Once again, it’s time for our annual deep dive into the state of Race on TV.
Last year was our first foray  into the sensitive topic of Race on TV and this year promises to be another challenge. Why you ask? Well, as much as some would like to think that ever since Obama’s election, race is no longer a factor; others, including yours truly, would beg to differ.
Last year, we discovered that things were pretty bleak out there in the Network TV world. With NBC leading the pack and CBS trailing at the bottom, it was heartbreaking to see that this supposedly “post racial” world in which all races are fairly represented in our five major networks just doesn’t exist yet. For minorities out there searching for someone that resembles them on the small screen, it can be a very difficult feat.
This year, as we wade through this uneasy exercise once more, let us keep in mind that the goal is not to bring affirmative action to TV but rather to highlight a reality that cannot be ignored. It’s one thing to believe there is a serious lack of racial diversity on TV but it’s quite another to see the numbers for yourself.
So without further ado, here is the state of racial diversity on TV for the Fall 2012 TV season (Click on the image to enlarge):
Quite a lot of data to digest, so here is a little analysis that I put together for those who want to know a bit more about what it all means.
So what does the data tell us? Things are looking pretty “token” for lack of a better word.
While only 15% of series have no minorities in their main cast (F), 60% of those series happen to be on CBS & 20% on CW. This is a puzzling coincidence since both networks belong to the same corporation.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find that 19% of series have more than two minorities in their main cast (A). It is also worth noting that 50% of those series air on NBC, followed by ABC with 36% of A Level series.
However, with a whopping 46% of shows in the (C) category, it is clear from the data that for most networks, racial diversity often means having just one token minority. Once again, CBS and CW find themselves in the lead in that category with 29% and 19% respectively of their shows.
Similar to last year and as mentioned above, NBC still leads the pack as the network with the most diversity in its scripted programming.
While there is some slippage for some shows compared to last year, most of it is due to the fact that I am far stricter this year in terms of who counted as a regular cast member and/or who is considered a minority (ex: A white actor portraying a minority does not count anymore).
All and all, NBC should be especially commended for being THE ONLY network with a minority in every single one of its series. Every single one. Way to go, NBC.
Sad to say, ABC and FOX still have the honor of holding down the middle.
To their credit, ABC has less shows in the F category and a few more shows in the A category so they are clearly doing better than last year….if it weren’t for the fact that instead of putting more shows in the A and B categories, they stacked quite a few of them with token minorities landing those in the C category, which tampered with their progress.
I will however give FOX the prize for consistency as their diversity ratios stayed fairly consistent year over year. One show in the A category, one show in the F category and everything else nicely divided up between B & C.
There is no way to sugarcoat this but CBS and CW are once more trailing the bottom with the most number of shows in the C & F categories.
A simple look at the infographic shows how the networks lack diversity in their programming. CBS would have taken the prize for worst network but CW beat them by a hair by not having any series in the A category. Not much to be proud of here.
Before I am accused of being completely biased because of my background, let’s get a few things out of the way.
First, there are a lot of shows in this infographic that I enjoy regardless of their grade. In fact, some of my favorite shows are on CBS. And like all of you, I want to know who the mother is on How I Met Your Mother and I really hope that Hope from Raising Hope turns out to be out a wonderful child (See what I did there with the word “Hope”, Obama would be so proud). The fact that they have no diversity in their main cast does not mean that I enjoy them any less.
Second, I don’t equate the quality of a series with its grade. My goal is not to claim that by adding more diversity, the series would be better in some way. A good actor is a good actor, regardless of their ethnicity.
However, it just so happens that my preference is for the little screen I dearly love to reflect the world I live in from time to time. Is that so much to ask?
Lastly, even if you find a few debatable grades in the lot, you will end up finding that overall the grades are fairly close to reality.
If next year is anything like this year, I expect not much will change. NBC will probably still hold the top prize while CBS and CW will still be struggling neck and neck for the bottom spot.
However, the dreamer in me sees a time where this infographic will become obsolete; a day in which diversity is so hardwired into our society that every show will be either in the A or B category; heck, the B category might become the new F.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Let’s turn it to you. What do you think of racial diversity on TV? Do you think that it needs more of it or are you happy with the status quo? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and thank you for reading.
You can follow me on Twitter @itsameric