Bernie Mac) – The show's main character who is loosely based upon the late comedian of the same name. Bernie and his wife took in the three kids when their drug-addicted mother (Bernie's sister Stacy) was no longer able to be a proper parent. Bernie uses tough-love parenting tactics and he can be both strict and comical. He narrates the series, and between scenes, he talks to the audience by addressing them as "America." Although he loves all three kids, his favorite is Bryana (whom he affectionately calls "Baby Girl" because she is the youngest), and always finds himself going head to head with teenage Vanessa, the eldest sibling, whose poor attitude always gives him a hard time; though it is revealed in the 9th episode of Season 4 "Jack and Jacqueline" that the only reason he's so hard on her is that she reminds him of her mother and he is determined to keep her from suffering a similar fate to her mother.
- Wanda "Baby" McCullough (Kellita Smith) – Bernie's loving wife, a very intelligent woman who is VP for AT&T. She loves raising the kids with Bernie, but periodically her patience is tested. Whenever Bernie has a problem, she does her best to help, though her assistance can be stubbornly overbearing and unnecessary at times. Also, it has been stated that most of Bernie's family thinks she's snooty and is not above using seduction to make Bernie to fix a mistake. She plays a minor but important role in the series finale, in which she advises Vanessa to respect her Uncle Bernie by writing an essay on how he has inspired her.
- Jordan Jay Thomkins (Jeremy Suarez) – Bernie and Wanda's nephew, the middle child. Jordan is very mischievous and peculiar. He is interested in collecting bugs and conducting odd science experiments. He is always getting beat up by his little sister, Bryana; though on minor occasions, he has been able to scare her in retaliation and make her cry. Early on in the series during the first seasons, Jordan would always cry, occasionally vomit and sometimes urinate on himself. As the series progressed, he becomes tougher and more masculine, most notable shown in an episode in which he joins the wrestling team. He took an interest in magic and even began trying to date girls. Although he knows that there is nothing wrong with Jordan, Bernie tries his best to make him more masculine.
- Bryana "Baby Girl" Thomkins (Dee Dee Davis) – Bernie and Wanda's younger niece, the youngest child and the half-sister of Jordan and Vanessa. Bryana is a friendly little girl who is sweet, innocent, and quite naive, though she is often more bratty and obnoxious as the series progresses. Bryana is her uncle's favorite (although he loves all three). Bryana is playful and always trusts her Uncle Bernie. Bryana is known for always attacking and successfully beating up her older brother Jordan. Bernie fears that one day she will grow up and end up like Vanessa.
- Vanessa "Nessa" Thomkins (Camille Winbush) – Bernie and Wanda's elder niece, and the eldest of the three children. Vanessa always purposely gives Bernie trouble with her attitude, most of which comes from the pressure of being the eldest and having to take the parent role with her younger siblings. As the series progresses, she gets along better with Bernie and grows up into a young woman preparing for college. In the final season, she spends most of her time trying to find the perfect college and rejecting Bernie's help with that.
- W.B. (Reginald Ballard) – Bernie's friend who's always on his side
- Bonita (Niecy Nash) – Bernie's younger sister (seasons 3–5)
- Chuy (Carlos Mencia (season 1) and Lombardo Boyar) – Bernie's friend
- Kelly (Michael Ralph) – Bernie's friend
- Jerry Best (Rick Hoffman) – Bernie's Manager
- Father Sean Cronin (Wade Williams) – The Dean of Discipline at Jordan and Bryana's school
- Bryan (Anthony Anderson) – Bryanna's father (season 5)
- Donna (Naya Rivera) – Vanessa's friend
- Teri (Ashley Monique Clark) – Vanessa's friend (guest, season 3; recurring, seasons 4–5)
- Stacey Thomkins – One of two of Bernie's sisters and Vanessa, Jordan, and Bryana's mother. Before the events of the show, she became addicted to drugs; Bernie had to place her in an institution to recover and took in her children until the time came she could care for them herself. Though institutionalized, Stacey's addiction was such that she was not known to make any serious attempts to recover and her children remain with Bernie for the run of the series. Due to the series premature cancellation, it is unknown if she ever overcame her addictions. Her picture is seen once in "Road to Traditions", although it was in black-and-white and wasn't shown well.
- Mr. Thomkins – Vanessa and Jordan's biological father, who left them when she was five years of age and he was a baby. According to Bernie and Vanessa, he's in prison for various law violations that also include shooting multiple shots into a man with a gun or a pistol. His picture is shown in the episode 'Saving Sergeant Thomkins', although it is unknown who the man in the picture playing him is.
- Big Mama – Bernie's mother. She died sometime before Bernie became famous. She is frequently mentioned by Bernie over the course of the series. In the family reunion episode, Bebe Drake played the matriarchal role.
- Uncle Ellister – Bernie's uncle who is, in actuality, his biological father.
After five seasons and 104 episodes, Fox announced the cancellation of The Bernie Mac Show.
The series finale titled "Bernie's Angels" focused on Bernie getting an electrical shock and ends up traumatized. After he recovers, he begins to teach Jordan and Bryanna how to do certain things on their own. Also, Vanessa doesn't want Bernie to be involved in her choosing a college. Meanwhile, Jordan takes advantage of Bernie's kindness. In the end, Vanessa and Bernie make up (mainly due to her writing an essay about who inspires her most: which is him). In the final scene of the series, Bernie goes back to his normal self and takes back the iPod he bought Jordan since he was taking advantage of him. Bernie's final line is a farewell message to the viewers and stating that he is going to continue to raise and teach the kids for as long as they need it and he also wishes the viewers luck. The scene pans out with Jordan on his knees sobbing and begging for the iPod while Bernie smugly laughs and teases him.
The series debuted in its time slot on November 14, 2001 with solid ratings in spite of a weak lead-in, Grounded for Life. The show had a very successful first season and in the process won a handful of honors including an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series" and the prestigious Peabody Award. Bernie Mac also received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor in a Comedy Series.
In fall 2002, the series aired against the Damon Wayans comedy My Wife and Kids which may have hurt the show's momentum in the ratings during the first half of its second season run. Larry Wilmore, the show's creator and executive producer, was fired at this time. In interviews, Wilmore said he was fed up with the network's creative interference with the show, in addition to Fox constantly shuffling it around the schedule. Fox contended that it wasn't happy with the show's direction under Wilmore in the second season, claiming the show "wasn't delivering enough laughs". With The Bernie Mac Show's inability to topple My Wife and Kids in the Wednesday 8 p.m. timeslot, Fox eventually aired the show after American Idol, after which it received its highest ratings ever.
The third season was scheduled to start on October 29, 2003, but was postponed due to The O.C. being moved. Instead, the series started the season at the late date of November 30, 2003. The ratings were mediocre, despite the large ratings of its lead-in The Simpsons. In March 2004, the show was moved to Monday nights in a plan to boost ratings for the new show Cracking Up, but the ratings were low for both shows. Cracking Up was canceled and The Bernie Mac Show was pulled from May Sweeps with leftover episodes that aired in June (one of which included an episode about Thanksgiving).
The Bernie Mac Show returned to its original time slot on September 8, 2004, to start the fourth season. The production was shut down a month later due to Bernie's sickness. The show returned on January 14, 2005, with new episodes on Friday nights. Although the ratings were low enough that commentators questioned the show's future (especially when it was postponed from May Sweeps again), the show was renewed for a fifth season.
The fifth season started September 23, 2005, on Friday nights and beginning mid-season, airings were followed by reruns of the show.
The series had been airing in syndication since September 2005 and aired on Independent Fox UPN and The WB affiliates (the letter networks The WB 100+ Station Group also carries the program as part of its national schedule) and was on the FX network from September 2008 until 2011.
On various television stations, the series' title is shortened simply to Bernie Mac.
In addition to being in worldwide syndication, Bernie Mac's hometown of Chicago aired the series on the city's independent station The U. The Bernie Mac Show began its run on the station in September 2005. In the beginning of fall 2009, the series briefly moved to The U's sister station Me-TV, before returning to The U where it remained until late 2010.
On the day of Mac's funeral, The U aired a retrospective TV special called A Tribute to Bernie Mac, which featured clips from the series and an interview with Camille Winbush, who portrayed Vanessa. BET and Centric have aired the series.
Since June 2015, Bounce TV acquired rights to the series which currently airs weeknights at 7:30.
On July 4, 2018, Aspire has added the series to its lineup. Currently, the network airs two-hour blocks of the show.
Since September 8, 2020, Laff airs the series weeknights at 2:00 a.m. and 2:30 a.m.
|DVD Name||Release Date||Ep #||Additional Information|
|Season 1||May 4, 2004||22||Bonus features include commentary on the pilot episode from Bernie Mac and a 60-minute A & E Tvography.|
The Season One DVD boxset was released on DVD May 4, 2004.
|Season||Timeslot (EDT)||Season premiere||Season finale||TV season||Rank||Viewers |
|1||Wednesday 9:00 P.M. (November 14, 2001 – May 15, 2002)||November 14, 2001||May 15, 2002||2001–2002||#63||9.5|
|2||Wednesday 8:00 P.M. (September 18, 2002 – December 11, 2002)
Wednesday 9:00 P.M. (January 15, 2003 – May 14, 2003)
|September 18, 2002||May 14, 2003||2002–2003||#60||10.0|
|3||Sunday 8:30 P.M. (November 30, 2003 – February 22, 2004)
Monday 8:00 P.M. (March 7, 2004 – June 29, 2004)
|November 30, 2003||June 29, 2004||2003–2004||#95||7.5|
|4||Wednesday 9:00 P.M. (September 8, 2004 – September 29, 2004)
Friday 8:00 P.M. (January 14, 2005 – April 8, 2005)
|September 8, 2004||April 8, 2005||2004–2005||#110||4.8|
|5||Friday 8:00 P.M. (September 23, 2005 – April 14, 2006)||September 23, 2005||April 14, 2006||2005–2006||#130||3.6|
Awards and nominations
The Bernie Mac Show won a Peabody Award in 2001, the Humanitas Prize, a Primetime Emmy Award, three NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series, and was honored by the Television Critics Association.
For his role in the show, Bernie Mac was honored by the Television Critics Association for Individual Achievement in a Comedy as well as the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series four years in a row: 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.
- Sepinwall, Alan (August 9, 2008). "Bernie Mac: In his own words". The Star-Ledger.
- Norris, Chris (May 12, 2002). "Bernie Mac Smacks A Nerve (Published 2002)". The New York Times.
- "FX Fall 2011 Schedule Has How I Met Your Mother; The Nanny Reunion on Happily Divorced". Sitcoms Online. 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2011-08-06.
- 61st Annual Peabody Awards, May 2002.