YAY TV 2015

All the books we’ve been discussing are A+ and would recommend (or would really not recommend, depending on the post) but for once we are going to discuss my great, forever love: TV SHOWS.

I was raised in a fairly strict household as a kid. We had no cable until I was mostly through middle school and, up until then, my brother and I were allowed one hour of television per day. This could have turned me into a person who has little interest in the latest daily entertainment. I am sure that is what my parents would have wanted for me. Luckily, I became an avid viewer instead.

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I am a devourer of stories in all forms, music videos to movies. Books are my first love, and the world of wordplay will always enchant me. But nothing can tell a story the way a TV series can. F

(I can already hear Chebk coming at me with the Kushiel series.) Powers-that-be willing, characters can go through not only multiple but elongated arcs over years and large casts are more readily handled thanks to visuals: LOST, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Game of Thrones.

TV is also a pretty good gauge of media representation trends. Movies, with their big budgets, aren’t willing to take a risk on diversity, even with steps as small as female leads (still waiting on that Black Widow movie, Marvel…) As stated before, even readers easily ignore diversity cues in books. TV shows are more willing to take risks on diverse casts and with actual visual representations, it’s easier to actually represent diverse characters (which is not to say that all representations are made well or equal).

Lucy Liu in Elementary, Korra from Legend of Korra, and Kerry Washington in Scandal.
Lucy Liu in Elementary, Korra from Legend of Korra, and Kerry Washington in Scandal.

Arguably, the storylines on television are getting stronger and more original as movie content sticks to safe formulas and predictable plots and character tropes: More PoC leads and storylines on network television, as seen with Kerry Washington in Scandal, Lucy Liu in Elementary, and even in children’s animated shows, such as Nickelodeon’s Legend of Korra. Complex representation of PoC, women, LGBTQ, and some disabilities (e.g. Switched at Birth has a deaf lead and most characters sign in ASL throughout the drama). It’s clear to see that at least some of the big networks are making pushes for diverse representation, (and benefitting from higher viewerships).

Here are some TV diversity triumphs to celebrate this new year:

 

  • How to Get Away with Murder returns tomorrow night (Jan. 29).murder
    With Shonda Rhimes as executive producer for the show, it was pretty guaranteed to share the same soapy melodramatics as Grey’s Anatomy. The crazy geometric love complications and relationships can be off-putting, but let’s focus on the good stuff: Viola Davis as HBIC. That guy that played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films as the show’s protagonist. A prominent gay relationship that got the most sex scenes in the first half of the season. Lots of complicated, often unlikeable, but nonetheless interesting and brilliant female characters. And also Liza Weil as a character named, I shit you not, Bonnie Winterbottom.

    The show’s creator is a gay man, it’s executive producer a woman of color, and its characters diverse across race and sexuality. That’s a goddamn miracle. Now if only Game of Thrones could get on board with casting PoC as people other than savages and slaves…



  • ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat sitcom premieres in February. Based off of Eddie Huang’s memoir, this show marks the first Asian American sitcom since 1994. WHAT. (In case you were wondering, that show was Margaret Cho’s All American Girl which lasted…one season.)This show is already off to a shaky start after advertising its original name as Far East Orlando. Yikes. A Twitter campaign changed that, which is awesome, but I’m worried about the content being handled by non-PoC and turning into a Big Bang Theory-esque mockery of Asian culture. We shall see.
  • Nickelodeon’s Legend of Korra ended their show with a confirmed romantic relationship between protagonist Korra and her very female best friend, Asami. This is a first for the network and for children’s shows in general (sadly we are not counting Sailor Moon for turning their lesbian couple into “very close cousins.” Never forgive, never forget.)The slow-burn arc between the two girls led to much fandom speculation, but no one was expecting an outright confirmation of an actual romance. The series finale may have been slightly ambiguous (there’s only so much a children’s show can push for now, I suppose, i.e. no kiss) but both co-creators released statements to make clear that they intended to represent both Korra and Asami in a romantic LGBTQ relationship.  And that’s a lot.

  • Lastly, I’d like to add that even reality shows are doing better with diverse casts:  Top Chef’s current Top 3 contestants? All PoC. And two are queer.
    L-R: Melissa, Mei, Gregory. Ignore George on the end there. He was eliminated. (Though he may come back...)
    L-R: Melissa, Mei, Gregory. Ignore George on the end there. He was eliminated. (Though he may come back…)

    Holy shit. This is unprecedented, especially considering that only two women have secured the title of Top Chef in eleven seasons. Recent winner Kristen Kish also came out as queer, which is awesome.

    It may seem like reality show diversity doesn’t count as much, but I can assure you it does. Last season of Top Chef had two WoC in the top three (Nina Compton and Shirley Chung), both whom lost to white, male Nicholas — and the Internet raged. I’m sure he was an adequate cook, but the other two outperformed him all season. The Bravo poll during the finale showed 82% were expecting Nina to prevail.

 

 


The point is, PoC and others with diversity exist. It’s time more producers and audiences began recognizing it on a grander scale, but that’s not to say that changes are not being made. I’m excited for a whole new year of TV (although, Sleepy Hollow, get it together).

What shows are you looking forward to this year? Got any diversity recs for me or Chebk? Leave us a comment! We’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Chebk will be back tomorrow to announce our book giveaway winner. DON’T FORGET TO ENTER!

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