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Black & white TV


Without UPN and the WB, there will be less color on the air
May 17, 2006
As the new CW network prepares to unveil its fall lineup Thursday, the way in which African-Americans are portrayed on TV hangs in the balance. The fledgling network, formed by the merger of the struggling WB and UPN broadcast operations, is expected to announce a fall season aimed at young viewers and anchored by series such as WB's "Gilmore Girls" and UPN's "Veronica Mars."

Unlikely to be on the roster, say industry insiders, are most of UPN's eight African-American sitcoms, including shows such as "One on One" and "Half & Half," that now dominate the network's prime-time viewing hours on Monday and Thursday evenings.

Executives at CW declined to comment, except to say their fall schedule will be revealed Thursday in New York to advertisers. The new lineup will include the shows that exhibit the widest appeal among young viewers and thus command top advertising dollars. None of the eight UPN shows under review, though popular with African-American viewers, has achieved the kind of crossover hit status that ensures high rates.

"The only one we're sure of (finding a home on CW) is 'Everybody Hates Chris,'" said Rose Catherine Pinkney, executive vice president for programming at TV One, a cable channel targeting African-American viewers that is currently negotiating for the right to air reruns of some of the canceled shows next fall. Pinkney, whose cable channel is seen in 30.1 million homes, adds: "One or two other (African-American) sitcoms might get picked up (by CW), but most of them won't - and it's definitely going to make a difference for African-Americans onscreen and off." While series such as UPN's "One on One," starring Flex Alexander as a Baltimore sportscaster and single father, or "Half & Half," featuring Rachel True and Essence Atkins as twentysomething half-sisters, never achieved overall hit status, they nevertheless found a loyal following among millions of African Americans.

The numbers are revealing: Though UPN's "One on One" is the 170th most popular show among all network television viewers, it is tied for 9th among black viewers.

"Half & Half" is ranked 167th among weekly series in overall network viewership, and is the seventh most popular show with black viewers. Those viewers might not get another chance to see the shows - except in reruns.

" 'One on One' - that's my show," said Shadae Swan, a 19-year-old communications major at Goucher College. "They can't take it off! UPN and WB are the only two channels showing multiple African-American programs that have a new season each year. I don't think I will be watching the new CW if they cancel my shows."

In the past decade, UPN has been both praised and criticized for presenting whole nights of shows featuring predominantly black casts and aimed primarily at black viewers. Depending upon one's point of view, such scheduling either created programming "ghettoes" or provided some much-needed diversity to the overwhelmingly white prime-time network landscape.

"For the black audience, something will be missing with the cancellation of such shows," said Donald Bogle, New York University professor and author of "Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television."

"Even with the distortion in some of these sitcoms, audiences could still go and see some semblance of an African-American community - as well as African-American cultural references. And that would be terrible if it just goes away."

While calling the creation of the new network a sound business move, African-American industry executives and members of the Hollywood creative community express concern that the merger will mean fewer opportunities for young African-American professionals hoping to break into television. (The CW network will be carried on 16 Tribune Broadcasting stations. The Tribune Company also owns the Baltimore Sun and the Daily Press.)

Indeed actors and comedians ranging from Jamie Foxx, Steve Harvey and Mo'Nique and writers and producers like Jacque Edmonds ("Moesha") and Eunetta T. Boone ("The Parkers"), jump-started their careers on the WB and UPN.

"If the world were an equal place, and all these writers, actors, directors and interns would be considered equally for all the other opportunities that might abound, then it would fine," said Pinkney who helped nurture several of the at-risk UPN sitcoms in her previous job as senior vice president of comedy development at Paramount Network Television. "But history has shown that's not always the way it works in Hollywood."

UPN's current Monday night lineup includes, in addition to "Half & Half" and "One on One," "Girlfriends," a sitcom about four professional women, and "All of Us," a series inspired by the home life of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and produced by the Smiths.

On Thursday nights, UPN offers "Cuts," a comedic look at a fictional Baltimore barbershop, and "Eve," a sitcom named after the hip-hop artist who stars as a young fashion designer in it.

The evening's lineup also includes "Love, Inc.," a comedy starring Holly Robinson Peete as the head of a dating agency, and Chris Rock's "Everybody Hates Chris," an ode to the popular comedian's childhood that is the network's most successful crossover sitcom (finishing 146 overall, fifth among African-American households in its first season).

Beyond "Chris," which is considered a shoo-in for CW's lineup, Hollywood insiders point to two long shots among the eight sitcoms: "All of Us" and "Girlfriends." The former has a chance because CBS and Warner Brothers, which share ownership of CW, would like to avoid alienating the superstar Smiths. The latter is given an outside chance of renewal because, though ranked only 165th overall, its audience is primarily young and female. (Supermodel Tyra Bank's reality show, "America's Next Top Model," is also likely to make the cut.)

To minimize potential public relations fallout, CW could renew one or both of the sitcoms, but sign on for a "short order" of only six episodes. Such a move would allow for a quiet cancellation next November or December, analysts say.

Though the merger shines a spotlight on CW, the need for greater diversity on television is widespread - despite repeated promises in recent years from all the networks to remedy the situation.

"A lot of attention is being paid to one network and handful of shows, but there are some industry-wide issues still to be addressed," said Emerson Coleman, vice president of programming for Hearst-Argyle Broadcasting and co-chair of the National Association of Program Executives.

Another series in jeopardy of being canceled is Fox's "Bernie Mac" - one of the few network shows beyond UPN that deals with black family life. (Fox is scheduled to announce its fall lineup on Friday.)

"The shows are visible to everyone, and there's always a reaction when a favorite show goes away. But you won't find better representation on the screen until there's better representation behind the screen," Coleman says.

The 2006 Diversity Report by the Directors Guild of America offers a glimpse into the state of ethnic representation at the networks. After examining all episodes of last season's top 40 network dramas and sitcoms, the guild found that 83 percent of the shows were directed by white males, 10 percent by white females, 5 percent by minority males, and 2 percent by minority females.

"For the fifth year in a row, the report reveals that that producers and networks have made little or no change in their hiring of women and minority directors," Michael Apted, president of the DGA, said in a statement issued with the report last month.

For two decades, Charles Dutton, an Emmy-Award-winning actor and director, has worked to make network TV more representative of American life. From 1991 to 1994, he created, starred in and served as executive producer of "Roc," a critically acclaimed Fox sitcom about a sanitation worker. In 2000, he directed the Peabody-Award-winning HBO miniseries, "The Corner," which told the story of a Baltimore family's struggle to escape the world of drugs.

"Some of those studios, you walk through, and you think you're in 1955 South Africa," Dutton said of Hollywood today. "Some of them you walk through - I won't name them - and you say, 'Well, damn.' "

Though not a fan of many of UPN's sitcoms, Dutton says canceling so much of the programming aimed at African-Americans - without offering the audience an improved alternative - is problematic. Describing some of the UPN shows as "just bad," he said that they were based on an "an old-fashioned sitcom style that served a certain market, in my opinion, in a very kind of low-brow way."

Nonetheless, he adds, "If you are going to clean house with these shows and wipe out all the onscreen time and job opportunities, then you find new, fresh, black writers and producers and urge them to come up with something that's exciting, different, bold, daring adventurous - even on the edge."

Were that to happen, the loss of UPN's shows might become a catalyst for real change, suggests Pinkney.

"As wonderful as it was to have a place where you could go and find a lot of African-American programming, UPN often took the other networks off the hook. When you looked at the numbers (on minority representation) from the Directors Guild or the Screen Actors' Guild, they looked OK," she says.

"But when you took UPN and its shows out of the numbers, they didn't look so good at all. And that's what we're starting to see. Things are changing throughout the television industry, and, unfortunately, one of the big changes is the loss of a lot of African-American programs that a lot of people depended on. That's very sad."

FYI, here's the new CW Sunday lineup (or the "let's not piss off the Negroes by cancelling all the Black shows...yet" night):

Sunday: "Everybody Hates Chris," "All of Us," "Girlfriends," "The Game" "America's Next Top Model" repeats

Half&Half, One on One, Cuts, Love, Inc., Eve, etc. all get the ax.


( 54 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 19th, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC)

Think only POC comedies have it hard? Look at what ELSE the CW passed on:


yeeeah, man.
May. 19th, 2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
I was pissed when I found out they passed on that. CW could easily get Passions fans just because of Justin.
May. 19th, 2006 04:38 pm (UTC)
*sigh* I saw the line-up yesterday and was NOT pleased. smh@Sunday being "Black Night."

I have a confession to make: I liked "Half and Half." But only because of Telma Hopkins and Valerie Pettiford. They *made* the show.

WHO the HELL are these "7th Heaven" fans?! Are these the same folks who made Chamillionaire go platinum? I need to know.
May. 19th, 2006 04:44 pm (UTC)
WHO the HELL are these "7th Heaven" fans?!
That's what I said! A show that was headed for the bin is resurrected while our shows get the can.
(no subject) - melaninjitsu - May. 19th, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sprorion - May. 19th, 2006 04:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - melaninjitsu - May. 19th, 2006 04:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kittylarock - May. 19th, 2006 05:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ktempest - May. 19th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - intlpopstar - May. 19th, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - littleeva - May. 19th, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 19th, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
*raises hand*

7th Heaven is the only show besides Boston Legal with Star Trek actors on it. The parents were both in Trek movies. I've watched the show QUITE a few times. It's how I kept up with whitey culture. I honestly now believe that white people can't raise their kids and wilol take in whatever stray that comes their way so long as they go to church. This is all based on 7th Heaven.

I liked the idea of Rachel True in a weekly series, but the other sister was always too goofy for me. And Rachel has been rocking one hairstayle since "The Craft".
(no subject) - sprorion - May. 19th, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ktempest - May. 19th, 2006 06:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - speedychi - May. 20th, 2006 12:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 19th, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC)
there is no shame in my game. i've been an unabashed half and half fan myself for the past year or so. i don't know what took me so long to discover that show! it's cute, the mothers are hilarious, and i liked the gay filipino receptionist. and damn i'm sayin...any tv show that can resurrect mc lyte is alright by me.
(no subject) - blaquerose - May. 19th, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 19th, 2006 05:41 pm (UTC)
only because of Telma Hopkins and Valerie Pettiford.

May. 19th, 2006 06:19 pm (UTC)
I liked "Half and Half" too. Those women wear some very nice outfits. How could they cancel the show before letting us know who Mona chose!
(no subject) - kittylarock - May. 20th, 2006 12:11 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 19th, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC)
i hate to admit it....
but I will miss CUTS.

There, i said it!
May. 19th, 2006 05:15 pm (UTC)
Re: i hate to admit it....


Re: i hate to admit it.... - mizcrank - May. 19th, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
*shudders* - deedee_dancer - May. 19th, 2006 05:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: *shudders* - kittylarock - May. 20th, 2006 12:14 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: i hate to admit it.... - stuberyl - May. 19th, 2006 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: i hate to admit it.... - neonix25 - May. 19th, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: i hate to admit it.... - mizcrank - May. 19th, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Yeah... - thewayoftheid - May. 19th, 2006 08:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Yeah... - mizcrank - May. 19th, 2006 08:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - mizcrank - May. 19th, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - animeg3282 - May. 19th, 2006 10:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 19th, 2006 05:49 pm (UTC)
and then they'll blame ratings...
May. 20th, 2006 12:10 pm (UTC)
so now im gonna have to choose between the simpsons and everybody hates chris?? its bad enough that i had to choose between desperate housewives and family guy!
why does god hate me???

oh, and top model - speedychi - May. 20th, 2006 12:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yogaclass4cats - May. 20th, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sprorion - May. 21st, 2006 01:43 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 19th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)
Well, that trully sucks!
May. 19th, 2006 05:41 pm (UTC)

Ughhhhhhhhh makes me hate white people even more today. My boss included. I need to run my own shit!!!!! I AM SO MAD TODAY.

May. 19th, 2006 06:13 pm (UTC)
You know, I can't say I'll be sad to see this happen. While having more shows with POC in them in good, I can't stand most of the shows featuring POCs on UPN or WB or anywhere else. They all just seem so... offensive and stereotypical to me. But then, I've not watched them ALL. I tend to assume whatever is on UPN is crap, and every now and then I'll catch 5 minutes of a show and my assumptions are confirmed. the only show written by and starring black folks I ever watch is The Boondocks.

I feel like there's shouldn't be a trade-off between quantity and quality. While I don't advocate only having 'positive role models' on TV, I still feel like the stuff I generally see isn't well-written and does more harm than good.
May. 19th, 2006 06:32 pm (UTC)
Honestly, the only show I'm sad to see go will be Half and Half.

one on One needed to go- I mean, Hello? Ray J? If UPN had lasted, they would have gotten cancelled anyway. And who gives a fuck about Eve any gotdamn way.

But thats fucked up as hell that all the black shows has to compete against Fox Sunday lineup... really fucked up when through the whole week all the other WB shows are wack as fuck (like that dumbass "Supernatural" show trying to be Buffy... they ain't Buffy!)
May. 19th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
(like that dumbass "Supernatural" show trying to be Buffy... they ain't Buffy!)

Word. Hell, seasons 6 & 7 of Buffy wasn't even Buffy. Shoo.
May. 19th, 2006 08:55 pm (UTC)
WHY is Ray J on One on One?! Explain that shit to me? How do you trade Spirit, Flex and the goofy neighbor for RAY J?

May. 19th, 2006 07:14 pm (UTC)
The eternal question: is it better to have shows that suck than no shows at all?

Somebody needs to turn blackfolk into a sitcom.
May. 19th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC)
I'll write. Who wants to produce, direct and star?
We need some cameramen and gaffers :)
(no subject) - cumaeansibyl - May. 19th, 2006 07:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mizcrank - May. 19th, 2006 07:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - yogaclass4cats - May. 20th, 2006 01:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - sprorion - May. 20th, 2006 04:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mizcrank - May. 19th, 2006 07:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 19th, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC)
I can't believe they renewed All of Us instead of Half and Half. All of Us was awful this year.
May. 20th, 2006 04:20 am (UTC)
Hey, when the show is backed by Will and Jada, it won't go anywhere.
May. 20th, 2006 04:10 am (UTC)
I think Girlfriends could get a large following if it got good press and a good time slot on a good channel. I would be really sad to see it go.
( 54 comments — Leave a comment )



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