CW's New Series Pickups Leave One Question: Where are the Black Centered Shows?
Fans of the CW -- there must be one or two reading this blog -- can rest easy. The network today announced early pickups for the CW's most popular shows, including America's Next Top Model, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, Supernatural, Smallville and Everybody Hates Chris.
The only thing missing: The network's traditional lineup of black-centered sitcoms.
As I noted earlier, the CW has already admitted plans to mothball long-running comedy Girlfriends after this season. And now its spin-off series The Game is also in limbo, with nine new episodes slated to air this season, but no commitment to the next.
This may be an attempt by the CW to shrug off the last vestiges of traditional black-centered situation comedies, which emerging networks used to use to build a quick viewership base early on. Both Fox and CW precursors UPN and the WB started this way, building lineups of cheaply-made TV comedies around performers popular with black viewers, from the Wayans Brothers (In Living Color) to Martin Lawrence (Martin), Queen Latifah (Living Single) and Jamie Foxx (The Jamie Foxx Show).
Because black people are often starved for the sight of other black folks on TV, these shows garnered loyal audiences quickly, helping Fox find a foothold against NBC's powerful Must-See TV franchise years ago. These days, such shows seem to have lost their luster, with the CW more tightly focused on young, white viewers and a downturn in TV comedies in general.
This change will still leave the CW with two shows starring black people -- Tyra Banks' American Idol for supermodels, America's Next Top Model, and Chris Rock's black version of the Wonder Years, Everybody Hates Chris. But these shows are different from the traditional black-centered sitcoms; Chris has higher production values and a single camera production style, Model is a reality show.
I'm not going to shed many tears for the Game or Girlfriends, which I often felt were formulaic, predictable and low budget. But I will watch the CW's new shows carefully -- if they don't advance any new shows with some ethnic diversity in casting and subject matter, they may go from status as one of TV's most diverse networks to its least, almost overnight.
Here's the press release:
The CW announced early pickups of six series today, including the network’s signature reality hit, AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL, four dramas and one comedy. All six series will return for the fall season.
The network’s most popular series, AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL will return with mega-star Tyra Banks for cycles 11 and 12. Returning dramas include the buzz-worthy freshman hit GOSSIP GIRL and ONE TREE HILL, returning for a sixth season. These three series are the top-ranked shows on television with a concentration of women 18-34 viewers.
Also renewed were the long-running Thursday night team of SMALLVILLE, which will begin its eighth season, and SUPERNATURAL, which will begin its fourth season. In addition, the critically acclaimed comedy EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS will return for season four.