Roc (TV series)
|Created by||Stan Daniels|
Charles S. Dutton|
"God Bless the Child" performed by Jerry Lawson|
"Live Your Life Today" performed by En Vogue
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||72 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||HBO Independent Productions|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||August 25, 1991 – May 10, 1994|
Roc is an American comedy-drama television series which originally ran on Fox network from August 25, 1991 to May 10, 1994. The series stars Charles S. Dutton as Baltimore garbage collector Roc Emerson and his nurse wife, Eleanor played by Ella Joyce.
Roc began life as a traditional television sitcom, chronicling the ups and downs of Baltimore garbage collector Charles "Roc" Emerson (Charles S. Dutton), a tightwad who constantly brought home "perks" (i.e. items thrown away by residents on his route); his wife Eleanor (Ella Joyce), a registered nurse; his womanizing younger brother Joey (Rocky Carroll), a ne'er-do-well musician who had recently returned to the neighborhood; and his father Andrew (Carl Gordon), a retired Pullman porter. A much-played scene during the series' promotion featured Roc greeting his returning brother with a casual glance and a tired "Hey, Joey." When Eleanor suggests that he should have more to say, Roc agrees, and follows up with "Hey, Joey, where's my money?"
The four principal cast members were all accomplished stage actors, and had become acquainted with each other while appearing in various August Wilson plays on Broadway (three of the four leads were fresh from appearing in The Piano Lesson. In fact, Charles S. Dutton wanted all four of The Piano Lesson leads to be on the show). After a successful live episode (guest-starring Dutton's then-wife Debbi Morgan) was broadcast in February 1992, the producers and the Fox network agreed to air each episode of the second season as a live performance. Virtually every episode from season two began with a prologue in which one of the cast members directly addressed the home viewers for a few minutes. A current events item from the past week, or even that very day, would be mentioned to prove that (East Coast) viewers were indeed watching a live performance, and current events from the previous week were frequently incorporated into the dialogue. One episode dealt with the 1992 Presidential Election, and aired the Sunday before the election. As the Emersons await the results, the director interrupts the program to mention that the results are unknown, causing "dismay" amongst the characters. Roc was the first prime time scripted American series since the late 1950s to broadcast each episode of an entire season live, a feat which wasn't repeated until the entire third season of NBC's Undateable was broadcast live in 2015. A Fox executive reportedly said that Roc "didn't feel live" to audiences because "those actors were so good, they never made a mistake." Given there was a limited ratings boost, the show returned to its original pre-taped format for season 3.
As it progressed, the series adopted a more dramatic tone, with several installments featuring social commentaries on gang activities, violence among youths, the consequences of drug use on childbirth, and the plight of African-Americans in the United States.
One of the central problems around town was the arrival of a powerful drug dealer named Andre, whose efforts throughout the community were met with counter-movements from Roc and others. This began with a brief showdown at Roc's home in which an angered Roc eventually grabbed hold of Andre and warned him that his actions would not go unchallenged. This soon gave rise to several new characters, including a vigilante named Ronnie (played by rapper Tone Lōc) and Calvin, a co-worker and friend of Roc (played by rapper Heavy D). As the story line progressed, victories were back-and-forth between the two sides, with Andre taking one of Joey's young friends under his influence, taunting Roc, and eventually being shot on-screen by an unseen assailant. Roc became a quick police suspect but was exonerated, with the shooter soon revealed to be Calvin. As Calvin began his prison sentence, Roc and Eleanor agreed to raise his teenage daughter Sheila (Alexis Fields). Once recovered, Andre was eventually confronted by Joey, Ronnie, and several of their friends about his continuing to trouble the community. After later expressing a measure of respect toward Roc, Andre would soon begin steps toward reformation.
The series moved on, continuing to mix humor and occasional drama.
- Charles S. Dutton – Charles "Roc" Emerson
- Ella Joyce – Eleanor Carter-Emerson, a nightshift nurse at Harbor Hospital (Wing C)
- Rocky Carroll – Joey Emerson, Roc's freeloading, trumpet playing brother
- Carl Gordon – Andrew "Pop" Emerson, Roc's widowed father, a retired railroad porter
- Garrett Morris – Wiz (Season 1)
- Clifton Powell – Andre Thompson
- Heavy D – Calvin Hendricks (Seasons 2–3)
- Tone Lōc – Ronnie Paxton (Seasons 2–3; 7 episodes)
- Jamie Foxx – Crazy George (Seasons 2–3; 9 episodes)
- Darryl Sivad – Sly (Seasons 2–3; 6 episodes)
- Joan Pringle – Matty (Season 2; 4 episodes)
- En Vogue – "The Downtown Divas" (Season 2)
- Alexis Fields – Sheila Hendricks (Season 3; 22 episodes)
- Rosalind Cash – Margaret Carter, Eleanor's social-climbing mother (Seasons 1–3; 3 episodes)
- Richard Roundtree – Russell Emerson, Andrew's gay brother (Seasons 1–3; 4 episodes)
While fans were devoted, their numbers were also low; for three seasons, Roc was acclaimed critically but was generally towards the bottom of the Nielsen ratings (though it did quite well in African American households). Roc gained recognition in the form of award nominations, including an Emmy nomination for its camera work, with Charles Dutton receiving an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series.
The series' theme song began as "God Bless the Child", performed by a cappella singer Jerry Lawson (lead singer of The Persuasions) and three unknown studio singers, and was eventually replaced with "Live Your Life Today", performed by En Vogue.
List of episodes
- "Charles Dutton and Ella Joyce Bring Zest to TV's 'Roc'", JET, Oct. 7, 1991, at pp. 59–61.
- "Why NBC Is Airing a Live Sitcom Next Season". Retrieved 2015-05-09.
- "1991–1992 Television Season Top Rated Shows". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 31, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-16.
- "1992–1993 Television Season Top Rated Shows". Archived from the original on October 31, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-16.
- "1993–1994 Television Season Top Rated Shows". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 31, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-16.