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.


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.


Filed under Arts and Entertainment, News

2 responses to “Trying to Find People Who Look Like Me in Network Television

  1. M

    What about Nellie Yuki???!?!?!

  2. Joe

    This is inaccurate. Glee has a significant African-American character, and two Asian characters.

    Plus, you’re completely discounting gay characters.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s