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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

TV Guide's latest covers highlight prime-time TV's lack of diversity

15

September

Notice anything strange about these two magazine covers?

Tv_guide_new Tv_guide_return

They don't have a single actor of color on them.

This was something I realized while preparing my Sunday story about the way cable TV and youth-oriented shows in particular seem so much more ethnically and culturally diverse than the new lineup of prime-time TV shows.

I never thought, when this issue first surfaced 10 years ago, that we would be having some of the same conversations about new prime-time TV shows. I never thought we'd be looking at a TV dial where characters of color are, at best, spotlighted supporting figures. And I never thought the apathy would be so extreme.

Cleveland_brown Nearly a decade ago, when the networks unveiled a raft of new shows lacking in diversity, lots of voices spoke up, the NAACP rallied protests and network executives promised to do better.

Ten years later, as the fall TV season officially starts next Monday, we have a similar problem -- I had trouble getting photos featuring actors of color into our fall TV preview this year, and Entertainment Weekly cheekily called a black cartoon character voiced by a white producer TV's Great Black Hope -- but the rise of diverse ensembles on cable TV have lessened the blow.

That may explain why so many people I tried to talk with about this issue -- Laurence Fishburne, Blair Underwood, CCH Pounder, CBS entertainment head Nina Tassler and Hector Elizondo among them -- had so little to say about why we are where we are.

Black Entertainment Television even managed to create a quality comedy as its first-ever scripted series. But since it was the pet project of entertainment head Reginald Hudlin, who just announced last week he is leaving the company, who knows how long it will last.

A reader who saw my story in Sunday's Floridian left a voice mail for me complaining about my constant "Whining" on this topic. But so many Americans' only contact with people of color comes through media -- music, TV and movies -- that it seems too important to ignore.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:51pm]

    

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