Pilot Season Diversity: Various Network Pilots

For the last few days, I’ve been showcasing some pilots being worked on this season with diverse casting. Here are some more that might be coming to our screens in the fall, but maybe I am less invested in. I found them by checking the TVLine descriptions and seeing which actors/producers are PoCs. If a show coming up with PoCs is being made but not on this list, I just didn’t notice. Definitely not an extensive list, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more along the way.

Descriptions are from TVLine

Fresh Off the Boat (Comedy)
EPs | Nahnatchka Kahn (Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23), Jake Kasdan, and Melvin Mar
It’s the 90’s and hip hop loving Eddie is growing up in suburban Orlando, raised by an immigrant father who is obsessed with all things American and an immigrant mother who is often bewildered by white culture. With his father owning and operating an All-American Steakhouse chain, this loving family of FOB (“fresh off the boat”) Taiwanese Americans try to live the American dream while still maintaining their cultural identity and sense of family. [ABC]

I hope this makes it just because its an ethnicity we don’t get to see much of on television. The specifics of Asian culture is often grossly glossed over. I went to school with Asian students with families from all over the continent, so I got a chance to learn about different aspects of Asian life and how each nationality differs from each other, but most Americans don’t know Asian from being specifically Chinese or Japanese. Just because TV is entertainment, doesn’t mean you should never learn anything about different people.

How to Get Away With Murder (Drama)
EPs | Peter Nowalk (Grey’s Anatomy), Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers
A sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller about a group of ambitious law students and their brilliant, mysterious criminal defense professor who become entangled in a murder plot that will rock the entire university and change the course of their lives. [ABC]

No guarantees on who the casting will be for this one, but as a Shonda Rhimes show, it is sure to have color-blind casting.

Untitled Kevin Hart Project (Comedy)
EPs | Kevin Hart, Dave Becky, Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan (Community)
Based on Kevin Hart’s life and stand-up, it takes a candid look at the post-divorce life of a couple trying to forge a friendship for the sake of their kids, despite differences. [ABC]

Kevin Hart has been everywhere. He has like 4 movies out, 3 shows in development, and who knows what else. I don’t know if that over-saturation is stifling his true funniness (some people have said his stand-up special wasn’t as good as the previous ones), but hopefully this turns out good. Kevin Hart is funny and we have zero black sitcoms on network TV. If this AND Blackish get greenlit, that would make a grand total of 2. #sigh

The Flash (Drama)
EPs | Greg Berlanti (Arrow), Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns, David Nutter, Melissa Kellner Berman
DIRECTOR | David Nutter (Arrow)
CAST | Grant Gustin (Glee), Jesse L. Martin (Law & Order), Danielle Panabaker (Shark) and Rick Cosnett (The Vampire Diaries)
The Arrow spin-off follows Barry Allen, a Central City assistant police forensics investigator with a tragic past.

Jesse L. Martin is all I have to say. I bit token-esque, but I’ll let it go lol.

Cabot College (Comedy)
EPs | Matt Hubbard, Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Pam Fryman, David Miner
DIRECTOR | Pam Fryman (How I Met Your Mother)
CAST | Bonnie Dennison (Third Watch), Jack Cutmore-Scott, Brandon Jones, Margaret Cho (Drop Dead Diva)
A women’s college begins accepting men for the first time in its history.

While I’ll give any new show from Tina a chance, it featuring Margaret Cho is a plus in the diversity factor. Also Pam Fryman from HIMYM fame is a plus for me.

Empire (Drama)
EPs | Danny Strong (The Butler), Lee Daniels (The Butler), Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo
DIRECTOR | Lee Daniels (The Butler)
A unique family drama set in the world of a hip-hop empire [FOX]

I probably wouldn’t watch this, but it could be a great black drama, which are even harder to name than black comedies…

Mr. Robinson (Comedy) — ORDERED TO SERIES
EPs | Mark Cullen and Rob Cullen (Back in the Game), Howard Klein, Mark Schulman
CAST | Craig Robinson (The Office), Larenz Tate (House of Lies), Amanda Lund, Jean Smart (Harry’s Law, Hawaii Five-0)
A talented musician adjusts to his new life as a middle school music teacher, where he maneuvers precocious kids, teacher politics, and the temptations of single moms. [NBC]

This one’s already been ordered to series and stars Office alum Craig Robinson. So there will be at least one new black sitcom coming in fall. It sounds very similar to the Steve Harvey Show, so I’ll have to check it out to see how it’s different/updated for the new millennium.

It surprises me not one bit that none of these shows are for CBS… I don’t remember any for the CW either (and with it’s WB/UPN  strong PoC cast roots, this is sad to say).

IO’m excited for all of these shows featuring people of color. It’s about time we got some new faces on our TV screens. Hopefully these survive pilot season and we get to at least give them a test run in September.

for more, check TVLine’s Pilot Scoop

 

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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/