Why Won’t TV Networks Let Black Actors Be Great?

by Drew-Shane Daniels

It is undeniable that blacks are underrepresented on television. Shows featuring all black casts are a rarity, and besides fan favorites like Basketball Wives or The Real House Wives of Atlanta, shows featuring African-Americans are few and far between.

Like the aforementioned shows, it seems like the only places featuring blacks are reality shows. While many of us turn up our noses at reality shows because “they don’t reflect us,” networks continue to air them because they rack up the ratings. These actions leave many to wonder why this is the only view the world has into the black experience. Yes, the Kardashians cursing out their mother and the New Jersey Housewives pulling each other’s hair out are equally offensive, but with such a small sample of African Americans on TV, who’s to blame for the limited representations of minorities– ourselves or the networks?

Speaking of networks, the first month of the fall season television line-up is wrapping up and all series and season premieres have been pushed out. If you’re anything like me, you should already have your DVR set and personal television show line-up in rotation.

One thing I’ve noticed season after season is that most TV shows that feature solely minorities simply do not make it, and many shows depicting more diverse casts doesn’t seem to last long either (i.e. The Playboy Club which was recently canceled, and Charlie’s Angels which is in danger of getting the axe). Is lack of talent the issue issue? Not even. There are plenty of talented black actors available and willing to work. However, some networks are not willing to donate the time, tools and resources needed to market and promote the types of shows that include a wide spectrum of talent. In this era of instant gratification, it seems like shows are not given time to develop, and are yanked after a few episodes. Shows like TNT’s Hawthorne, NBC’s Southland (which was later picked up by TNT), ABC’s Defying Gravity, and NBC’s Undercovers were all canceled despite boasting blacks in leading roles.

Were these shows simply bad productions or did networks fail to give them a chance?

Although some black actors manage to snag roles on network productions, many of the shows typically feature the same type of character: the sassy actor, always ready with the right comedic punch line or historical anecdote (think: Ice T. always schooling Benson and Stabler on “the hood”). However, is it a catch 22? Can we complain about the lack of black characters, and also complain about the roles they do receive?

Many times, minority viewers are critical of the lack of actors who look like them on television, forcing producers to at least try to diversify their cast. But should they? Does Mercedes (Amber Riley), really need to be on Glee? With her flat storyline it seems like her only contribution to the show is to belt out a soulful note at the end of a song or cover songs by black artists. I know her cast mates don’t have a hard time stepping in, so why is she there if they don’t seem intent on developing her character? On the flip side, Omar Epps’ character, Dr. Eric Foreman, on House plays an influential role in the show. On a series that deals with issues like class, race politics, and the foolishness of Dr. House, Dr. Foreman serves as a voice we would not hear if he was not there. His character is not just the stock black character that spouts soulful catch phrases, smiles and stay out of the camera—like Mercedes–he is an integral part of the show.

Despite how blacks are being portrayed on television, the quantity of quality programming targeting blacks is low. With the lack of independently owned and operated black networks it is no surprise our voice has become diluted, or worse, non-extent. Even with all the attacks against BET, the network serves as catalyst for new black shows. This week marks the season premiere of the highly anticipated show Reed Between The Lines featuring Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm-Jamal Warner. As much as we beg for television shows like this, will people even invest 30 minutes on a Tuesday night? Or will they be hypercritical of the show and label it a loser before it’s really began?

While the networks continue to ignore us, there is a high demand for programming catering to African Americans. Nielsen recently reported that African Americans watch more television than any other group. Not only does the average African American household have four or more televisions, but we also spends an average of seven hours a day watching them, so a market for shows featuring blacks is out there.

Because we tend to tune into shows like the Real Housewives of Atlanta rather than scripted shows, networks feel we will not support black sitcoms and dramas. But one reason we might not be tuning in is because many times when a black actor anchors a major network show, the show itself sucks (i.e. Undercovers). So can you blame us for not watching? However, web series like The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, 12 Steps to Recovery, and cable dramas like The Wire, True Blood, and Luther show that well-written and well-acted shows featuring black actors can be successful.

So who’s to blame for the lack of black actors on TV? While the answer isn’t as clear-cut as we might think, one thing is certain: Audiences have to demand better while supporting actors and producers who are delivering quality programming. Because if we’ve learned nothing else from the success of Awkward Black Girl, it’s that if a quality product reaches the people…they can certainly turn it into a hit.

What do you think? Why can’t blacks seem to stay on network TV? 

  • Carlene

    I’ve only seen every episode of one show you listed as cancelled, Undercovers.

    Boris Kudjoe and his wife on the show had no chemistry. They were just there to be beautiful. If the plot was more interesting, I’d get over it, but it was pretty boring.

    Southland was interesting, but I only watched an episode or two.

    I think a lot of these shows suffer from bad writing. Charlie’s Angels is horrible. Maybe because there’s not much effort put into the writing, they decide to appease people by putting black people in leading roles. I don’t know.

  • Gigi Young

    Black folks are hypercritical, myself included. To be more specific, I tuned into UnderCovers because of Gugu and Boris, and while I tuned in week after week, I did not let go my criticisms (however valid) until I visited my grandmother and watched the UnderCovers episodes available on Comcast’s On Demand. Watching six or seven episodes in a row revealed the show’s charm despite its thematic weakness, and I finally saw it as just a breezy spy show–which were Abrams and NBC’s intentions.

    Yet this year, I realized, I am willing to sit through a number of so-so shows premiering on the network this season simply because I don’t feel the burden of looking out for Black Media Representation™ when tuning into Ringer or Pan-Am or 2 Broke Girls. What I take from this is that while Hollywood feels no obligation to be diverse until groups call them out on it, black folks are so starved for representations of themselves that any black character is viewed through a fish-eye lens because we have trouble seeing black people as characters, rather than icons of Black Media Representation™. Issa Rae’s web series is definitely a breath of fresh air, but are we now going to look for more Awkward Black Girls, or will we let up-and-coming black webseries’ be themselves?

  • African Mami

    It is a financial game that is political and racial in nature. At the end of the day, network tv is all about number$. Yes, we do have a reason to cry FOUL about cancellations of certain shows, whose majority cast happens to be minority actors/actresses.

    Unfortunately, the network owners are not about creating an equilibrium in business opportunities for the advancement of all humanity including minorities. Furthermore, the networks are headed by your typical corporate C.E.O., WHITE, who I personally think are stuck in the caveman era of minorities staying in the back of the bus. They may not state it in the literal sense, but it is clear in their mode of operation

    Our prerogative now should be to create opportunities for ourselves and cultivate cult like followings that will force the mainstream world to see what the chatter is about. Case in point, Issa Raye’s A black awkward girl. By showing support and watching her awkwardness religiously she was able to raise about $56,000 or there about needed to continue her episodes. There is power in numbers,and I am not talking about finances, more so in rallying support of one another. If we continue to show her support, her works may finally catch the eye somebody in the network world, and BAM, she might just land herself a gig on network tv, all because of our collaborative efforts.

    Now in the case of BET….Jesus may have to make his second return for that network to ever gain respect of anybody, including the very minority market it caters to.

  • http://www.talesfromtheurbansocialite.com Amber (The Urban Socialite)

    Ummm can I just get Girlfriends back?

    But seriously it’s all about the money, and with very few wealthy people of color in the television business, it’s rare that we’ll ever see characters on television shows that truely resemble “us”. BET is the Devil, and I’ve moved onto watching shows with mostly White casts due to lack of choices, but I’d love to see a person with the financial backing and influence like Tyler Perry and create something I love with the absence of buffoonery.

    (and that line about Mercedes had me dying laughing! Poor girl.)

  • Alexandra

    Great article/subject! I think it is the networks. It just a shame that Black actors almost always happened to be cast in shows that get early cuts. We can’t blame the actors if the networks are the ones doing the axing. I was disappointed to hear about ‘The Playboy Club’s’ cancellation, however I wasn’t too surprised. There was so much controversy surrounding the show (network & main actress). You can also add ‘The Protector’ to your list, Tisha Campbell was a main character on the lifetime series and it was cancelled last month. I didn’t even see HawthoRNe’s cancellation coming?! And I feel Taraji’s new show ‘Person of Interest’ may be next, considering some controversy with TV guide. Another thing to consider is why shows lack Black leads in the first place, same with movies: marketing? I think that’s why Taraji was not chosen for the cover, even though she is a main character. It’s going to another decade I guess, to market Black tv characters as other characters and succeed. People have grown accustomed to seeing Blacks on tv as ghetto, criminals, etc;

  • Rachel


  • Sariah

    I dont know why black cant seem to stay on tv but i do have commentary i mentioned numerously on my twitter feed (LOL) to deaf ears… First, I liked the Playboy Club & its canceling made me sad. I am Black and 28yo. I liked the story line from Naturi trying to “make it” as the first black bunny to saving up b/c “blacks dont own property & she wanted to” along with the main storyline of wanting to see if the other girl would get caught for killing the Mob head…point being i enjoyed. In fact i never celebrate Halloween and actually was looking up bunny costumes but i digress…moving on…since they have both aired I have constantly compared Playboy Club with Pan-Am.. another new show I watch. As both period pieces set in teh 60′s anyone who watched could CLEARLY see the differences. On Playboy club Naturi had a storyline, was a mini-lead…on Pan Am there are literally NO BLACK CHARACTERS!!.. seriously it irks and perplexes me b/c the 60′s was the time of “the revolution” like no other. But I have ONLY seen blacks twice and each time the stewardesses were in other countries (a paris night club (one black) and in berlin on tonights episode during a kennedy speech (two blacks)). Trust me I understand what was taking place during the time but you cant tell me NO i mean NONE…No black people ever flew Pan Am let alone flew period!!..ill be honest i dont know if black women were allowed to be stewardesses back then but NO blacks on the plane NO blacks as stewardesses and to make it even more maddening their is a character named Sanjeev CLEARLY east/red to indian..(not trying to offensive sorry) who is a CO PILOT…i just dont get it!!!. I guess blacks cant stay on tv because no one will watch but judging from this season no one seems to care whether or not blacks are included

  • binks

    For me, I think the problem may stem from people behind the scenes treating black viewership as a one size fits all when it is not. Personally, I wouldn’t have been drawn to a show like Undercovers, Southland,the Playboy’s Club or Charlie’s Angels from the jump even if the cast didn‘t have a black actor/actress in it. Even though I might get stoned for this but “Read Between the Lines” isn’t a show I would normally watch either, though I love the Malcolm and Tracee as actors the show just doesn’t speak to me but I could be wrong. Personally, I like my shows quirky and odd (can NOT wait for Games of Thrones this Spring), so the shows has to be GOOD overall in writing and character development. I DO want to see more black actors/actresses on screen but I won’t suffice my precious time watching something I generally don’t like just because a black actress/actor is on it. Charlie’s Angels had failure written all over it from the jump and Playboy’s Club should have been shopped to HBO or Showtime first due to the components and potential contents of the show, I watched an episode but it felt “Adult lite” for my liking like I was waiting for the calories that never came…lol, I think on Showtime or HBO Playboy’s Club could have taken off. I agree with not faulting the black actors/actresses because I’ am sure that they didn’t want a cancelled show so the fault lies behind the scenes in production studio and the writing. The best black characters in a show is when you don’t care that they are black or them being black has relatively nothing to do with their characters to me.

  • Beautiful Mic

    As of late, many black actors have been cast in some pretty poorly written shows. Also, there have been decently written production that have miscast black actors. Furthermore, and think some of the unoriginality of some of the black lead canceled shows played into into their lost appeal. There are too many damn remakes going on in Hollyweird, right now. I find it annoying.

    That’s probably why people enjoy shows like Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne”, it’s not a remake and a knock off of any other production.

    However, there are, indeed, are a few black lead shows that have been unjustly canceled – IMO. And UnderCovers and the Playboy show are not among them. Those needed to go.

  • Crystal

    For this very reason, I am 1000% for well a written web series, which is not only addictive, yet it fills the need for uncensored tasteful humor that I will never see on network television in my lifetime. If you have a few moments it’s worth checking out http://www.awkwardblackgirl.com . Though it’s a monthly series, there is a continuing storyline and humor that is unmatched. I’m awkward, and I’m black. (we do exist)

  • Crystal

    For the life of me, I cannot wrap my brain around house of Payne. Lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashley-Sykes/1065177536 Ashley Sykes

    how crazy! i JUST found out that “the playboy club” got cancelled and though ” wow they WOULD cancel the only show where a black woman is supposed to be sexy”

    how about minorities in general are underrepresented though?? its not just black people. at least we’ve had family matters,fresh prince, the cosby show,hangin with mr.cooper….. where are the all asian shows? the only show with a latino family was the george lopez show, why are there ABSOLUTELY no samoans in movies and television? we’re not the only ones. i’m sooo sick of seeing nothing but white folks on tv. nothing against them but i just love variety and hollywood is soo not giving that. the love interests in every movie an tv show is a damn blonde. its annoying already. its as if hollywood is allergic to ethnic characters.

    the sad thing is that when they DO have an ethnic character then the show is centered around their race. why are white people the only neutral/default ones? its like they are the only race thats allowed to be whatever they want. why the hell cant we have a star trek or lord of the rings with black people or twilight with asian people??why is that so difficult?

  • Ms. Terious

    I’m sorry for having to say this but Undercovers was not a great show. Boris is such a wooden actor. Sure, he’s sexy as a mofo but he has no presence (ya feel me). There is that new show “Reed Between the Lines” with Tracey Ellis Ross and Malcolm Jamal Warner and I hope that it does well (even though its on Black Embarassment Televesion).

    As far as some shows getting the ax. I think white writers have a difficult time writing for black characters. If we’re not the head rolling, finger snapping *sistah*, we’re the angry-can’t-show-feelings ice queen. I’m sure there are great stories that can be told using black actors/actresses but the writers have to better equipped to tell them.

  • Leonie UK

    +1 well said

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    You raise some interesting points. I love Southland and can’t wait for it to premiere. It is my kind of show, but none of the other shows ever appealed or would ever appeal to me including Reed Between the Lines. I may have considered Playboy Club if it was on HBO/Showtime because I think it would have been done better. They do treat black audiences as monolithic or think we will flock to something because there are black characters. There is no accounting in hollywood for the diversity of experiences, interest, and tastes that make up the black experience. I am not even going to blame just white hollywood for this perception. A lot of black people despite knowing better still make the same assumptions. The ironic thing is the only experience we are guaranteed to have in common is that which comes from living in a majority white world that refuses to recognize our humanity.

    Your last paragraph is why I love Southland or the The Good Wife. Regina King (on Southland) is a detective. She is not a walking black history book or guide to the hood. She is a character. Few shows do this well. I do not watch shows will all white (non-Hispanic) casts. There doesn’t need to be black actors, but there has to be Hispanic and/or Asian-American characters. My fight is not one of more black people, but of more diversity. I watched two episodes of a show that came on before Modern Family and promptly took it off by DVR by the second episode. I have no interest in watching an exclusive white world on TV. I have enough of that in my lived experience.

    It is a shame we are watching that much TV and still being ignored by hollywood. I think the blame lies with the consumers and with hollywood. If we choose to ignore shows that do not highlight any diversity at all, hollywood would be forced to change. But, that is never going to happen.

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    Has anyone watched Body of Proof? They have a character that is the sassiest black man I have ever seen on TV. I am glad to share the sassy stereotype with black men, but talk about emasculating.

  • B

    Beautiful Mic said: “here are, indeed, are a few black lead shows that have been unjustly canceled – IMO. And UnderCovers and the Playboy show are not among them. Those needed to go.” I completely agree.

    All the shows listed above (except for Hawthorne and the Malcolm Jamal Warner show that hasn’t aired yet) sucked, big time. Now, don’t get me wrong, they didn’t suck anymore than most of the white shows currently still on air – and that’s the problem. Why cancel the sucky black shows but leave on the sucky white shows? Therein lies the racism.

    Personally, I have no regrets that Undercovers or Playboy Club were cancelled. The latter was just a disgrace to women in my opinion, and I actually feel prudish writing that. But seriously – a show about Playboy bunnies…in 2011? Anyway, Undercovers was awful. Sorry, just was. Hawthorne was all right, no worse than any other show on TNT. The problem is unoriginality across the board. I miss the days of Martin, Living Single, even Soul Food, etc, when we were real on TV and there was still some room and appreciation for originality. Now, it’s just like we all want to be white or something absolutely white-washed (i.e. Charlie’s Angels) or else total buffoons (i.e. House of Payne).

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Charlie’s Angel (and Pan Am) get canceled. Maybe these Hollywood writers will realize that American audiences are not as dumb as they think.

  • Shirl

    @ Crystal- I agree with you. I can’t stand the show. The guy with the loud clothes and loud mouth drives me crazy. It’s just not funny. also…I couldn’t stand House of Payne either. I love Tyler Perry but maybe he should stick to plays and movies or make a dramatic series for television and stay away from “comedy”.

  • MsDdre

    Thank goodness for Issa Rae and her ‘Awkward Black Girl’ series…I’ve pretty much given up on television repping black folks in a good way without it being cancelled…

  • SAA

    This article was thought provoking but I’ve never watched any of them so I can’t form an opinion. The one part of this article that stuck out to me was this:

    “Not only does the average African American household have four or more televisions, but we also spends an average of seven hours a day watching them, so a market for shows featuring blacks is out there.”

    -is this true?!? How is this even possible?! I don’t even have seven hours a day to myself much less seven hours a day to sit dow and park myself n in front of a television set for that long. I grew up with 6 siblings, all under the same roof, same mother and father for all, and at the most we had 3 tvs in our house. When I was younger I was only allowed to watch PBS on the weekdays and then the Saturday line up on Saturday mornings. If my dad saw any of us watching tv, he’d turn it off and if there was no more homework to be done, he’d tell us to either go outside and pick up a book.

  • SAA

    I’ve seen a couple of episodes of House of Payne, 5 at the most, and I agree with your sentiments. Its so bad you want to stop watching but you can’t pull away from it cuz you can’t believe this crap is actually on the air. Honestly they might as well come out in BlackFace because they’re just stereotypical characters….at least Lance Gross is nice to look at.

  • damidwif

    OMFG i was scrolling through the comments right quick so that I could go ahead and say the exact same thing. when i read that, i was like WTF?!! i almost feel embarrassed.

  • Perverted Alchemist

    Ever notice that when a Black show- or a show with a Black leading character- is given the green light by a major network, there are two things bound to happen?

    Either the show will be poorly acted and/or written, or it will be well written and acted, but put in a questionable time slot? Just a point to ponder…

  • Pilot

    To me, there isn’t much mystery unvolved in this. There are extremely few people involved in network television that are interested in anything except money. You make money by having a lot of viewers. They are interested in “quirky” or “ground-breaking” or “portraying people of different ethnicities” only if gets them viewers. Because that gets them money.

    After something is a hit, if it’s different, then the people involved will play up that difference, and say that was their intent all along, that it wasn’t about the money, that there were higher ideals involved, but it mostly rings false.

    Does anyone honestly believe that any network executive would not run, with open arms, towards an all-black show that pulled viewers like “the Cosby Show”? Any network guy would think he had died and went to Heaven if he could get a show with viewership like that on the air now.

    Almost all new shows get cancelled every year, no matter who is in those shows. It’s really tough to get a foothold in terms of viewership. Of the ones that make it through a first season, many of those get cancelled in the second season. It’s a brutal environment for new shows.

    Not denying there is subtle racism omnipresent in the entertainment industry, but most of it not driven by white (mostly Jewish) television executives not liking black people, it’s driven by by these executives thinking that black people in their shows are not going to pull in enough viewers. Which gets us back to that whole money angle.

  • jetblack

    Pan Am is actually a well written show. I don’t think it should be slandered because it does not have black actors in it (yet). I 100% feel that skill and talent should be the #1 casting choice. If there were a room full of actors and the black ones didnt make the cut based on who else showed up..then they dont need to be in it. If they have a storyline they want to play out I prefer them bidding their time and waiting for the perfect people to come and play it.
    In the interviews the network has set up they interview a lot of former stewardesses and they make up a variety of nationalities etc. So they are aware of the diversity in Pan Am’s history.
    I mean im just guessing. But I would rather them focus on developing their storylines. They are only on the third episode and the characters are coming out as very strong and the story arcs are very clear and interesting. I feel as if they want to give the necessary time and respect to the idea of diversity in Pan Am and trying to fit it into the pilot would have been too much. The characters they have are interesting enough and they work very well together. The sassy, defiant character of Christina Ricci could have EASILY gone to any standard black actress and I appreciate that it didnt. I would rather have black actors in good roles in good shows than token blacks in every show who get a good episode every 20 episodes.

  • B

    About Pan Am: It’s not because it doesn’t have any black characters. I just find the show painfully dull, and it makes me uncomfortable with where our culture has gone in terms of female representations. It’s like we have regressed.

    Btw: I do think Christina Ricci is excellent in it. But she could do better than that show. IMO.

  • poppy

    I would love to see a black show on network TV that is well-written and acted so many of them are not. I’m not surprised by Playboy Club was canceled. It was copying Mad-Men but w/o the quality writing and acting. The Charlie’s Angel is just bad so it being cancel is no lost to viewers.

    Since I watch Glee, I can say most of the characters are underdeveloped. I feel sorry for Amber and all the actors. Ryan Murray is only interested in his shows for the first season then after a while he loses all interest in the characters.i.e. Nip/Tuck.

  • http://www.fufuandoreos.com fufuandoreos

    This is why we have internet television, i.e. ISSA RAE.

  • http://www.fufuandoreos.com fufuandoreos

    Besides repeating the obvious above, I really believe that we need more Black producers.

  • http://www.ericabunker.com Erica B.

    I am beyond excited to see “Reed Between the Lines”! I can’t wait to see people my age, living a normal, regular life — happily married with kids. That’s my reality… not that other garbage.

  • http://anorexicescapades.com BougieHippie

    Shows are canceled b/c people don’t watch. Though I want to agree with you I know that network television tries “blk” sitcoms and no one watches so it come down to the bottom line and that’s money.

    Playboy club was a sadly written show I knew it wasn’t going to last long after I seen the 1st episode, I will say Last yr BET did air a good blk comedy after The Game that no one watched. The Game sucked on CW and it sucks on BET. Charlie’s Angles is a really bad show.

    I do agree they aren’t casting blk but as viewers we have to give them a reason to.

  • http://www.womenaregamechangers.com Vernetta F.

    This article is exactly what my friends and I have been saying. It’s not the actors but the content they are given. We will support a well-written show but they seem to think our intellect can’t handle the suspense of a complex plot. Maybe Issa Rae is right and more black content writers need to go online in order to build that following before heading to mainsteam television. ~♥ http://www.womenaregamechangers.com.

  • apple

    flashback remember the 90s when there were black leads or black shows and they did well and everyone black or white watched?!:
    Fresh Prince,
    Parent ‘Hood
    Family Matters
    The Parkers

    even for the kiddies!
    Kenan and Kel,
    Proud Family
    All That(well they had every race on there)
    Thats so Raven!

    seems like everything went in reverse for some reason :-/

  • http://www.seriouslysensual.com Thatstlphoenix

    I really enjoyed reading this article all until you pointed out (in your opinion) that Undercovers sucked. You hit intricate points back to back then you lost it on that alone for me. For me everything you said was not applied to Undercovers at NBC, they marketed it as something, “sexy” an anomaly because they were black, married and clearly “sexy” (old stereotypical cliques?). From there it was doomed, the network should have invested the time to seek out better writers for a show that wasn’t horrible. Compare it with something like Alias then yes the show couldn’t stand against such a strongly written program but my point is this, Hollywood is becoming increasingly lazy with production, directing, and writing. Undercovers was one of those shows who’s on head honcho said he let the ball fall on that show. It had potential. What happened to Networks working on a show’s potential and making it better?

    Undercovers didn’t suck….the writers and the Network did.

    Side note: Tokenism is on a rise in TV and it’s tiring, even if it is with strong characters like Dr. Eric Foremans or Mercades. To me it seems BBCAmerica is pushing out more diverse casts and strong characters then America Networks (which is why I love Luther). But that’s just my thought.

  • TR

    Black people are small in number relatively speaking. A black show needs crossover appeal in order to do well on the major networks. There are not enough of us to drive shows on these networks. In fact, it’s more difficult now because we black people have become more diverse. I doubt a show like “Martin” would get the same share of the black audience today that it got back in the 1990′s. And that’s what complicates things. Our increasingly diverse interests dilute the pull of our viewing habits from an ethnic standpoint. This puts even more pressure on shows with black leads to pull from the non-black audience to get its numbers. It’s kind of a catch-22.

  • https://thisismysoapbox.wordpress.com/ FFFFFF


    Why isn’t there a clutch article talking about the need for Black (African American) actors to create their OWN network with their OWN money and their OWN directors? (this is not a plug for Oprah’s network).

    Too often I read about how it’s not fair, colorism, black men suck, mulattos and blah blah! You can’t be seriously asking the person who feeds you to be fair. It’s his network, it’s HIS (or hers) rules and his preferences. He will put blondie in front of the screen at your expense because you DON’T OWN ANYTHING.

    Latin Americans have telemundo and they feature their actors. Racism aside, they have a great following. African Americans can do the same.

    And please Black (african americans may I stress) actors stay away from Nollywood (No disrespect but that’s for us Africans and I’d like to keep it that way). Stop being lazy and start making things.

    PS: The playboy club sucked and Naturi’s acting was sub par…much like everybody else in that cast.

  • TR

    When I speak of black people I am speaking specifically of black viewers in America.

  • Pilot

    So simple, but so much truth in that statement – “Shows are canceled because people don’t watch”.

    It’s hard to believe, considering what an effect it had on American popular culture, but the original “Star Trek” in the Sixties was almost canceled every one of the three seasons it was on the air. Their ratings sucked every year, they were always on the verge of getting canceled, and this was when there were only 3 networks. You had to watch something on one of the three channels. And still, they were cancelled after three seasons because very few people were watching. “Too cerebral and complex” for the average TV viewer” was a typical review. It was true that college students and highly-educated professionals were the main audience, and most viewers just didn’t care. They would tune in to “Hondo” or “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” on the other channels. I’m sure you’ve heard of both of those shows, right?

    And people that watched the show LOVED the show. Which is why it lived on in some many itereations later, with movies, books, more television, video games, etc.

    It still got canceled. In fact, the network moved the time slot a couple of times, and then, for the third season, gave the show the kiss of death. They moved the show to the 10 PM slot on Friday night (and also decreased their budget, BTW). It was like they were intentionally trying to make sure it would never get an audience. It worked. The show’s rating’s plummeted , and it was all over.

    A great show, and it was cancelled.

    On the other hand, “Jersey Shore” just keeps increasing it’s audience. There is no one in Hollywood that would state that “Jersey Shore” is anything approaching good, in any sense of the word, but people watch it. So it stays on the air. And it will stay on the air as long as people watch it, whether that’s two seasons or ten seasons. Because that’s how the television networks make money.

    If it was somehow determined that American audiences liked to see elderly Chinese men hitting each other over the head with large inflatable plastic hammers, then we would have shows that focused on that activity. It’s as simple as that. No matter what it is, if someone (a whole bunch of someones) watches, then it stays on.

  • Socially Maladjusted

    “Nielsen recently reported that African Americans watch more television than any other group. Not only does the average African American household have four or more televisions, but we also spends an average of seven hours a day watching them”

    So black people watch the most tv and get the least access/coverage.


    not funny

    well I’m writing this post on the hoof and trying to think of something clever and insightful to say but all that comes to mind is . . .

    scratch that

    well I’m writing this post on the hoof and trying to think of something clever and insightful to say but all that comes to mind is this

    found the words the words I was looking for


    and can we please stop making other people rich with our consumption of their narcotizing product?

    2) I don’t want to see more black people on tv pretending to be white people because that would probably end up in more black people watching white people’s tv and more black people acting white when it’s not tv.

    3) what?

  • Reason

    Um, for those who are on the “It’s all about the ratings” bandwagon that’s pure BS. Networks also factor in (critical and/or public) “buzz” and/or their own internal affection for a show. Friday Night Lights (NBC) was a critical darling: critics were literally begging the public to watch it and for awards shows to recognize it. The latter finally did when the Emmys awarded the lead actor a best actor in a drama award. And NBC kept it around for as long as it did b/c I believe NBC also had affection for the show. That’s why Parks and Recreation (really, all of NBC’s Thursday night comedy line-up) is still on the air too. Parks and Rec, Community, and 30 Rock all have viewers under 5 mill. Those are basic cable numbers and in some cases worse than basic cable because The Jersey Shore actually pulls in close to 8 mill. viewers. Yet, NBC especially, has kept around these mostly low-rated but cult and critical faves to the point where they can be syndicated. Tina Fey constantly jokes about 30 Rock’s ratings but NBC has not only kept the show on air they’ve made Fey richer by getting her that all-important syndication deal. I almost forgot NBC’s drama Parenthood too. That show not only lacks viewers but buzz and awards nominations, so it’s blatantly coasting on internal network love.

    And don’t let me get on the CW. Ugh. Gossip Girl’s ratings are so atrocious it’s not even funny and yet they refuse to pull the plug. Because they still believe the “buzz” is still out there for it. Which shows that critics can also play kingmaker because Entertainment Weekly still writes weekly recaps for the show. But CW had no problems giving the ax to Girlfriends and The Game because they lacked critical buzz and because of demographics. I am so p/o’d that the CW even exists because it is such an in-your-face example of white privilege. There is no way if any of those shows on the air had mostly black casts they’d last as they have. I don’t even get how CW turns a profit for it’s parent company CBS. But they try so hard to push the myth of the importance of the 13-34 (white) girl demo.

    And don’t believe the hype about Hawthorne either. Sure, it paled in comparison to the other female lead shows on TNT (The Closer and Rizzoli and Isles) which were pulling in 7 milli viewers. But TNT kept Franklin and Bash which had the same 3 milli viewers as Hawthorne.

    Mad Men and Breaking bad only bring in about 4 milli viewers combined for A&E but critics and TV awards voters love those shows. The Wire also had sub-par ratings.

    It’s about ratings, critical and/or public/cult buzz, key demos, awards and internal network affection.

  • http://[email protected] ross

    don’t forget homeboys from outta space, that was a good show

  • http://nachalooman.wordpress.com Anna Renee

    Anyone familiar with Robert Townsend’s Diary of a Single Mom? It’s well written, interesting, with relevant storylines and will quickly draw you in. “Ocean” is not a “woe is me” single mom, but she is a mom working towards bettering her life. Life raft is the first episode of season one, and it’s on PicTV.

  • Pilot

    Agreed, but it is still money (read: viewers) driving that decision. The networks champion those shows with current low viewership because they think that with enough awards, and enough critical acclaim, and enough “super-fans”, eventually the audience will build for it. It is also worth noting that syndication is in play, too – shows that are critically acclaimed and have a fanatical following do extremely well in syndication (reruns) for years and years after the show is cancelled.

    Even those shows that are kept around in spite of low ratings are still being judged with the harsh calculation of how many viewers the show can pull “eventually”. Whether eventually is the third season or 10 years from now in syndication.

  • http://commentarybyval.blogspot.com/ Val

    Why should the networks add African American shows when we already watch more TV than any other group? If we stopped watching then maybe there would be Black shows to get us watching again.

  • Usagi

    A lot of BET and TV1 shows are horrible. I don’t like much of American TV. They put too much of the soulful crap and don’t have real substance. I feel a lot of shows like Reed Between The Lines are trying WAY too hard. Write them a character first. Jumping over the Broom and The Help felt like a PSA. At least, i still Nollywood, BBC, anime, Somaliland, and Thatguywiththeglasses to entertain me. Also, why isn’t that almost never show blacks that are goth,punk or anything other subculture ? Except for The Boondocks and Eve’s Bayou, they are no non-Christian black folk in media. Also, it pissing me off that the media only mainly presents W.Africans or light eureopeanish creoles. I sick of tired of only being able to see people that look like only on model shows. And I would love to see more black culture and history presented in media OUTSIDE slavery.You know, we have been for, I don’t know, OVER 100,000 years.

  • http://www.NicoleJButler.com Nicole J. Butler

    It’s not about networks not “letting black actors be great,” it’s all about the bottom line. As a black actress, I strongly support diversity in casting whenever it isn’t detrimental to the storyline, but I won’t support an awful all-black show any more than I will watch an awful all-white show. If I do, it just tells the powers-that-be that I am not a discerning viewer, and they don’t have to try as hard.

  • Pilot

    BTW, I can tell you have some familiarity around this subject (audience/ratings, and so forth), and therefore I will just remind you gently that you cannot compare cable viewer populations with the big, over-the-air networks. Cable networks have paying subscribers, and therefore they can afford to have a smaller audience for a show and still have the show be quite profitable. “Mad Men” and Breaking Bad” do very well with 2 million viewers each. Either show on ABC, NBC, or CBS in prime time is always in danger of being cancelled (like “Parks and Recreation”) because they need more viewers to get the advertisers that pay the bills.

  • B

    I heart your comment. I completely agree with you (minus the slavery bit b/c I think we need more HONEST depictions of slavery in this country). If Jewish people can make honest and complex holocaust films, we should be able to make equally honest and complex slavery films instead of the vapid somewhat romanticized or glossed over slave films we do make.

  • http://twitter.com/drewshane Drew-Shane

    Some intriguing points about the dichotomy of the two. I think the “Black experience” or slavery time period is often glossed and made more appealing. Images we see to depict our story make the eras seem very romanticized. I never thought about comparing it to the experiences Jews faced. Very interesting!

  • http://revolutionarypaideia.wordpress.com Antonio Maurice Daniels


    Black people cannot be blamed for the limited amount of insight and time networks offer us to showcase our talents. These networks have such an investment in depicting us in such negative ways, which is the reason why we have our greatest presence on reality television shows. Your article is one that we should engage in more discussion about, and it calls us to put more pressure on networks to give us greater time and space to give national and international audiences a closer and more accurate understanding of the Black experience. Very good job, Drew!

  • http://nachalooman.wordpress.com Anna Renee

    Usagi, are you familiar with The Africa Channel?

    The Africa Channel, where Africa Comes Alive!!!

    Please Check Them Out If You Don’t Know! African Comedy, African Soap Operas, African Documentaries, African Cook shows, African Plays, African Drama, African Game Shows, African Relationship Shows, African Real TV shows, African Travel Shows, African Music Videos, African Concerts, African Talk Shows – Conversations with Felicia Mabuza-Suttle!!!

    It’s THE BOMB!!!

  • African Mami

    @ Maurice

    Hey! Umime 100%, no ifs or buts!

  • Nadell

    Question 1: Is it that networks would rather us act a plum fool on screen than to act w/ decency & decorum? Question 2: Would networks rather keep us in that time capsule of a certain era & limit us to roles of the stereotypical? Question 3: Do we, as the audience, only support shows that do indeed lack substance & quality? Question 4: Are we in fact through our support (ratings) telling these networks that we’d rather view classless, misrepresented shows?
    Both the networks and audience have a role to play.

  • http://twitter.com/SheThrives11 E. Wilson

    it’s not always about ratings, often it’s about sponsorships. Companies help fund TV shows in exchange for commercial time. If a company doesn’t feel that its product can be sold to the audience a TV show targets, than it won’t sponsor that show. Black TV shows get the plug because major companies refuse to sponsor them through ads.

  • http://nachalooman.wordpress.com Anna Renee

    Are you familiar with the sister Mukami Kinoti Kimotho? She’s a breathtaking beauty who is more than beautiful.

    She has her own Internet TV page and has interviewed so many forward moving people! She’s an inspiration and is down to earth. Her interview of Ger Duany from South Sudan is awe inspiring! You need MukamiTV in your life!

    MukamiTV, Your Voice Amplified

    Please check her out and subscribe to her channel, like her on Facebook and Twitter!!

  • Reason

    I agree that HBO and Showtime are subscriber networks but basic cable networks are in their own category which allows for them to be compared to regular networks. The number of homes with at least basic cable is more than 80%. Of course, what channels these homes have may vary but certain channels like BET, CNN or Nickelodeon are basic cable package regulars. Part of BET’s cache is that it is available in like 89 million homes. Yes, ad buyers motivate and impact regular networks more whereas basic cable networks rely on a mix of ad buyers and cable provider (Comcast, etc.) subscriptions. So, what’s been keeping Mad Men and Breaking Bad on the air is critical buzz and awards. Because again in comparison to other basic cable shows their numbers are lacking. AMC (I said A&E in my original post) is holding steadfast when it could be bringing in more viewers with shows like Hoarders, Toddlers & Tiaras, Storage Wars and Pawn Shop All-Stars.

  • Usagi

    I wouldn’t mind watching stories about slavery as it was done creatively. Also, not all blacks in america were slaves. Most of family in the Americas were Black Indians,Free People of Color or indentured servants and Creoles. The part of American history is very deep and rich. Outsides for beauty purposes, they rarely explore the culture and history. I blame both black and white folks. White rich people, in general don’t really care diversity or their own “people”( Trust me, wp have no unity.One of my friend’s kids is disliked at his school for just having red hair) Black producers and writers see this and know the blacks are desperate for shows. This allows then to put little effort in storyline, diversity, and plot because it’s the only representation of them. The most likely answer to why people go to see TP movies is never great writing. American history isn’t black and white. There were A LOT of shades of grey. This what’s both black & white writers and directors need to learn.

  • http://www.thinkdesignz.net Patty

    Living Single
    A Different World
    The Jaime Foxx Show
    Wayans Bros
    In Living Color

    ….The list goes on….

  • http://www.womenaregamechangers.com Vernetta F.

    OMG Anna Renee I love that series. Yes it is beyond well-written. Ocean shows that obstacles can’t stop a woman from getting to where she deserves to be.

  • Jess

    Because the TV Networks, particularly ABC and FOX are racist. It’s obvious. Nothing else needs to be said.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashley-Sykes/1065177536 Ashley Sykes

    yayy a fellow black actress : ) girl its hard out here for us!especially since most roles are only looking for caucasian or biracial actresses : (

  • http://@clnmike Clnmike

    We need quality programming but this right here, “Not only does the average African American household have four or more televisions, but we also spends an average of seven hours a day watching them”, that right there is not healthy.

  • http://www.chellbellz.com Michelle @ Chellbellz

    They never stood a chance with the same time slot as Hawaii Five-o this show wasn’t revolved around Naturi, but like i said they had a REALLY bad time slot, and i’m really surprised that they didn’t just move it because there is LIKE nothing good on Thursdays!

  • http://nachalooman.wordpress.com Anna Renee

    @Vernetta F – The series is so intense, that I’ve just gotten to the middle of the second season! No spoiler, but I watched an episode that knocked the wind out of me emotionally! But I have all faith in Ocean — she will survive! They all will!

    It’s soooo good, and it’s the wave of the future for black programming. Turn off UPN or whatever, turn on your internet PIC TV and all other internet TV where TRUE programming is happening.

  • http://www.womenaregamechangers.com Vernetta F.

    I can’t spoil it because you wouldn’t believe me anyway. lol. Yes been with this series since the beginning. It kills me to wait between seasons. The internet is probably going to be where we find those well written black content shows we relate to.

  • Rachel

    I hope you don’t think ratings and sponsorship don’t go hand in hand. Networks like advertisers just don’t want to invest. I think it’s dumb especially with a lot of us watching tv.

  • Jess

    I completely agree with this article and have been saying this for months. The basic networks don’t have African Americans in predominate roles and no one is speaking up to change it. BET is slowly changing their line up and shows to speak about and show us but that isn’t going to be seen on NBC. Honestly they haven’t had a prominently black show since Fresh Prince, everything since that has been not made it. The same goes for the other cancels. The CW cancelled Girlfriends soon after the writers strike ended saying it was because of ratings. Then they cancelled Everybody Hates Chris and The Game for the same reason. Now they don’t have a single show with an all black cast.

    If it wasn’t for us standing up and doing something when The Game went off the air it won’t be on BET today and had he highest rating it did at it’s season opener. We need to do the same for the rest of the shows out there and save the good shows and find a way to be on the rest.

  • Joe Blow

    I disagree with this article. I think if you look around, most shows have a diverse cast.

    NCIS – LL Cool J

    Grey’s Anatomy – multiple blacks

    House – Omar Epps (already mentioned), but had multiple blacks in the past

    CSI – Laurence Fishburne

    CSI Miami – Khandi Alexander

    CSI New York – Hill Harper

    Leverage – Aldis Hodge

    Community – Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown

    The Office – multiple blacks, and Idris Elba even guest starred as the boss for several episodes.

    Criminal Minds – Shemar Moore

    ER (although off the air) – had multiple blacks

    Hawthorne – Jada Pinkett Smith

    Psych – Dulé Hill

    Franklin & Bash – Garcelle Beauvais and Dana Davis

    These are some of the most popular shows on tv, and none of these people play a stereotypical black person (although some of the actors/actresses are better than others). The only show that I think really has a stereotypical black person is 30 Rock with Tracy Morgan (but they have 4 blacks in the main cast). Also there’s not too many all white shows either, and they tend to be most sitcoms (Two and Half Men, How I Met Your Mother), not the kind of shows for serious actors/actresses anyway, but still blacks still have their fair share too (Meet The Browns, House of Payne, Are We There Yet, Cleveland Show, the Boondocks).
    You can turn on any just about any popular show and see black doctors, nurses, lawyers, cops, judges, executives, etc. And the children’s programming is probably as diverse as ever too.

    So maybe there’s not a show with an all black cast, what do you want a Tyler Perry movie where all you see is successful black people and no white people whatsoever? That’s definitely not reality nor reflective of society.

  • Jess

    I think you are onto something. If we do make up the market for shows then we should change what we watch and work to get our shows on. The problem is getting a large group to work together and do something like. It’s something that definately needs to happen.

  • Sandy

    I tried really hard to get into Undercovers but the way the actress held her face when trying to look sexy was beyond distracting. And the plots sucked.

  • Penny

    Obviously, the bad shows are a symptom of a much larger problem: we need more creative control. Also, unfortunately, it helps to have a big name doing a lot of the pushing. I always have to remind myself that although the Cosby Show was well written and full of positive images, if it had not been associated with Bill Cosby, it would have been canceled the first season. LOL. To be quite honest, I remember thinking that the very first Cosby episode was “okay.” It wasn’t until a few episodes later that I started liking the show (I was a teenager at the time) and I started loving the show in the second season. I loved A Different World. Again, thanks to Bill Cosby, we had another good show.

  • Penny

    I see what you are saying. Still, it would be nice to have more well written shows that focus on the black character with white (or “other”) characters as the supporting cast.

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    Something about the phrase ‘multiple blacks’ is making me chuckle.

    Oh God!

  • 2cents

    Not everything needs to be about race. The shows that the author mentioned that were canceled (Playboy Club and Charlie’s Angels) were just poorly written, predictable shows. There is a lack of creativity in network tv period which is why some of my favorite shows are cable serious (Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, etc.) They often cast minorities on cable shows and they make them more complex. I was sad to see “No.1 Ladies Detective Agency” canceled. That was a good show and it showed Africa in a different light.

  • 2cents

    Meant “series”. sorry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dvine-Lovin/1214037560 Dvine Lovin

    1 AA character doesn’t make it a diverse cast..

  • Juvie

    Like the author asked, are these black characters needed on the shows or are they there just to be there? Or can they be replaced with a bi-weekly appearance by another celebrity walk on role…

    @Dvine Lovin +1 I agree.

  • Bandyco

    i agree…with the other commenters…they do just throw the “token” black person in the show and think its enough…well its NOT

  • Melanie

    One African American does not equate to a diverse cast.

  • Zaza

    It’s wierd to think the 90′s had more black shows, things are going backwards. Fresh Prince, Cosby show, Sister Sister, Moesha, Kenan and Kel, Cousin Skeeter… though to be fair I’m thinking mostly kids shows and I don’t watch Nickolodean any more! Maybe I’m wrong, are there many shows now that young black people can watch that feature people that look like them in the majority, not screaming,and drinking,fighting,over sexualised or fighting over some athlete on some pitiful reality show?

  • Trini

    @2cents I definitely agree! At the end of the day, bad writing is bad writing.

    People also need to remember that its all about the benjamins in Hollywood! Its sad but very true. If a show is not making its network money, they cancel it. Period! It happens all the time with all white casts as well. Now dont get me wrong, I would certainly love to see more well written roles for black actors. We all would! But networks will only show what sells. The lack of equal black representation in Hollywood if often an unwelcomed side effect of that fact.

    And another point to consider, not that its necessarily any consolation whatsoever, but think for a minute about how often we even get to see well written roles for asian, latin or middle eastern actors! Im just saying…

  • KrissyG

    I think the most important point made in this whole article is that African-Americans watch more TV than any other groups at a rate of seven hours per day. I’m thinking about all the other worthwhile things they could be doing with that time, such as helping their kids with homework, operating a part-time business online or taking career development courses. All these endeavours would actually lead to a wealthier community who could then start their own network and produce the types of shows and films you crave. Even better, it could lead to a wealthier community that could create more businesses and more jobs for future generations of African-Americans. In short, turn off the boob tube if you don’t like being under-represented and make better use of your time!

  • MzLeelee

    I think True Blood is one of the best written shows on television and the fact that they have a diverse cast who are fantastic actors makes it even better!

  • datgidigirl

    I just want to let you know that as a black woman, I’ll stand up and say that Charlie’s Angels and the Playboy Club were AWFUL and deserved to be cancelled. We can’t expect affirmative action to extend to terrible tv.

  • http://www.RealTalk123.com AlesiaMichelle

    … I completely agree, we don’t live in a world without other races. We are minorities in society thus we will be a minority in the media.

  • http://www.blkgrl.com/blog BLK GRL

    Girl you were reading my mind. That lil stat made my hair stand on end. Maybe of those 7 hours were used building up our communities we would give a rats patooty about our representation on TV because we would be building alternative streams of representation and PARTICIPATING in creating a more equitable world for ourselves. Seven Hours!

  • katie

    “That for us Africans”

    Um, African-Americans are African.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Martine-Shantelle-Quinn/502121163 Martine Shantelle Quinn

    in almost all the shows you mentioned, the Black characters have no story of their own and serve to prop up the white ones. i watch Psych and after 4 seasons, the only thing we know about Gus is that he is friends with Shawn and he used to sing in a boy band. In House, although Omar Epps is integral in the hospital cast, he’s not really important to the show and could be played by anyone and unfortunately, the only personal thing we know about him is that he has a brother, his mom has dementia and he likes to sleep with white women. the same goes for Aldis Hodge and the two Black characters in Breakout. this is another conversation, but why is it that these shows are cast with one Black male character who either is cast with a nonBlack love interest or ends up sleeping with one of the available women on the show, who is white bc there are no Black women in this fictional universe? Anyway…..having a Black face on a show that essentially serves no purpose is no better than them being cast in one of Tyler’s debacles.

  • CarmelStacks

    Exactly! Awhile back my mom was complaining that there are no blacks on TV and my response to her was “it’s not a requirement or a right to watch it”. I don’t have cable, my daughter watches Saturday morning cartoons and we watch movies together. I swear if all black people canceled cable, the networks would pay attention.

  • Brooklynista

    I have pretty much opted out of Hollywood television for all the reasons mentioned in the article. How is it that there were over a DOZEN predominantly black-casted shows on mainstream television in the 90s that were highly profitable, yet now there are none?

    I know not to expect Hollywood to care about telling great stories featuring a wide range of actors in a wide range of roles. There is nothing “broken” about their system. It functions exactly the way it’s designed to function, with blacks consuming White American culture 7 (!) hours a day and being conditioned to be passive consumers rather than producers.

    Thank goodness for premium cable tv (The Wire, Oz), internet tv (Awkward Black Girl) and British tv shows. I’ve been in LOVE with British tv lately. They certainly have their fair share of issues regarding representation as well (namely, the main “black” characters being played primarily by biracial actors), but they are eons ahead of American tv in terms of the writing quality and bold casting choices. I have seen storylines that blow my mind, and characters that Hollywood would never greenlight – like Queen Guinevere, the love interest of Arthurian legend, re-imagined as a black woman (Merlin), or a powerful, dynamic, beautiful ghost living with two supernatural roommates (Being Human, the original UK version), or a black computer geek who’s not an Urkel-esque caricature (The IT Crowd), or a sexually repressed Japanese computer whiz (Torchwood), or a snarky, insecure teenage Black musician growing up in the shadow of her famous musician father (Skins, the original UK version, 1st generation) and so on. It’s like British tv has figured out what American tv hasn’t: give ALL the main characters emotional depth, and tell a great story. That’s the key to building a strong and loyal audience that will positively impact the show’s bottom line long-term (i.e. DVD sales and syndication deals).

    I will check out True Blood, as I’ve consistently heard great things about that show. I’m not really into vampire stuff (aside from the hot Irish dude in UK’s Being Human), but I’m always open to a good story. I will also check out Game of Thrones, another critically acclaimed cable show.

  • Demi


    This right here. I canceled my cable subscription over a month ago due to the outright disrespect and insult that the American film and sponsor industry seems intent on spewing. It’s been so heartwrenching to watch television where I am expected to participate financially and emotionally in an industry that either ignores me altogether or denigrates me at each & every turn. I wish we would wake the heck up & take a stand. Cancel your cable subscriptions, do not buy products not marketed to people who look ‘just like you’; in other words, be an actively thinking group of adults with a common goal of intended self-repect and fair representation. Am I reaching for the stars here? Are we already too far gone?

  • Sandra

    Some of the shoes mentioned above had to be canceled. After watching the first episode of undercovers last season, I knew that it was a waist of my time. The Playboy Club on the other hand had to go. I am not interested in seeing a movie based on an industry that contributes to the X rated industry. I am glad that it is gone.

    You forgot to mention Detroit 187 that was a great show and that had a great tvcast with black actors. Unfortunately many people were not interested in watching it. I was sad when it came to an end.

    It is not about them not giving black actors a chance. It is about quality shows. If a show is not good enough for me regarding of the cast, i will not watch it and that include garbage reality shows.

  • Simone

    If the sister was psuedo-lead in the show, I’m not surprised that the show was canceled. America doesn’t like to see black women on the same level as white women. That may be an outdated stereotype, unfortunately it’s still true.

  • Simone

    The black woman is the last racial hold out in my opinion. It’s ok to be sexy behind closed doors, but not on tv…..well, in the states anyway. In the UK, black women are on tv sexy as the next woman. The U.S. will never get to that point I believe…..it may still take centuries, not decades, for that to finally happen. Sad.

  • Simone

    Here, here!

  • Justice

    NCIS – LL Cool J — supporting

    Grey’s Anatomy – multiple blacks – ok

    House – Omar Epps (already mentioned), but had multiple blacks in the past – like who? patients?

    CSI – Laurence Fishburne — morpheus lasted 2 seasons. off the show

    CSI Miami – Khandi Alexander — seriously? She was the ME. now only cameo’s. Though Whittaker is on there now, and he’s good, but no character development

    CSI New York – Hill Harper — Acting below his station for sure

    Leverage – Aldis Hodge – the hacker/thief gone renegade? Pass

    Community – Donald Glover and Yvette Nicole Brown – supporting ok

    The Office – multiple blacks, and Idris Elba even guest starred as the boss for several episodes. — “Idris Elba even guest starred as the boss for several episodes” SO? as a fan please dont say multiple blacks. Stanley and Darryl?

    Criminal Minds – Shemar Moore – ok

    ER (although off the air) – had multiple blacks – Off the air since 2009. It’s almost 2012 now

    Hawthorne – Jada Pinkett Smith – TNT did good with this. Didnt last

    Psych – Dulé Hill – of you mean his black sidekick best friend with little development?

    Franklin & Bash – Garcelle Beauvais and Dana Davis

    All in all, many of these african american actors are stars in their own right but have mostly been relegated to supporting and token roles no matter their accomplishments and awards outside tv. Thats the insult. But we’re supposed to just settle for these appearings mentioned because we should be happy. Well we’re not. It’s ridiculous

  • Sunny

    For the most part I agree with you, hence the reason why I have taken to the international scene instead to watch my television dramas.

    SN: I sometimes even feel that the quality of US television shows, regardless of race, are mediocre. I wish I was a creative director or actress, that way I could actively do something and not just comment but alas I’m not.


  • Sunny


    Hence why, I too pay attention to the international scene. K-dramas, J-dramas, Nollywood, Telemoundo, etc.

  • AJ

    I see ABC just cancelled “Charlie’s Angels”..Gee, I wonder why?? I call it the Pretty Black Woman syndrome. Can’t stand to have THAT on network TV, now can we? Not when they are equal players to everybody else. SMH . Pathetic


  • Rebecca A

    This lack of African Americans on tv has even being shown clearly in kid media was well. There are no cartoons with a leading AA person. This excluding Total Drama seires and Sixteens who have each have three to one black characters. Six teen( played on Cartoonnetwork in 2010) has more plot and character development then the formal.

    I’m still rather young adn watch Cartoonnetwork and Nick. I refuse to watch Disney channel because there are no more black shows there. That’s so Raven was the best, then Corey in the house( a failed, overly crazy spin off) then nothing. Even Nick had a show that hod alot of potential. It was Tru Jackson VP. a show about a young black girl who took over as vice president of the kids department at a fashion company. It could have been inspringing and funny but no, they had her saying

  • Rebecca A

    jive or ghetto comments like “What you say bout them bein no color red on the shirt?” really fast or her wacky antics in her office. It flopped the third season. Even pretty good shows like ICarly and Victorious rely on their only black characters for comic relief. There is only one reoccurring PoC on ICarly and he is always trying to push some strange product on a stick. He works at the Groove smoothie and has a questioning work ethic. He barely says anything worth while and is used as a plot device to break up tension.

    Victorious is a bit better but not by much. Their is a black guy is one of the main characters. He is talented singe and musician who plays back up to the lead, Tori. He rarely is singled out in an episode and if does have a little back ground story, it usually is about a girl he’s trying to holler at or how he tries to keep the peace in a chaotic situation. A true token by default, their aren’t even other black girls in the background for him to try to pick up. Just white. He even has a crazy black grandma who shouts random nonsense and wonders around talking about butter biscuits and the like. It’s a shame too, he is also a talented actor and he sings like an angel. He can also play piano and guitar. The puppet on the show gets more screen time then him.

    We especially don’t see any magical or fantasy show with an African American lead. If anything, we are lucky enough to see the one dimensional sassy black friend( Jake long, The American Dragon). It’s even rarer to see that lead a girl with nappy, natural hair.

    How do we except to see change when Kids that grow up with an all white cast doing an all white plot? This idea is fundamentally flawed from the ground up.

  • Temi

    agreed. I like GOOD shows..which is why I cant live without HBO. I dont sacrifice that to support mediocre shows in the name of supporting black

  • DBG

    I wish to see more well-written shows that star Black actors like ‘Chicago Hope’, but we don’t support those shows… so we’re reduced to The Browns or some such mess. However, I am seeing some very strong starring and supporting roles by non-Whites in traditionally caucasian series like House and NCIS.

    Just give me a good story with a good cast (Luther & Misfits) and I’ll be happy at this point. I’m resigned to just accept the state of Black Hollywood in the Tyler Perry age of entertainment.

  • maryland71

    I would like to see a all african american cast in a drama or am i asking for too much

  • maryland71

    How about an all african american cast in a tv drama or am i asking for too much?

  • todd

    I couldn’t disagree more. Blacks represent 12.5% of the population of the USA. My guess is that blacks are on TV (commercials and show) at a rate of more than 25%. 1 in 4 characters are black and trhe numbners are growing. If you want to document undereprentation, look for middle age white men. Far less than the 40% that they (we) are and the roles are usually protrayed negatively.

  • http://sunnydelyte21.wordpress.com sunnydelyte21

    Let me first say I love “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” lol…that webseries is crazy funny.

    Yes, they need to find well scripted shows for Black actor/actresses that we will be interested in! Its sad, when they have shows with talented people that don’t make it!

    I love Omar Epps character on House!

  • secret ninja

    @todd – lmao, you CAN’T be serious! please gtfohwbs and when you do, be sure to have _/!

  • secret ninja

    i agree with most of the comments on here, it’s tiring to see good black actors and actresses get a bad wrap with a wack show or on a show that has potential but got canceled. my two examples are “The Event” and “Undercovers”.

    “The Event” had a lot of potential but they shot it out of the sky when they revealed “the others” were aliens in the first few episodes. the flashing back and forth from past to present also was a bad idea and they should have went with past events from the very first episode then progressed, slowly drawing out bits and pieces of information.

    “Undercovers” couldn’t be taken seriously for me because of the corny opening and sucky theme music. i don’t know about anyone else, but theme music and openings can be everything, it gives the show 1 minute to tell you what they’re all about. secondly with “Undercovers” i couldn’t tell if i was watching a comedy or a drama, i expected a lot more from J.J. Abrams, this should have been a mini movie that came on t.v. every week. i needed more character developement, more action, and once again, they could have waited a few episodes before the characters were drawn back into the CIA again. it would have been nice to see some background on them, then have some crazy “unexplained” events happen to them (first the husband, then the wife or vice versa) where they have to use their CIA skills to get out of a situation and then that’s when they should have found out the other was a spy at one time and then the CIA dude should show up to give them “an offer they couldn’t refuse” and there should have never been a white side kick, he was annoying and corny as hell, not too much not all that nice in the looks department.

    i’m done with cable t.v. i read somewhere that Youtube was adding or buying 1,000 channels that would be devoted to online television. i say that’s where it’s at. i love Issa Rae’s show, it’s so real, so funny, and it’s so awesome to see a Black woman portrayed in a way that is not the sassy comic relief or the sexy bitchy girl or the loud ghetto girl. i think though, that i would rather not see “Awkward Black Girl” on network t.v., the network would mess it up by trying (and succeeding) in wresting away Issa’s creative control, they would add more white characters, and it would end up being not as real or funny. #RememberTheChappelleShow

  • pishedoff

    you cant make out black people dont get a chance, thats a ridiculous arguement, how many top paid black stars are there out there, hmm, denzel, will smith, lawrence, whitney and bobbi when there was a whitney, and look at history, im sick of the race card always being pulled, race is the issue it is today because people make it an issue, i know plenty of people that have developed more racist views every time,
    just a small example, the stephen lawrence case, bless the lad
    but did anybody hear about the group of black girls that hospitalized and killed a young white girl, but im sure that had nothing to do with race did it….

  • http://[email protected] cool

    I agree they never really give to many black actors a lead role in hollywood you see majority white actors making those roles not to many young black up and coming actors. You see the other generation

  • http://[email protected] cool

    they never really give to many black actors a lead role in hollywood you see majority white actors making those roles not to many young black up and coming actors. You see the other generation

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