The United States has long been a melting pot of unique experiences, ethnic backgrounds, languages, and beliefs. Network TV is finally catching up this Fall by airing primetime shows that reflect the diversity we see in our everyday lives. Get excited for shows absent of all-white casts for a season of dynamic characters and plots that showcase America’s increasingly more colorful cultural landscape.
A high standard for successful, diverse television series was set this past year with ABC shows like Scandal and Modern Family, as well as Fox’s Sleepy Hollow and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Each of these shows clearly demonstrated that including characters from unique, differentiated backgrounds not only demonstrates equality – but also rakes in very high ratings. Each of these shows were wildly successful, which poses the question:
Does making a TV show cast more diverse make it more entertaining and engaging for viewers?
NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans discusses this encroachment of diversity onto the television screen within his piece “This Fall, TV Looks Much More Diverse: Now Don’t Screw It Up” and cautions major networks that with additional inclusion, comes addition responsibility. This Fall, the number of non-white television show characters and creators is unrivaled by any diversity initiatives that have occurred within the television industry in the last decade.
As a pioneer for the movement towards more equitable TV casting, ABC is again taking the diversity spotlight this Fall with its highly anticipated series Black-ish, How to Get Away with Murder, Cristela, and Fresh Off the Boat. From a Black family coping with the whitewashing nature of society, to an ambitious Mexican intern struggling against her traditionalist family, to a Taiwanese 11 year old trying to fit in as his family pursues the American Dream – it’s evident that the array of nationalities represented within these television shows is dense.
While this represents a great deal of progress within the television industry, Deggans welcomes this influx of multiracial casts with a few warnings. Deggans remarks about the dangers of letting character’s cultural identities become their only identities as well as the need for networks to earn the right from their viewers to bring up many common racial stereotypes. This places large demands upon TV networks like Fox and ABC to ensure that they treat this new inclusion of colorful casts with careful consideration for the ways that satirically portraying diverse lifestyles can affect viewers.