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When It Comes to Network TV Diversity...



...are Latinos the new blacks?

I asked that question a few years ago, when the networks advanced a few Hispanic-centered sitcoms as a way to refute the growing criticism that the nation's largest minority group (sounds like an oxmoron, I know) was all but invisible on network TV.

It took a couple years, but the suits finally got the hint, presenting a slate of new shows this year featuring more Hispanic actors and characters than we've seen in a long time.

Some didn't last long, like former Univision hostess/sex kitten Sofia Vergara in ABC's awful Hot Properties. But others -- including Freddie Prinze Jr.'s cringeworthy Hispanic/Italian relatives in Freddie and Eddie Cibrian's grown-up orphan of the Mariel Boatlift on Invasion -- provide a layered, compelling portrait of an ethnic group at a curious stage of assimilation.

ABC has done the most, comitting to introducing at least one Hispanic character on as many series as possible. NBC and CBS have also made strides, as evidenced by a diversity report card issued last week by the National Latino Media Council.

What seems obvious now, is that the networks have broadened their horizonsa bit when thinking diversity in casting. More often, diversity can include a Hispanic character or an Asian character, and often you may see character from two or three different ethnic groups in a single cast (old school diversity just dropped one chocalate chip in that cookie and called it a day).

It does mean fewer black actors are cast as best friends and sidekicks in favor of other ethnicities -- but it also means a more balanced worldview overall, where a Hispanic man can run for president on West Wing, a white women can serve as president on Commander in Chief and a black kid can deliver Wonder Years-style nostalgia on Everybody Hates Chris.

Already, I've gotten the predictable emails from people complaining about Hispanic culture forced on them or having to read subtitles when bilingual characters naturally segue into their other language in dialogue.

Wake up, people. This is the America of the future: a salad bowl where everything from hip hop culture to Spanglish and NASCAR matches influences the national conversation.

Personally, it's a future I'm really looking forward to.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:35pm]


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