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‘Peak TV’ and the Continued Push for Rep

Peak TV and the continued push for representation has led to great new shows, diversity behind the scenes, and lead roles in 2018’s new pilots!  Shows like Vida and many of 2018’s pilots are representative of people who are rarely seen positively on TV. 

This year’s pilots are the most inclusive pilots we’ve ever seen and I’ll definitely be breaking that down next month for my last piece before Upfronts Mayhem! We’re already at 45% of shows with diversely led casts with a good chunk of shows without any leads yet. 

It’s been a long time coming for scripts with multiple characters with specific non-White ethnic backgrounds. Especially after last year’s 12% drop in diversely led shows from 2016 (73%). Last year had the least pilots and thus series orders since at least 2013. However, this year looks promising. 

The increase in characters from diverse backgrounds isn’t “diversity” for diversity’s sake or a way to gain press. Most of the 2018 pilot news I’ve seen indicates that writers just want their shows to look like the world we live in, which is what our media should be doing anyways! 

Peak TV

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf coined the term “Peak TV” in 2015 to describe the sheer number of shows available for us to watch. At the time, a record 422 scripted shows aired compared to 2010’s 216 scripted shows..That’s 44% of last year’s 487 shows available!

Of course, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are to blame for a large chunk of the increase with 117 streaming shows coming in, second to 153 broadcast. Though the term does not mean that right now we’ve got the best TV, I do think the last few years have given us many gems. Plus this year really does seem to have the highest percentage of diverse writers rooms, producers, cast, and crews as a whole. Especially in Broadcast TV, or at least since I started tallying shows for Upfronts six years ago. And cable is doing it too! 

Creative Cable

For example, Vida on STARZ is headed by Tanya Saracho, a queer Mexican born Chicagoan, an entirely Latinx writer’s room (half of whom are queer women), and all women of color or Latinx directors! Starz was incredibly supportive of Saracho (has a 3 year overall deal) and I’m super excited to see the show. 

Vida follows two Mexican-American sisters. Emma (Mishel Prada) and Lyn (Melissa Barrera) who return to their old Eastside of LA neighborhood after their mother’s death. Emma is shown kissing people of multiple genders in the trailer. She even states that she doesn’t identify as anything, she’s just her.

Plus, Ser Anzotegui portrays Eddie, who I assume is nonbinary just like Anzotegui. The show premieres May 6 on STARZ for a six episode first season and I’m incredibly excited to watch it.

However, it’s not just about the shows themselves!

FX

Another cable network that’s making great strides is actually FX. In 2017, only 44% of their 120 directors were white men, 16% were nonwhite. Of the women, only 4% were non-white. But FX actually followed through with their commitment to increasing diversity behind the camera. In 2016, 77% of their directors were white men. If the rest of their behind the scenes and on screen representation increases, FX would be one of the most diversely led cable networks.

Hopefully the Broadcast networks follow in FX’s footsteps, especially The CW and CBS which last year had the worst report for black writers. Obviously in January, Black Lightning premiered to the highest demo in years and is now an outlier for The CW. Though both networks are doing more for their on-screen rep both this TV season and for its 2018 pilots.

Midseason Premiere and Pilot Production

CBS like The CW premiered a show midseason. Instinct, starring Alan Cumming as a gay, married, ex-CIA, abnormal behavior professor. Cumming is the first ever first-billed gay series lead portraying a gay character on broadcast TV! Additionally, his and Adam’s relationship is relatable even though we know Dylan’s return to CIA style shenanigans will cause problems.

Relationship is especially important in one of the most interesting CBS pilots! History of Them from One Day at a Time executive producer Gloria Calderon-Kellet follows Ana Villafane’s Luna and Brett Dier’s Adam. Their love story is narrated using their social media by their daughter. There’s also Amit Shah, and Chris Powell as Adam’s roommates.

I’ve written at length about CBS’ problems with token POC and their inability to truly reflect our world so I’m particularly excited the network is finally hiring WOC and producing pilots by them!

Finally, there’s The CW’s Charmed reboot. I’m excited by the fact that one sister, Mel is a lesbian in a committed relationship. Unless the pilot tanks, I see no reason why the network wouldn’t pick up the show.

In the Peak TV era, networks need to diversify everything pertaining to their shows. From cast, crew, and writing rooms to their producers, directors, and network executives! When there’s almost 500 shows to choose from, I know I’m way more inclined to watch something that comes from and looks like the vast variety of people in the US and otherwise.


 

Author

  • Seher

    Seher is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals focusing on the ins and outs of broadcast TV. Representation on screen and behind the scenes are one of many specialties. Otherwise, she's reading away for her anthropology graduate program. pc: @poika_

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