Entertainment Weekly had a very interesting article a couple of weeks ago titled Diversity in Entertainment: Why Is TV So White? The article talks about how of all the new network tv shows for the 2008/2009 fall season, none have any non white leading characters. As EW states the 14 new fall scripted shows look alarmingly pale. There is one show that has a leading black character. But that show won’t air until midseason. That new show is The Cleveland Show, a spin off of Family Guy.
There was more diversity on tv during the 70’s, 80’s and up to the mid 90’s. Then tv started cancelling shows where blacks were the leading characters. Most network shows that have black characters relegate them to supporting or as the article states secondary roles.
Casts on fall shows are still being filled out — some have room left for minority casting, while others, such as CBS’ The Mentalist and NBC’s Knight Rider, already include secondary characters of color. But there’s that word again: secondary. After nearly 10 years of working with diversity reps and outreach programs, the networks still primarily solve the problem by sprinkling nonwhite actors into white-led shows — often as a comedic sidekick or in guy-who-helps-the-main-guy-solve-a-crime roles. Brock Akil calls the solution ”very transparent. I think the audience can see right through that. If it’s not organic, people are going to be like, ‘Oh, you’re just pandering to me.”’ Instead of pumping up their percentages with supporting characters, shouldn’t the networks be presenting more minority ”face of the show” leads?
Hollywood is going backwards. This mess should not be happening in the 21st century. The United States is more than 30% non white and the non white population is still growing. Hollywood needs to wake the hell up.
”It was always easy for whites to run black shows or get jobs on black shows, but it was always tough for the reverse. Very few blacks get jobs on nonblack shows. So with a lot of black shows going away, fewer and fewer black writers get opportunities, let alone get the chance to be mentored and learn how to run and create shows.”
It’s sad situations like this that really make me miss shows like Soul Food, Roc, Living Single, In Living Color, The Cosby Show, etc. At least you had a chance to see blacks in leading roles. Even latinos had leading roles in Showtime’s Resurrection Blvd, another good show. Thank goodness for dvds.
”Do I want to see any more shows where someone has a sassy black friend? No, because I’m nobody’s sassy black friend. I just want to see shows in which people get to be people and that look like the world we live in.”
I have no problem watching tv shows that have a predominantly white cast. Some of my favorite shows have included Silk Stalkings, Felicity, The Golden Girls, Family Ties, Knots Landing, Party of Five and Seinfeld, just to name a few. But what is wrong with wanting to see folks who look like me in leading roles on television as well. Blacks, latinos, asians and native americans would love to see folks who look like them in leading roles on television. Is that asking for too much?
Cleveland Brown — a cartoon voiced by a white guy — is the only minority character to anchor a new series in 2008-09. What gives? As the broadcast networks prepare a predominantly white fall schedule, we examine where all the color has gone
By Jennifer Armstrong, Margeaux Watson
Cleveland Brown favors gentle words, and few words at that. He likes yellow T-shirts and baths. He is also fiercely proud of his African-American heritage, as evidenced by his ”Two Decades of Dignity” board game and that nice talk he had with a racist cop about how a black bowling ball might feel when surrounded by white pins. It’s a good thing, too, because Cleveland Brown is shaping up as network television’s great black hope for the 2008-09 season — he’s the only minority character anchoring a new series on the Big Five networks. Granted, his Family Guy spin-off, The Cleveland Show, didn’t even make it onto the fall schedule (it’s slated for midseason). Yes, Cleveland himself is merely a figment of animation. And true, the person who provides his voice, Mike Henry, is actually white. But hey, it’s a start, right?
These days, the networks need to ensure that even their cartoons of color count. After a period of making a public effort to focus on diversity in their casting — kickstarted by an NAACP outcry over the white TV landscape in 1999 — the networks have clearly started to lose that focus, and not just when it comes to African-Americans. Today the current prime-time lineup, including fall’s 14 new scripted shows, is looking alarmingly pale. According to an Entertainment Weekly study of scripted-programming casts for the upcoming fall 2008 season, each of the five major broadcast networks is whiter than the Caucasian percentage (66.2 percent) of the United States population, as per the 2007 census estimate. And all of the networks are representing considerably lower than the Latino population percentage of 15.2 percent, with The CW — whose only lead Latina star, JoAnna Garcia, will be playing a white character named Megan Smith on Surviving the Filthy Rich — registering just 3.8 percent. After the quiet and unceremonious departure this winter of eight-season hit Girlfriends (the No. 15 show in all prime time among African-American audiences), The CW’s black comedy block (inherited from predecessor UPN) has shrunk to just two sitcoms: critical darling Everybody Hates Chris (No. 29 among African-Americans) and The Game (No. 7 among African-Americans), which have both been relegated to the dead zone known as Friday nights this fall. And with very few exceptions (like black actress Niecy Nash, who costars with Jerry O’Connell in Fox’s hotel sitcom Do Not Disturb), spring’s annual presentation of the new lineups looked largely like a parade of Caucasian stars. When CBS, for example, introduced the main actors from their new series to the advertising community in May, it went something like this: Kyle Bornheimer — white. Simon Baker — white. Jay Mohr — white. Rufus Sewell — white. Elizabeth Reaser — white.
The NAACP has taken notice: It will release a new study later this month titled ”Out of Focus, Out of Sync — Take 4,” which calls for diversity not only on screen but also behind the scenes, where decisions are made and story lines are hatched. ”1 out of every 3 persons in the United States is a minority,” reads the report, an advance excerpt of which was provided to EW. ”One could argue that a third of all those working in Hollywood should be a minority. However…their presence is not accurately represented on-air and for the most part, their stories are secondary or non-existent. Behind the camera, the challenges facing minorities have been even greater and traditionally more difficult to overcome…. It is unconscionable and unacceptable that there is no new African American sitcom, or family drama for that matter, currently in the fall line up on any of the major broadcast networks.” Vicangelo Bulluck, executive director of the NAACP’s Hollywood bureau, says plainly, ”The trend definitely seems to be going in the wrong direction.”
You can read the entire article here at Entertainment Weekly.