TV Execs don’t have to watch out for putting bad ‘Ethnic’ shows on TV, just bad Shows! (I liked it tho)
So many of you that follow me on twitter know about that Deadline article by Ayanna or Aliaynna or some name I don’t feel like remembering. I’m not linking it because I just don’t want to give it the added exposure and digital credit. You can easily search for it if you want. In the article she (her name is Nellie) talked about her thoughts on if ‘Ethnic’ tv is over due or becoming too much of a good thing? Her assumptions were that we haven’t seen black people on network television as much as now with the likes of Empire, Black-ish, Extant, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. I’ll counter that point later. But one thing she mentioned was that network executives were asking for more ethnic roles to be made for their TV shows. With the success of Empire and Shonda Rhimes two hit ABC series, I can see how some executives are trying to find out how they can get some of those Empire ratings. It’s funny how mainstream media people try to talk about diversity and forget about Sleepy Hollow though. I guess if Abby and her sister Jenny were talking like Cookie then it would be considered an ‘ethnic’ show also.
Now I do think execs follow what is popular at the moment. And what makes something popular to them is the ratings that certain shows get. Why are Empire and HTGAWM getting great ratings? Maybe it is because Nielsen started paying attention to Twitter. Now the market can see how successful a show with a black lead can be. I’m sure the numbers for ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat are not looking too bad either. If you really want to see why execs are going crazy over twitter responses to Empire and other shows, check out the some of the NIELSEN TWITTER TV RATINGS on their site. I’m just saying, those tweets can’t be ignored by anybody. I see you Black Girl Nerds!
But as successful as these shows are, we have not reached saturation by a long shot as the article proposes. Because saturation will not be determined by anything other than the audience watching TV. And I can’t see the black audience that supports these shows saying “Oh, Okay. Whew! That’s enough interesting Black leads on TV for us!”
What the deadline writer failed to remember was that this happened in the 90s, and nobody complained. Remember when there were plenty of black shows on TV like Steve Harvey, My Wife and Kids, Fresh Prince, Family Matters, Living Single and The Jamie Fox show. We even had brothers among the stars – Homeboys from Outer Space. In the beginning of the millennium we had a few more shows like Girlfriends and The Bernie Mac Show.
Now after those early 2000s shows it was a definite dry spell as more reality television started popping up. We didn’t see many scripted dramas or comedies featuring POC leads and definitely not many genre shows in Sci-fi and fantasy. So it’s no wonder that the black audience is looking to see themselves represented on TV again.
There was the other point made in the article about the white actor that lost a role to a black person because of this ‘executive decision’ to get more color on the small screen. I know you all can’t see my face, but this is my ‘Did you really just say that’ stare. If executives are reacting to a black audience, what is wrong with a show featuring what the people want. And the article missed the real point of the scenario – two white people got the roles at first. Hmmm, I wonder why? Was it because they were the best choices for the roles? Has that been the case for all of the history of actors getting roles for TV? Cause there are some great black actors and actresses that have been passed up time and time again. Let’s be for real. Though there is a definite interest in getting more black people and other POC into roles on television, there isn’t going to be a shortage of White leads anytime soon.
And here is possibly the most glaring point that the author is missing while talking about these faceless execs and their call for diversity. It’s not just that black people have been popping up on the small screen as of late, but it’s WOMEN that have been leading on TV for the past few years. I noticed that female led shows were about 50% back in 2012. And the number has increased by my estimates. Even if you look at Empire you know that the show would not have been as big of a hit without Taraji P. Henson’s dynamic character.
There was one thing the article did mention which made me think. These producers should know that they can’t cater to a black or a female audience just by featuring a gender or a race and think it will be okay. The stories have to be engaging and the acting on point. I don’t agree with miss ‘too much diversity’ in her example of Undercovers. That show, which was produced by J.J. Abrams, was supposed to be a campy homage to Hart To Hart. But people didn’t get it. The show would have failed if it starred a white couple or a black couple or any other couple. Personally though, I don’t know how you all could not watch the beautiful Gugu Mbatha-Raw in anything she did. Now this is me giving you the side-eye.
Anyway, I do think that these network heads should be careful not to get all hasty and just throw together a show because they are thinking too shallow. One way they can avoid that mistake is to keep green-lighting projects that are created by POC and give them the jobs of also directing and producing them. That’s how it works people. And I ultimately would love to see some of the black owned television stations be able to create and acquire the ratings that these major networks are getting with their own original programming. Now that is something that we can have an effect on just through our community. But that’s another post, isn’t it.
I haven’t said enough to criticize the deadline article over each point to point. I wanted to mostly talk about the shift in programming, and what seems to be happening and who is really behind it. But if you want to read how someone truly tore the article up, check out Awesome Luvvie’s response! She hit it dead on I think.
I can’t wait for more shows with leads of color. I can’t wait for more people of color to be featured behind the camera and the scripts. I reeeeally can’t wait until we see more shows like Extant with Halle Berry and other Sci-Fi and fantasy that represent us in the future, and in genres that our black geek nation love. You could call the shift a ‘Trend’ like Nellie said in that dismissive and kinda petty way, but I instead like what Shonda Rhimes defined it as when she referred to what we are seeing as ‘Normalizing’ TV.