Racial diversity is a claim many in the TV entertainment industry readily embrace.
But how accurate is that claim? Can it be said that most TV shows are reflective of the racial diversity in the United States? Is every network equally balanced from a diversity perspective or are some better than others? You might have been asking those questions yourself but didn’t have the time/inclination to look into it. Lucky for you, I have a lot of “time/inclination” to find answers to those questions.
In order to be as objective and transparent as possible, I decided to take a somewhat “scientific” approach to the whole affair (emphasis on “somewhat”).
Most Scripted TV shows on Network TV are racially diverse.
Rule #1: I will grade everything with a letter grade:
A= More than Two Minorities
B= Two Minorities
C= One Minority
F= No Minority
Note: As you can see, there is no D. Ultimately, you either have a minority in a TV show or you don’t. There is no partial points given here. Also, there are no minuses or pluses given.
Rule #2: A minority is anyone who is non-white. Mixed people are also considered non-white. Also I decided to classify a nonwhite playing a white person (for example, Josh Gomez in Chuck) or a white person playing a minority (Alfred Molina in Law & Order: Los Angeles) as minorities.
Rule #3: A minority cast member has to be a part of the regular cast. So no recurring roles or guest stars. In doubt, I will consider anyone who is in the cast photos of the show as a regular cast member.
Rule #4: Babies don’t count. If they can’t talk, they are not part of the cast.
Rule #5: Only scripted live action TV shows will be considered so no reality shows and no animations.
Rule #6: Cancelled shows are excluded.
Rule #7: Only TV shows that aired during Fall 2010 will be considered.
Rule #8: Only Network Television Programming will be considered.
- NBC FTW! Although they got flack for cancelling their most racially diverse show Undercovers, they still are far ahead of their closest competition ABC because they have no shows in the C or F category.
- FOX and ABC sort of share the same traits as their shows are almost even divided between the diverse (blue) and non diverse (red). However, FOX is a lower B as they have a less shows than ABC.
- CBS may be a winner in ratings but is definitely not shining with diversity. A large proportion of their shows are in the C and F category. Not a pretty picture.
- CW is equally not fairing too well as there are not only two scripted shows with two or more minorities. Fundamentally, is there any reason why there is not a single minority in the regular cast of One Tree Hill or Smallville?
I am a fan of diversity. I don’t think there should be a rule or a law forcing diversity down the throat of the creators of the show but I would hope that it would become a habit to at least think of adding a diverse cast whenever new shows are being created.
Now some of you may argue that diversity is not the key to success for a show and I would agree with that statement seeing the ratings monster that Two and a Half Men is. But diversity is not about ratings, it’s about sending a message about the kind of society you want to live in, a society filled with people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds. Ok, that may sound a little kumbaya but you get the idea.
So to all the networks out there (even you NBC, don’t think I didn’t notice the lack of “color” in the upcoming show Perfect Couples which premieres on January 20), let’s make an effort to mix things up a bit and tilt toward the diversity side of the. See you next time!
So what do you think of the results? Any surprises? Anything that jumps out at you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Just as a reminder, this is not a real scientific analysis and this is not meant to be a manifesto or some kind of call for change. It’s just one man’s approximate observation on the state of diversity on TV. You are absolutely free to disagree with it.