Racial Diversity On TV: The Grades Are In (INFOGRAPHIC)


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.


Click On The Image For The Full Size VersionTV Racial Diversity Infographic


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.

  • Anonymous

    I would not have counted Josh Gomez. I don’t think it’s fair to give NBC a pass for hiring a non white actor if they turn around and make the character white. It defeats the point of diversity if you hide it so that no one knows it’s there. Also actors who are Hispanic should be allowed to play Hispanic even if they don’t look it. Otherwise you reinforce the stereotype that Hispanics only look one way and if you don’t look like a stereotypical Hispanic person you won’t get the job.

    For instance James Roday on Psych is half Mexican but he said that whenever he tried out for a Hispanic role they said he looked too white. There needs to be more portrayals of White or Black Hispanics on tv. Like Andy on Cougartown who is acknowledged as Cuban.

    Also casting calls should not specify race unless it’s really relevant to the plot or unless you are casting a single family where them being the same race makes sense. Otherwise let anyone who can play the role audition.

    • Interesting viewpoint. I agree with you that casting calls should predominantly be based on talent and not ethnicity.

  • Anonymous

    I also think it’s unfair not to include recurring minority characters especially when they appear in a large number of episodes like Skills on One Tree Hill.

    • It just wasn’t practical to do so and furthermore, why did CW remove Skills from cast photos when he is such a large character?

      • Anonymous

        The actor was in jail for most of this season’s filming because he plead guilty to a social security card scam. They probably didn’t want that type of publicity associated with the cast photos. They wrote him out while he was in jail and wrote the character back in when the actor got out. Considering he is only a recurring character I thought it was lenient that they wrote around the fact the actor went to jail instead of firing him.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think networks realize how glaring it is when there is a non-diverse cast. Life is diverse, so it stands to reason that television should be, too. Not because a rule is made to force it but because it should reflect our lives. Just for example, I love HIMYM, but–Like Friends before it–it just screams unrealistic lack of diversity to me.

    I’m on the fence about whether or not to count minority actors portraying non-minority characters. On the one hand it bothers me that actors can’t just be their particular ethnicity. On the other hand, at least the casting directors looked at non-white actors, and I know I shouldn’t have to be grateful for that, but we still have a long way to go. Oh, and I absolutely agree that casting calls should be based on talent– should be based on talent and not ethnicity unless the role is specific (for example, they’re casting an Aryan Nation member).

    • Interesting point on Friends. I think part of the reason why TV ratings are suffering as a whole is because at some point, TV has to reflect the society it lives in. When it doesn’t, people naturally gravitate towards a medium that allows to get that. ie the internet is beating the crap out of TV.

  • Janet

    Great article but why did you limit it to broadcast networks? I’m sure to make the scope manageable but TNT and USA are fast replacing the Big Three (never was much into the Little Two) as my go-to entertainment centers. And you can’t beat them for diversity: HawthoRNe on TNT won a major award for diversity – has an incredibly diverse cast not to mention an interracial main couple; Leverage; The Closer; those are the ones I watch – there may be others. As I focus on it, USA may not be as diverse as TNT.

    • Great point. I considered adding cable networks but I felt that bundling them with network TV was a bit unfair as they tend to have a smaller number of shows and that they don’t all air during the fall season.

      Maybe a separate analysis of cable channels with a larger date range is warranted. Thoughts?

      Also I agree with you that cable shows do tend to have far more diversity than Network shows but I would have to look into it some more to be sure.

  • Jpoblete

    Article is almost on target…yet, I am offended by any show that only contains one ethnic group regardless of who they are.

  • Pendarric

    This entire article is just nuts.

    People naturally segregate themselves based on race. It’s normal and healthly.

    What is portrayed on television is fiction and is an attempt at social engineering. 

    It sickens me.

    I want an all white show. That’s who I am and that’s what I want to look at.

    There’s nothing evil or bigoted about it.

    What is evil is trying to propagandize people into believing in diversity myths and going along with things that are not in their best interest.

    if diversity was a strength it would happen on its own. It wouldn’t need to be legislated or be told to us by television and movies that if we don’t believe in it then there’s something wrong with us.

    • wow, a rational attempt at justifying racism. Nice try.

      There is no point in debating such a view of the world. Enjoy watching TV just the way you like it. I am sorry you feel the way you do.

  • Canan

    I can’t for the life of me work out who the two minorities in Criminal Minds are. I mean, of course we have Morgan, but… who is the second one? I can’t figure out if I’ve forgotten someone or if you’ve miscounted… did you count Garcia as Hispanic? Because despite the surname, she’s white (it’s her stepfather’s surname). Rossi has darker skin but he’s Italian-American and, by most standards, white.