Fall is around the corner and aside from the much-anticipated new lineups on the fashion and film fronts, the wait is over for television viewers who will finally find out what’s new, what’s not and – for viewers of color at least - where diverse programming fits into the equation.
In the ever-current debate on why, season after season, there are so few - if any - primetime, quality shows featuring Black actors in lead roles on major networks, particularly NBC, the argument turns to one show that didn’t deliver on ratings – last September’s Undercovers. The show, starring Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw and directed by J.J. Abrams, was likely the answer to the lack-of-diversity-on-television argument and when it failed to bring in the numbers, it was cancelled in early November. (Note: Worse shows have at least stayed on until the end of the season.)
And so went the efforts for Black programming. Every show can’t be a hit; unfortunately, Undercovers didn’t make it. But contrary to the merger agreement between Comcast and NBCUniversal that called for diversity across programming platforms and was filed with the Federal Communications Commission, and in spite of the network’s then-diversity chief’s on-air statement that NBC would not “put shows on the air devoid of diversity”, the network has, seemingly, gone back to the status quo of offering up schedules without Black talent. This fall’s lineup is the usual blackout.
So much for the high ratings The Cosby Show raked in during its 8-year run when NBC executives were at the top of the chain, high-fiving each other. According to TV Guide, the show "was TV's biggest hit in the 1980's and almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC's ratings fortunes".
But while these revelations may be disheartening for hopefuls waiting for major networks to change their tune, cable television - for years - has been chock full of hit shows (The Wire, Soul Food) starring leading Black actors. At some point, maybe the networks will catch up.
Read more at the L.A. Times.