Article Response: Why I think “Why Is ‘Sleepy Hollow’ A Hit?” from Forbes is Missing a BIG Factor

First: Click here and skim Why Is ‘Sleepy Hollow’ A Hit? – Forbes, though I basically summarize it below.

Here are some reasons the Forbes gives for the success of my favorite new show of the season, Sleepy Hollow and some counterarguments.

1. “Choosing a young person, Emily Murray, as ‘Social Media Producer.'”

2. “Using Facebook and Twitter” (duh? What else would you use?), or I guess the point is knowing where your fans are hanging out (which is an excellent point–Castle, Doctor Who, and Supernatural fans rule Tumblr, Scandal and Sleepy Hollow are Twitter hits, no one is really using Facebook for this kind of thing).

3. “Collaborating internally.” I guess this means having the social media team and creatives and marketing people all work together to have gifs and images ready for the twitter experience; all of that requires multiple departments to work with the social media guys.

4. Focusing on the product, not the company.” or I guess, creating a community around the show not the network, but this is what every show does. Every show has a twitter account and makes it about the show. This isn’t a special thing Sleepy Hollow is doing.

5. Getting the actors to tweet. Yes, this is a huge helping, which they learned from shows like Scandal. Get everyone on board and people will retweet behind the scenes info or Orlando Jones being a hilarious doofball mentioning fanfiction and gifs in his tweets.

6. The twitter account having a back and forth “fight” with the twitter account from rival network show Elementary. Yes, this was funny to see and contributed to word of mouth.

But the article, which is definitely tech/social media focused, didn’t at all think about the show or the fans it draws. Other shows do these very same things. They have show specific twitter accounts. They try to get their actors to live tweet. They have the marketing department draw up designs and posters that work with their live tweeting efforts. These aren’t the only factors.

The audience is a major factor, and who is in Sleepy Hollow‘s audience? The same kinds of people who are in Scandal’s audience. Young black (females mostly, but some males who reluctantly admit they watch either or both shows) people (what these young people call Black Twitter). The media hasn’t yet caught on that young African-Americans LOVE Twitter. And if you give us a show with a black lead, we will watch that show (because we don’t have many options with that factor, so we watch the ones that do until there are more options). And we will tweet about it to our other African-American friends on Twitter. And shows like Sleepy Hollow and Scandal, both with a black female lead, will skyrocket to the top of the tv ratings and social media discussion charts. Oh, but we don’t talk about this being a factor, do we? Nor do we discuss the fact that the person doing the most tweeting and connecting with the fans is Orlando Jones, a person of color. These things are certainly important.

Other shows have tried to mimic the formula of Scandal. They’ve done the same social media things that Sleepy Hollow is doing. And yet they’re not ratings phenomena. All because the networks and media coverage are hesitant to acknowledge the real reason these shows are blowing up: because people want to see diversity on their TV screens. They are more likely to tune in. They are more likely to tell their black/asian/hispanic/white/etc friends about it. And then the show get super popular and gets renewed for the next season 4 episodes in, like Sleepy Hollow did.

Don’t let social media take all the credit for this show’s success. I know that’s what the article was about, but in a discussion about social media, you should discuss the people who use social media, and their various idiosyncrasies. That’s the real way of understanding how to use it and what platforms are best.

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Why Are Black Sitcoms Less Available to Us?: Black Sitcom DVD/Streaming Distribution Disparity

Black Sitcoms Distribution Article Cover

In this digital age of streaming and DVD and Blu-ray, its seems we can watch anything we want, on any device we want, any time we want. Despite the number of networks and outlets available, there are what feels like the fewest black sitcoms on today. Compared to the heyday of the 80s and 90s, the lack of black sitcoms is especially obvious when you consider there is not one on network television. So you’d think we’d be able to go back to those great 80s and 90s TV shows to fill the void of black faces on our television screens. And yes, there are plenty of shows in syndication thanks to BET and TV One and other minority niche networks. But, as I said, in this digital age, you’d think we could watch whatever we want, whenever we want. This is not the case.

When I fell in love with A Different World this summer, I immediately went searching for it on the internet. I found it: terrible quality, 3-parts per episode YouTube videos. Ok. What about on DVD? Only season 1. Netflix? Nope. Hulu? Hasn’t even heard of the show. I currently have 30 episodes stored on my DVR thanks to TV One syndication. Then I thought of other popular black sitcoms and decided to do some research.

Shows like The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Family Matters had major audiences. Diverse audiences even; these shows aired during some of the most popular ratings time slots on TV: The NBC Thursday Must-See-TV block and the ABC TGIF block. The first two shows have full series on DVD, but Family Matters remains at only 3 seasons of its total 9 on DVD and none on any of the major streaming sites. Martin and Girlfriends also have all their episodes on DVD, but again, no streaming. Other shows from these eras and time slots, some with lesser ratings or critical acclaim are available but not black shows.

Check out this chart I made, featuring about 48 black sitcoms spanning from the ’60s to the ’00s (only 1 currently running sitcom is on the list)(It’s a bit ridiculous that it only took me a couple of hours to compile this list. It should be a longer list).

Black Sitcom DVD Release/Streaming Chart

Black Sitcom Streaming Availability Chart

Preview of the chart. Click through for the full and most updated version.

Only a quarter of the series on this list have full DVD releases. Only 3 are available on Netflix. Only 5 are available on Hulu. Some can be seen on the WB website or other network/studio pages (not listed on the chart), but I’ve watched shows on the WB website before, it’s not a pleasant experience (perhaps they’ve made some changes).

Why are our shows not available to us? Why must we hunt through DVD bins and “Save Until I Delete” on our DVRs or suffer through terrible quality YouTube versions (missing episodes or muted scenes because of song copyrights)? Why did so many Wikipedia pages say “Season 1 was released on DVD, but future seasons haven’t been made available due to poor season 1 sales”? Are people really not interested? Or were those cop-outs for those companies (more often than not, these shows were distributed by Warner Brothers)? I know that in the case of A Different World, season 1 differs greatly from the other 5 seasons, so of course DVD sales were low. The fans were waiting for season 2-6 to come out. What about The Jamie Foxx Show or Living Single or The Bernie Mac Show? Who is preventing these shows from being available to the (African-) American people?

I put African in parentheses above because here’s the thing: if shows featuring black people aren’t made available to everyone–not just black people–then how will a wider audience of people come into contact with black shows? If they were available as easily as [insert random show that people rarely watch or talk about but is streaming], we could get more than just black people watching these shows. We could expand the typical audience of these shows to include other races and the next generation. And in doing that, we could inspire writers and producers and networks to give more black written/black-led TV shows a shot (especially on network television). Then, more people would have exposure to great television programs and then realize, oh right, the cast was all black.

I don’t know what the solution is. Petition letters for shows like A Different World and Living Single have gone around, but they don’t seem to do much good. Hopefully, Netflix and Hulu will reach out to the black audience. For goodness sake, in their “Categories” section, Hulu has a Spanish Sitcom section while Netflix has a Korean TV Shows section. Why is there no “Black Sitcom” section, why are those shows not available? Maybe we need to create a streaming site that can get the rights to black TV shows; but there are already so many ways in which black television is being propelled backward (maybe you feel this way about Tyler Perry shows, maybe you don’t, but you definitely can’t ignore the complete lack of any black sitcoms on network television–and only three black led dramas, two which premiere this season)–we don’t need to add segregation to the list.

Let your favorite streaming service know that Black Sitcoms are worthy of being viewed. Make them talk to distributors to give them the rights. And support syndication reruns. Somewhere, I’m hoping something will change.

Are there any black sitcoms I left off the list? Any that have DVD/streaming availability that I neglected to mention? How do you think we can get better access to black television sitcoms?

*CORRECTION* I miscalculated on the chart: there are 12 shows with full DVD releases. Not much better. It has been corrected.

Related post: https://constarstudiestv.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/constar-studies-90s-black-sit-coms/

Quote: SNEAK PEEK at Shonda Rhimes – Black Bloggers Connect™ Official Blog

MG Media: How much pride do you take in the fact that your casts are much more racially diverse than most other shows?

Shonda: I don’t take pride in it at all. I think it’s sad, and weird, and strange that it’s still a thing, nine years after we did “Grey’s,” that it’s still a thing. It’s creepy to me that it’s still an issue, that there aren’t enough people of color on television. Why is that still happening? It’s 2013. Somebody else needs to get their act together. And oh, by the way it works. Ratings-wise, it works. People like to see it. I don’t understand why people don’t understand that the world of TV should look like the world outside of TV.

via SNEAK PEEK at Shonda Rhimes – Black Bloggers Connect™ Official Blog.

No seriously. It’s 2013. Why is it a thing to have a racially diverse show and why is Shonda the only really doing it? Other shows that seem like they have diverse casts kind of still have the token minority who support the lead. They don’t really have leading qualities or episodes of their own. And Shonda is right, her shows are super hits for ABC, and yet no one else has thought that perhaps her casting has helped her get her shows where they are. It’s not everything, but it certainly helps widen your audience.

Black TV 2013: Fall and Winter Preview | Old School 94.5

Black TV 2013: Fall and Winter Preview | Old School 94.5.

Check out this article, which discusses some of the [network tv] shows airing this fall that feature black characters. It’s sad we still need articles like this to point the shows out, but it’s useful. Especially since when I last looked at NBC’s Thursday Comedy Lineup, I did not spy not one black person on the posters (as much as I looove love Parks and Rec, it doesn’t add much for NBC’s lead/co-star diversity).

I am about to watch Sleepy Hollow tonight and as yesterday’s post said, I watched Brooklyn 99 and was pleased by a diverse cast. I am also interested in Almost Human and I already watch Scandal. Glad to see that there is some color on network TV, but it’s a shame that most of these shows the black character is a co-star or supporting, not the main actor/lead character. Kerry and Blair Underwood (Ironside) are leads. The Originals seems to star the black lead, while Sleepy Hollow, Almost Human, and Brooklyn 99 seem to be a dual lead deal thing going on.)

Hopefully, if there are midseason replacement shows, we can get some more diversity on network television (or some break out supporting minority characters who get increased storylines), because it feels like an all-time low right now. (Is Brooklyn 99 the only network sitcom starring a black person right now? With Mindy making 2 shows with minority leads? If there are others, let me know…)

Making Diversity the Norm, a Quote

Aisha Muharrar, a writer for NBC-TV’s Parks and Recreation, understands our nostalgic longing for programs that reflected us in authentic characters and situations that brought laughs without compromising our dignity. “I loved watching The Cosby Show, Living Single, Fresh Prince and Family Matters when I was a kid. But so did all my white friends. They were just good shows we all enjoyed. The answer is to make it the norm again so two shows don’t have to be the representation for all of black culture.”

The Shonda Rhimes Effect

A Brief Return to Blogging via an Article of Black TV Writers

Well it seems that I’ve accidentally abandoned this blog for a bit, mostly because I am sort of focusing on other aspects of figuring out my life (photography whee!), and working, and being the lazy bones that I am when NOT working. And I’m not really back. (Maybe I am though?)

Anyway, I just saw this slideshow article on MadameNoire about African-American TV Writers, in a brief moment of “there were others like me once, how do I become like them?” The article is here. The list is (unfortunately) short and just the fact that the list names writers who worked in the 60s and 70s (who of course paved the way) means that there need to be more names on the list for current writers (why aren’t there more black tv writers these days?!). Though I must say, Yvette Lee Bowser (who exec produced Living Single) is not on this list, so clearly there are other names missing. =/

But it’s still interesting to see the names of well-known and lesser-known black tv writers; whose ranks I would love to someday join–should I ever get my life together.

Bye for now!