Tag Archives: nbc

As the Peacock Turns

Hey, Jeff Zucker.  Congratulations on pulling a Jason Mesnick from The Bachelor (for the highbrows, this is a John Kerry 2004 reference).  Yes, over at NBC, they’re spreading a flippity-floppity flu.  One day they like Jay… the next day, they like Conan.  Oh wait, back to Jay.  Conan.  Jay.  Conan.  Jota.  Conando.  Pretty soon, neither Jay nor Conan will want to fight this middle-school battle anymore, and The Tonight Show will end up in the hands of Carson Daly and a host of former VJs from TRL.  Hey, you can’t lose ratings if you ain’t got none.  With this kind of competition, at least Letterman can start banging staff members again. 

The Jay-Conan-Jeff Zucker love triangle has become such a big story that Maureen Dowd chose to write about it instead of bashing on Sarah Palin’s Fox News debut.  Dowd giving up a swing at Palin?  That’s like Mark McGwire going to bat without juice.  It almost never happens. 

But now that Zucker’s pissed off Maureen Dowd and almost everyone at NBC, he needs to fill the 10pm time slot.  His two main competitors have already developed their niche audiences (ABC’s programming is family-centric, CBS’s is murder-centric).  Given that there is only so much crap being produced in Hollywood, how can Zucker complement his 8-9pm crap with more terrible programming at 10pm?  What should follow the surefire-disaster that will be Parenthood on Monday nights

If NBC can’t do family or murder, what’s left? 

The answer?  Idiots and socialites.

Look at the success of Jersey Shore and its own sticky Situation.  Look at how many people watch the vapid Real Housewives franchise on Bravo.  Yes, these shows can’t carry on the legacy of classy NBC shows like E.R., but perhaps they can bring in ratings.  And in this capitalist little game of TV broadcasting, ratings will bring in prestige, money, and as many staff members as Dave can handle.

Without ratings and the shows to back them up… well, then, NBC is just a fancy distribution company.  Called Comcast.

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Trying to Find People Who Look Like Me in Network Television

In February, I wrote a post about the lack of diversity on TV: Do We Still Need a Color Television?

Here is my assessment of this fall’s new TV lineup.  It looks like we’ve made some improvements over the winter season (although I slightly altered my methodology as well).

Below is a chart of all the primetime offerings on the five major networks, for every day except for Saturday.  I excluded all news, reality, and variety shows.  A few shows have not aired, so I used the highly scientific approach of racial profiling on their websites.

Here are my findings:

  • brothersfox68% of all primetime network TV programming is scripted.
  • Of the scripted shows, 75% have at least one minority character in the cast.
  • However, only 4 shows had minority leads: Trauma, Ugly Betty, Brothers, and The Cleveland Show (which is a cartoon).   Only one of these four (Trauma) is on during the “prime” week, Monday to Thursday.
  • There were three cop shows with a minority co-lead (all African-American): CSI, Law & Order, and NCIS: Los Angeles.  And there were just two ensemble casts which featured more than 3 minorities as significant supporting characters: Heroes and Grey’s Anatomy.  All of these shows are highlighted in dark orange below.
  • how-i-met-your-motherThere were several shows which featured no minority presence at all, including popular hits like How I Met Your Mother, Gossip Girl, and Brothers and Sisters.
  • Of all the days of the week, Thursday had the most minority characters featured on television (on 91% of all shows).
  • Out of all the networks, NBC had the most diverse casts (100%), followed by CBS (75%), Fox (72%), ABC (71%), and the CW (63%).  (Of course, now that NBC has Jay Leno on at 10, it has fewer hours to fill with original programming.)
  • Just 58% of all shows have a “significant minority presence,” with more than two minority cast members – these shows are highlighted in orange and dark orange below.

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Of course, you don’t need diversity in your cast to have a good show.  Friends, Seinfeld, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The Cosby Show are all examples… But, it is interesting how we haven’t seen a successful show featuring only minority characters since Fresh Prince.  And it’s also interesting how it seems that minority lead characters are either paired up in buddy roles, or simply relegated to Friday and Sunday nights.  I’m sure cable has something to do with it… but then, that begs the question: is network TV “too white”, or is it just mirroring its audience?  Are minority audiences going to niche channels (like BET) instead?

Network TV won’t be able to capture every demo… but the implications of a television whiteout could have an impact on how it’s viewed in the years to come.

 

Note: I don’t watch all of the shows, so please let me know if you think I’ve overlooked any characters.  And yes — there are some shows like Glee, which have minority characters, although I don’t consider them “significant” supporting cast members.  But if you beg to differ, please share your thoughts below.

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Diversity in TV Shows Today… Do We Still Need a Color Television?

Update 4/7/09: Well, there goes another one.  Goodbye to Kal Penn’s Dr. Kutner.  He’s moving on to another House, one of far greater prominence.

Update 2/18/09: Yesterday’s article in the LA Times reports on the diversity phenomenon in television… While the Times may have a different definition of “lead character” than I do, the message is still the same: Diverse characters just aren’t found in scripted programming these days.

On my way to work on Monday, I told a co-worker that I had seen He’s Just Not That Into You over the weekend. “It looks cute,” my co-worker said, “But I don’t want to see it on principle… it’s too white. Where are all the minorities?”

Let’s see: in the movie, all the primary characters were… white. All the couplings… white. All the love connections… white. There were a few gay men who were minorities, and Justin Long did make out with a black girl, but other than that, the movie was one long, bad, whitewashed chick flick.

Strangely, even as a minority myself, I didn’t notice that the cast was all white before I went to the theater. However, my co-worker’s stand resounded with me (she, by the way, is white). Our country is supposed to be a “melting pot” — our minority populations are growing — and oh, our President is black. So why is Hollywood so white?

Entertainment Weekly ran a story a few months ago about diversity in entetainment: “Why is TV so white?”

There was a time when diversity seemed to come naturally to prime time. The social consciousness of the ’70s spawned successful sitcoms like The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Sanford and Son; the ’80s brought living-in-harmony comedy Diff’rent Strokes and the ultimate breakthrough TV family on The Cosby Show

After nearly 10 years of working with diversity reps and outreach programs, the networks still primarily solve the problem by sprinkling nonwhite actors into white-led shows — often as a comedic sidekick or in guy-who-helps-the-main-guy-solve-a-crime roles.

So I decided to take a look at the current TV lineup to see just how white it actually is. I went through all the network shows in primetime, excluding all reality/news programming. For the shows that I didn’t personally watch, the litmus test was whether the show’s website included pictures of diverse characters on their main page.

From there, I color-coded all the shows that featured the following:(1)

minorityreport

Based on thorough scouring of show websites, and operating under the assumption that some cartoon characters were meant to be white, what I found confirmed the EW report and my co-worker’s concerns.(2) (Of course, I don’t have 90 hours a week to carefully watch each show for its contribution to diversity, so feel free to email me with anything I’ve missed or gotten wrong.)

Out of 90 hours of primetime programming per week, there are 32.5 hours dedicated to reality TV, news, or Sunday night movies. Of the remaining 57.5 hours of scripted series:

  • Shows with ANY minority primary characters: 13.5 hours (Heroes, Scrubs, 90210, Law & Order, Lost, 30 Rock, ER, Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, My Name is Earl, Friday Night Lights, Everybody Hates Chris, The Game, Desperate Housewives, The Unit, The Simpsons)
  • Shows with MULTIPLE minority primary characters or leads: 6.5 hours (Heroes, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, ER, Private Practice… and this is counting ABC’s double-airing of Lost on Wednesdays)
  • Shows with a LEAD minority character: 3 hours (Ugly Betty, The Unit, Everybody Hates Chris, The Game)

tvmatrix1

So, out of the 57.5 hours of scripted programming, 76% of this programming features all-white leading casts. Only 4 shows have minority lead characters, and two of them air on Friday nights on the CW.

Finally, just some parting thoughts on diversity in entertainment:

  • Derek and Meredith, Jim and Pam, Kate and Jack/Sawyer… We’ve seen interracial couples flow seamlessly through the Grey’s Anatomy plotlines, but how many other shows have done it? Even in the diverse ensemble casts, why does the main love story/central relationship in the show always feature only one race? I’m not talking about flings, I’m talking about the Ross and Rachels… makes me wonder.
  • The lack of diversity isn’t limited to network TV either… some of the hottest shows on cable (Burn Notice, Damages, The Closer) and pay TV (Entourage, Californication, Big Love) are lily white.
  • A show featuring a minority family has not earned broad mass appeal in more than a decade. Has something systemically changed in our audience today? Are we more or less racially polarized? How would the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Cosby Show do today? How would The George Lopez Show or The Bernie Mac Show have done then?
  • Will we ever see a show with an Asian lead on network TV?

(1) Lead character(s): The main storylines are centered around this/these character(s). They serve as the face of the show, and are featured in every episode. With a show like House, the lead character would obviously be Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House. In Grey’s Anatomy, the lead would be Meredith Grey. Even though it is an ensemble cast, she provides the voice-over and has the sickeningly cute doctor-boyfriend. Similarly, in The Office, it would be Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott… in 30 Rock, Tina Fey… etc.
Primary character(s): Not every show has primary characters who are not leads. Primary characters are mostly part of an ensemble cast where their characters also have a backstory that is shared with the viewer. Examples: Jenny in Gossip Girl, Hurley in Lost, Jim and Pam on The Office… etc.
(2) In this exercise, I did not look for minority secondary characters because I figured that most shows did have diversity in this sense, per the EW quote above.

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Best All-Around: Damages (10 pm, Wednesdays, FX)

Now that awards season is upon us, it’s time to reflect on the past fall’s TV lineup and welcome the spring slate of shows (new and returning) that will ease our winter hibernation. While American Idol will likely win its 8th “Most Popular” title in a row, here are some television superlatives, high school-style, for your viewing pleasure:

MOST POPULAR: American Idol (8 pm, Tuesdays, FOX) The crazier Paula Abdul gets, the better ratings the show receives… That’s a good combination for FOX, since that woman is straight up insane, and Simon’s getting a bit boring.

tim-rigginsBEST LOOKING: It’s a toss-up between Simon Baker on The Mentalist (9 pm, Tuesdays, CBS) and Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins of Friday Night Lights (9 pm, Fridays, NBC). Given that Riggs is actually in high school, perhaps he deserves this award. On the other side, I’ll let the guys decide who they prefer on Gossip Girl (8 pm, Mondays, CW): Blair or Serena?

MOST CRAZY (IN A GOOD WAY): Tracy Jordan and Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock (9:30 pm, Thursdays, NBC)… This is why 30 Rock won 5 Golden Globes.

MOST CRAZY (IN A BAD WAY): Mrs. B as a crazy mom on the reality show, Momma’s Boys, which had its season finale on Monday night. Her poor son Jojo (who, by the way, was looking for love at the ripe old age of 21) tried to win over girls after his mother’s racist speech, declaring all but white Catholics suitable for her darling son. Jojo may need to try the priesthood now that this show has aired.

Layout 1BIGGEST TRAIN WRECK: I will nominate the entire cast of Grey’s Anatomy (9 pm, Thursdays, ABC) for this award. Let’s see, George has slept with 3 of the female leads, Meredith has had two ridiculous near death experiences (hand in bomb, ferryboat accident), and now Izzie is sleeping with the ghost of her dead ex-fiance (whom she accidentally killed). I used to watch this show religiously… these days, it’s lucky to get DVRed.

SAD FOR HUMANITY: There are a whole host of shows that fall into this category–Tool Academy on VH1, Rock of Love 2 on MTV, Nip/Tuck on FX (how fast it’s fallen)–but the runaway winner is MTV’s A Double Shot at Love, with the Ikki Twins. I think it’s pretty easy to justify how this show is sad for humanity; if you Google “double shot at love,” the first link leads to this proclamation: “OMG! i love a double shot at love even know im 10 years old i stull love you guys you guys are buteyful.” Future of America…

KILL IT NOW: We like watching fictional rich girls live out melodramas on the Upper East Side, but we don’t like watching melodramatic rich girls live out fictional storylines in The City (10 pm, Mondays, MTV). Spare us the misery of watching Whitney attempt to be interesting. I’d almost rather watch Bromance on repeat than sit through another episode of The City… well, almost. In both scenarios, death would be a welcome alternative.

damagesBEST ALL-AROUND: Speaking of death, I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Glenn Close as Patty Hewes on Damages (10 pm, Wednesdays, FX). Why is it that Glenn Close always plays crazy so well? With the best cast, the best plotlines, and the best stony looks on television (thanks, Rose Byrnes), Damages is my new favorite show (FNL is a close #2). And you know it’s got to be good when you need to keep a light on while watching.

WHAT I’LL BE WATCHING THIS SPRING: (suggestions, comments, insults, and digs always appreciated)

Monday:

8 PM: Gossip Girl (CW)

9:30 PM: Samantha Who (ABC)

Tuesday:

8 PM: The Biggest Loser (NBC)

Wednesday:

9 PM: Lost (ABC)

10 PM: Damages (FX) / Top Chef (Bravo)

Thursday:

9 PM: The Office (NBC) / 30 Rock (NBC) / Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

Friday:

9 PM: Friday Night Lights (NBC)

And on occasion: Bones (8 pm, Thursdays, FOX), Without a Trace (10 pm, Tuesdays, CBS…and the only CBS show I’m watching), House Hunters and Property Virgins (HGTV), Iron Chef America (Food Network)

They’ve got potential: Some new shows with promise… Kings (8 pm, Sundays, NBC), Lie to Me (9 pm, Wednesdays, FOX)

 

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There’s an Icebox Where My Heart Used to Be

I have a confession: I cry at movies.  I cried buckets during The Dark Knight and Benjamin Button.  I obliterated the tissue box during My Dog Skip.  I even cried while watching last night’s Momma’s Boys finale on NBC.

But, the last time I cried in real life?  Can’t remember…

So why is it that Biggest Loser promos will make me tear up, while heartwarming wedding toasts will leave my cheeks dry?

jonkate8_s12Maybe my life just isn’t all that eventful.  I’m not aging backwards or being hunted by a psychopathic joker.  I didn’t pose for Penthouse and remorsefully reveal it on national television.  Maybe my life is just mundane compared to the melodrama happening on the screen.

Or maybe it’s because I feel more sorry for others than I do myself.  If I were getting chewed out for being massively obese, I’d probably respond with a stoic, “bite me” attitude.  However, when I’m watching others get called out, I’m in shambles.  Tissues can’t contain the waterworks.  It’s a mess.

My friends affectionately call me “icebox” for my inability to show a lot of emotion in everyday life… However, I think the true test of our empathy comes from our gut reactions to the travails of others.  The drama of movies and trashy reality shows brings out the crybaby in all of us.  Well… at least it does in me.  So if I don’t shed tears of joy at your wedding, please don’t hold it against me.  Just remember that the next time I cry during Jon and Kate Plus 8, some of those tears will be for you.

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A Reality Show That Inspires a Bigger and Better Reality

Throughout the fall, I’ve developed a steady workout routine. Every Tuesday, I rush home to watch my favorite reality show, The Biggest Loser. From my spot on the couch, I watch while quasi-attractive fat people work their way to becoming very attractive thin people. I cringe during the last chance workouts. I recoil from the trainers’ sharp tongue-lashings. I shudder at the suspense of the weigh-ins, complete with untimely cuts to commercial. The show has its soft side, with corny lines, tearjerker moments, and just the right amount of family drama. It has its hard side, with a lot of grunting, groaning, and heavy metal weights. The not-so-subtle product placement has enlightened me to the wonders of Extra gum and Jennie-O turkey. Then, of course, there is the sex appeal. (Although during this season of Biggest Loser: Families, it seems wrong to make eyes at the husbands and fathers, no matter how muscular they’ve become.)

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Rawr...

While watching the Biggest Loser contestants hit the treadmill, lift weights, and eat lettuce wraps, you would think that this would encourage similar behavior from the viewer. At times I am compelled to do leg lifts or crunches, but more often I find myself fighting the urge to make cookies. Or cupcakes. Or sizzling chicken fajitas. And thus I usually end up exercising my gastrointestinal muscles, going at my food with an intensity that rivals Paula Dean digging into a country-fried steak. During last night’s show, I ate two fajitas, three cookies, half a bag of grapes, and a yogurt. I was thinking about heating up some meatballs and opening up a cantaloupe, but there just wasn’t enough time in between commercials.

Some might think it’s weird that The Biggest Loser has inspired my sedentary, food-filled Tuesday nights. But American Idol often compels me to belt out a little Mariah. So You Think You Can Dance encourages me to try some Irish tap dancing. Top Chef makes me want to explore non-microwave cooking possibilities. So why wouldn’t The Biggest Loser inspire me to get really fat just so I can get skinny again?

It makes sense to me. Fingers crossed that I’ll make it for The Biggest Loser: Rabid Fans in 2025.

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The Best Shows on Television

My favorite TV shows (current):

#1: Friday Night Lights: One of the best shows of all time…that no one watches. This show has actually made me want to visit Texas in search of Tim Riggins. Gritty, real, heart-wrenching… any show that prominently features Applebees has to be high on one’s list. FNL is currently airing its 3rd (and likely last) season on DirecTV, although it will be re-aired on NBC in the spring.

#2: 30 Rock: With the emergence of Tina Palin’s new uber-celebrity, hopefully people will start watching it now. One of my favorite clips below… Coming back Oct. 30 on NBC Thursdays.

#3: Grey’s Anatomy: Our protagonist, Meredith, is whiny, neurotic, and somehow still likable. Add in floods, flesh-eating bacteria, and McDreamy, and this makes it a can’t-miss.

#4: The Office: The show that has made “that’s what she said” into an automatic, kneejerk reaction whenever you hear something like, “It [the test] was pretty hard,” or, “It [the shirt] was a little too long.”

#5: Lost: It’s kind of been out-of-sight, out-of-mind… When it comes back in January, it may catapult up this list.

Honorable Mentions: Gossip Girl (needs a longer track record to make this list), Damages (same as GG; needs a second good year to build off its first amazing season), Heroes (I’ve stopped watching this season… should try to pick it back up again), Project Runway (this cast has been kind of blah though), The Biggest Loser (always fun to watch other people work out while struggling to reach the remote from my place on the couch), So You Think You Can Dance (…dance, dance, dance)

Other shows I enjoy: Bones, Monk, Samantha Who, Jon & Kate Plus 8, The Amazing Race, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Designers Challenge, and most everything on the Food Network

Favorite TV shows (no longer airing):

#5: Dawson’s Creek

#4: Alias

#3: Frasier

#2: Will & Grace

#1: Friends

Honorable Mentions: Saved by the Bell, The Cosby Show, Fresh Price of Bel-Air, Cheers, Golden Girls, Mad About You

Shows I’ve never seen (or only saw a few episodes), but are on the to-watch list:

#5: Flight of the Conchords

#4: Brothers and Sisters

#3: 24

#2: The Wire

#1: Arrested Development (on DVD, I suppose)

Shows that make me sad for America: (ironically, all reality shows)

#5: The Moment of Truth

#4: The Real Housewives of Orange County

#3: A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila

#2: Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

#1: My Super Sweet Sixteen

Honorable Mentions: Paris Hilton’s My New BFF, My Super Sweet Sixteen presents: Exiled, I Survived a Japanese Game Show

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