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Thursday, March 19, 2009
5:43 AM

My TV Is Black & White, Minus The Black


I read an article yesterday in the New York Times about the lack of diversity in television.

It started with word of the cancellation of Chocolate News and D.L. Hughley Breaks The News, and Do Not Disturb. Actually, network executives don’t like to use the word cancellation when referring to banished Black shows.

Jenni Runyan, a spokeswoman for Comedy Central, whose executives declined to comment for this article, said “Chocolate News” completed its entire run of 10 episodes but was not renewed for a second season. She said the network does not talk about why shows are not renewed.

I get it: Why talk about it when it’s canceled?

And as many of you know, The Game and Everybody Hates Chris haven’t officially been canceled (or “not renewed”), but they’re not on the CW’s fall schedule and the CW eliminated its comedy division some time ago. Basically: They’re not coming back.

I’m more concerned about those two shows being canceled than the first three. Chocolate News wasn’t funny and D.L. Hughly is not Bill Maher. I can’t help but think some white executives are under the impression that if you stick any Black face on TV every person of color will rush to watch their face as we eat McDonald's (consider the ad spots that run during these shows).

Even if the faces they throw on TV haven’t been well received since the early 90s, hey, they’re Black, so there’s gotta be some appeal there, right?

It’s like the people in control of the airwaves have forgotten the lessons of the likes of Bill Cosby and Dave Chappelle. Each proved a very important point: Black people are not a monolith and the notion that only Black people watch shows dominated with Black cast members is flawed.

That’s why I find word of the CW canceling the two Black shows left on broadcast television so disappointing. Everybody Hates Chris never had the chance to build an audience. Many hailed it as “The Black Wonder Years,” but the show had its own style.

The show is funny, and Tichina Arnold deserves an Emmy. If Katherine Hiegel can get one, so should Tichina. They never gave the show a chance. It started on Thursday’s on UPN, then got bounced around all over the place and ultimately left to die on Friday nights.

Nevermind the show had the potential to crossover thanks to it being helmed by Chris Rock. It’s too Black, and thus, too much to deal with.

Same for The Game, which I think is a really entertaining and funny show. Those two shows didn’t get any real press, but what does? Chocolate News.

Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for a show featuring Black folk doing political satire? When I’m finally given it, it’s David Allen Grier telling the same tired jokes in the same tired get up that stopped being funny two years before I was born.

I watched D.L. Hughley’s show for about two minutes once. I saw Donnell Rawlings dressed up as a pimp named “Freddy Mac.” I turned that bullshit off while he was in mid-sentence.

The ones who are Black and doing satire that are funny are on The Daily Show. Here’s top hoping Wyatt Cenac eventually gets his own show.

If I hadn’t told ya’ll already, my goal is to ultimately become a successful screenwriter. I love doing editorial work, and will always do so, but I’d love to have my own show. I already have a treatment and really hope one day it comes together in true form. Only thing is that when I let some people read it, they think it’s funny, only it would be better suited if it were played by white people.

To tell you the truth, I think they’re right. I look on TV and I see what’s there – or who’s not – and wonder will it ever change.

I’ve come to really appreciate and admire Tyler Perry, but I can’t really get into his sitcoms. I watch Keyshia Cole and The Real Housewives of Atlanta, but I don’t really consider that programming is comparable to Black shows that have come before.

And when I read about what’s coming soon I cringe:

Fox is also considering an African-American-led sitcom titled “Brothers” for its fall lineup. It features Daryl Mitchell, known as Chill, who was paralyzed in a 2001 motorcycle accident and uses a wheelchair, and Michael Strahan, the former Giants football star. ABC is considering “The Law,” a pilot starring Cedric Kyles, popularly known as Cedric the Entertainer. And CBS has cast the rapper LL Cool J in a planned spin-off of “NCIS,” its procedural crime drama.

Brothers? Really? The Law is going to be a comedy about two LAPD reserve officers. Ced and Donald Faison play the cops. So they essentially want Bad Boys on TV.

Ice Cube is also developing an hour long buddy comedy for NBC. One or both shows could be funny (in theory), but I think the funniest joke already is the guy who participated in the song “Fuck The Police” doing a buddy comedy.

I’m happy that networks are at least looking at Barack Obama and thinking hmm, Black people are “in” again (No seriously: That’s the conventional wisdom behind all of this sudden interest), but it’s the same thing over and over again. And the irony of it all is that the person who inspired all this interest won in part to him seeming different.

If any of you reading this work in TV, feel free to email me.

The Cynical Ones.
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