ABC Taking Diversity Seriously With These New Shows

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How diverse is American primetime television? Definitely not enough, because the announcement of ABC’s new Fall 2014 lineup is a welcome change to the homogeneity we are used to, and it is making everyone take notice.

ABC entertainment chief Paul Lee announced in a statement that their mission for 2014-2015 is to “reflect America” (here’s hoping that mission also extends beyond 2015!).

“We wanted to reflect the changing face of America,” he said. “We think it’s time. This is the right thing to do.”

They have shows slated to appear which feature Black, Asian, and Latina lead roles, which is a huge deal and definitely a massive step up for representing the cultural diversity around the US.
The sitcom “Black-Ish” stars Laurence Fishburne and Anthony Anderson, while the drama “How to Get Away with Murder” stars Viola Davis as a charismatic law school professor who gets her students deeply involved in a real-life murder case.

“Cristela,” a sitcom, will star Cristela Alonzo as a Mexican-American whose family is ambivalent about her desire to climb up through American society.

The new sitcom “Selfie” will costar John Cho and the midseason sitcom “Fresh off the Boat” will star Hudson Yang. He plays 11-year-old Eddie, a kid who drives his traditional Chinese family crazy when they move to Orlando — and he dives into a cultural world that includes things like hip-hop. It’s set in the ’90s.

If there is any major US network who understands the power of diversity on-screen, it should be ABC. After all, their biggest hits to date ‘Greys Anatomy’ and ‘Scandal’ feature ethnic woman in a lead role capacity, and both shows are created by a black women, yet another anomaly. It proves that taking a chance and doing something different can definitely pay off, especially when it has a large democratic voice represented.

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The Guardian calls Shonda Rhimes “the most powerful woman on television” and she has sparked a new wave of what we are hopefully going to see more of in Primetime.

“Rhimes is big on pushing diversity, which not only gives us a break from the monotony of most primetime television, but allows for new and interesting talent to emerge.”

“She loves to create feminist-leaning women, from the frank and gutsy Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy to the bold and direct Olivia Pope on Scandal. It’s refreshing to see Asian and African American characters front and center, given the same character development as their white counterparts.”

She was awarded the ‘Diversity‘ award this year by the Directors Guild of America.

Being ethnic an female seems to be a very distinct absence in television, but thankfully there are some big shows which are changing things up. ‘Saturday Night Live‘ added a group of talented black women to their cast and writing staff earlier in 2014, and the Netflix series and feminist extravaganza ‘Orange is the New Black‘ is breaking down stereotypical barriers left and right.

It’s not that diversity just exists to make us feel good or tick a box, it is a viable way to enhance a network’s ability to generate revenue. A study by  the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA found that diversity makes more money and brings in more audiences.

The study titled 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect found that broadcast TV shows with casts featuring 41 to 50 percent nonwhite characters attracted the highest household ratings. For films, those with 21 to 30 percent nonwhite diversity earned the most revenue.

In cable TV, ratings peaked for shows with 11 to 20 percent nonwhite diversity in casting. Those figures came from examining the top 172 theatrical films released in 2011, along with 1,062 TV shows on broadcast and cable channels in the 2011-12 season.

“The industry likes to present itself as this bastion of liberal thought. But when it comes to diversity, it’s one of the worst industries in the country. The idea that [the under-representation of minorities and women] is all about economics has been taken off the table,” said Darnell Hunt, the study’s lead author and director of the Bunche Center.

Thinkprogress.com is excited about this new ABC lineup, which is said to be the most diverse we’ve ever seen in American television.

“Networks pay lip service to diversity all the time, but this is so much more than just talk: ABC is actually investing significant money in the belief that shows featuring diverse casts can be just as successful as the rest of the pack. They’re tapping into a market that is mostly ignored and, if they succeed, could become trendsetters for the rest of the industry,” said writer Jessica Goldstein.

On that note, take a look at a few of the teasers below for ‘Cristela’, ‘Black-ish’, and ‘How to Get Away With Murder’.

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11 Comments

  1. cheryldelp says:

    How to get away with murder looks good to me. I’ll have to see more of the other two before I make a judgement. My biggest hope is that they are more family orientated without every other sentence about sex, one liners, and very little, if any, content. I kind of liked “Two broke girls” when it first came on and now all it is is one liner after one liner (all about sex), so now I don’t watch it. I like “Mom” and “the middle” and “Modern Family” too. These have sex puns in them also, but they also have a message and some meaning. I just know if I had kids at home yet, they would not be watching a lot of the prime time shows!!!

  2. Pingback: NBC Leads New Line Up With Some Serious Female Power

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