Are television executives really trying to give women and minorities more opportunities in TV’s promised land? The stats say, “Yes!” But does that mean it’s time for us to shout, “Hooray!”?
by Scott Collins
Shonda Rhimes, an African American writer-producer, is one of the most powerful people in the TV business. Last week, Disney’s ABC TV network made history by naming Channing Dungey to head its entertainment division, the first African American to fill that role.
In fact, even as the big screen industry is under fire for a lack of diversity, some of the most celebrated shows on TV showcase diversity, whether it is the African American family of ABC’s “black-ish,” the multiracial inmates on Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” or the transgender dad on Amazon’s “Transparent.”
By most accounts, the small screen has become a more culturally inclusive place over the last decade, and for several reasons. The TV audience itself is diverse — one estimate is that black viewers spend 37% more time watching TV than other racial groups — which has forced network executives to find programming that reflects the people watching at home.
The TV industry is also significantly larger than the movie business, meaning more opportunities overall, and lately there has been an explosion of new programming.
While film studios have been trimming their release slates — Paramount, for example, released just 16 movies last year, down from 21 in 2012 — networks are flooding viewers with new TV series. Last year, an all-time high of 409 original series were produced for television (including streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu), according to a study by cable network FX. That number has doubled in the past six years.
“In television, we are fortunate because we get to try a lot of things; we get to take a lot of shots,” Dungey said in an interview. “It gives us a great opportunity to tell many different stories from diverse points of view.”…