New 2017-18 TV Shows Are Mostly White and Male

S.W.A.T., a new drama series inspired
Michael Yarish

The new crop of scripted broadcast series for 2017-18 season features low representation for women and people of color in the topmost roles both in front of and behind the camera. According to an analysis by Variety, white men make up a the majority of showrunners and lead actors on the new series ordered for the upcoming season.

Working with industry sources, Variety identified 46 lead and co-lead actor roles, and 42 showrunners and co-showrunners on the 39 new series ordered by the Big Five broadcasters for next season. Of the lead actors, only 20% were Hispanic or non-white, and only 35% were female. Of the showrunners, 10% were non-white or Hispanic and 29% were female.

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“It’s not a very encouraging analysis,” said Darnell Hunt, director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. “Given the fact that things currently have a long way to go, if what you’re looking forward to for the next season in many of the categories isn’t exceeding what’s already there, there’s little to no prospect for progress.”

New series do not account for the totality of each network’s diversity next season. Freshman shows will air alongside veterans such as ABC’s “Black-ish,” CBS’ “Superior Donuts,” The CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” Fox’s “Empire,” and NBC’s “The Carmichael Show,” which feature women and people of color in lead acting roles and as executive producers. But the rates of representation that Variety found for the new class are consistent with the broadcast norm. (For example, the most recent installment of the Bunche Center’s Hollywood diversity report, which looked in detail at the 2014-15 television season, found 11% representation for minorities in lead broadcast roles and 38% representation for women.)

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Looking ahead to next season’s freshmen, CBS, which has received ample criticism in recent years for an underrepresentation of onscreen minorities in lead roles in primetime, ranked lowest of all the broadcast networks in female showrunners, with 11%, and female lead actors, with 0. But the network fared slightly better in representation for racial and ethnic minorities, thanks to the drama “S.W.A.T.” starring Shemar Moore. The series’ creator, Aaron Thomas, is expected to split showrunning duties with fellow executive producer Shawn Ryan.

ABC, which has long touted its onscreen diversity as a selling point, ranked lowest in non-white/Hispanic lead actors at 9%, and was one of only two networks — the other being Fox — not to have a non-white or Hispanic producer handling the day-to-day running of a freshman show. ABC’s low marks are mitigated in part by representation on “For the People,” a broad ensemble featuring several non-white actors. ABC is in the process of recasting a lead role on the series that was played in the pilot by an African-American actress.

The network is still expected to outpace several competitors next season in terms of onscreen diversity.

Percentage representation in new 2017-18 scripted series

 

“ABC is interesting because currently their shows are quite diverse,” Hunt said. “I guess it stands to reason that their new shows might not be quite so diverse, because if you put all of their shows together, you’d see a much higher share of people of color.”

The CW was the most diverse network in all four categories measured — in some cases separated from its competitors by a wide gulf. The network boasted 33% non-white or Hispanic lead actors, followed by Fox (30%), NBC (18%), CBS (13%), and ABC (9%). It was one of two networks with a majority female lead-actor pool (67%), alongside NBC (55%). Fox (30%), ABC (27%), and CBS (0) trailed in female leads.

The husband-wife team of Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil on “Black Lightning” gave The CW a higher ranking than other networks in non-white or Hispanic showrunners. But the DC superhero drama is one of only three shows to be run by a non-white or Hispanic writer-producer. “S.W.A.T.” is another. NBC’s “Champions,” where Mindy Kaling is expected to shoulder showrunning duties with Charlie Grandy, is the third.

The CW was the only network to boast a majority of female showrunners at 67% — followed by ABC (33%), Fox (20%), NBC (20%), and CBS (11%).

Representation for 2017-18 will change as the season approaches, then begins. Several shows, such as Fox’s “911” and ABC’s untitled “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff, have yet to be staffed or cast. And additional scripted series may be picked up between now and the end of the season.

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  1. Erik says:

    This is great news!

  2. AmandaSue2 says:

    Well, OBVIOUSLY another protest march is in order… who’s the Hollywood “chosen one” that’ll lead it this time? C’mon guys, get those signs out!!

  3. Lisa says:

    White males watching white males and forcing others to watch white males. So phucken boring. It’s coming to the point where it’s almost a joke, if it wasn’t so effen boring.

  4. uber Blanco says:

    this is bull

  5. Kenya says:

    This is the kind of stuff that keeps racial tension around. Do you honestly think all these directors and producers got together with that goal in mind? Doubtful. Stop making everything about race!

    • Kayla says:

      I agree, I doubt they got together and decided to pick more of one race than the other. If the shows are good, who cares what race or sex the ppl in the show are. And if it bothers you, you can always just not watch the shows.

    • Lisa says:

      Umm, it’s not just about race. It’s about gender also. And of course they get together with that goal in mind. We’d be stupid to think otherwise. White males are the most selfish, self absorbed and self interested creatures on this earth! I know, I come from a family full of them. They’d throw their own under the bus just to feed their own egos.

  6. George Lewis says:

    I’d like to see more hot sexy female leads & supporting actresses. Unfortunately there are more female TV viewers so Hollywood caters to them with handsome males. Networks should understand that women are not AS visually oriented as men, so they should cater to the male audience.

    BULL needs an attractive lead supporting actress, & I hope they add Eliza Dusku for the coming season (she was in the last 3 episodes this season). Same for BLACKLIST that should add back Famke Janssen (from cancelled REDEMPTION).

    I don’t care what race actors are as long as they have class (not culturally ‘ghetto’ or ‘white trash’ types).

  7. Gary says:

    And only one gay. Alan Cumming. Get over it tons of ethnic diversity on TV. Not enough gays though

  8. Cate says:

    Very depressing but perhaps no surprise in Trump’s America??

  9. ... says:

    I’m loving how concerned (mostly white and male) TV critics are about racial and gender diversity but make zero mention of sexuality, especially after The Real O’Neals cancellation.

  10. CJB says:

    Really interesting. Agents and Managers all over town are telling their middle aged and older, white men they can’t even get them decent auditions.

  11. T0rchwood says:

    And if you’re Tim Allen, even having a top rated show isn’t good enough for ABC/Disney

  12. pickles says:

    I see colored people on every tv show.

  13. Haz says:

    Good God who cares? I watch shows to be entertained. I could care less if I see myself represented or not because it’s not that big of a deal!

  14. SPIKE says:

    WAKE UP YOU WHITE-HATING BOZOS. YOUR HEADLINE IS ACTUALLY RACIST!

    EARTH TO VARIETY ! EARTH TO VARIETY ! THIS IS A MOSTLY WHITE SOCIETY. THE MINORITIES ARE……..GUESS WHAT? IN THE MINORITY! GET IT? GET OVER IT. SO WHAT’S ON TV REFLECTS REALITY, NOT YOUR FANTASY BUBBLES OF HOW YOU WOULD LIKE REALITY TO BE.

    THIS IS, ALSO, IN TERMS OF SOCIAL STRUCTURE, A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY. GET OVER IT!

    ON THIS PLANET, THE MATRIARCHAL SOCIETIES STAYED SMALL (LIKE SOME SOUTH SEA ISLAND CULTURES) OR THEY DIDN’T SURVIVE AT ALL. IT’S JUST BIOLOGY! GET OVER IT!

    • Mary says:

      No, Spike it isn’t. Yelling and insulting the writer of this article and the people at Variety is not going to change the fact that it is NOT racist and you need to get over it and actually educate yourself on what racism is. Might start with a good look in your mirror.

      Who says liberals are looking for a matriarchal society? And no, we don’t need to “get over it” about patriarchal society. Men who react like you did show how fragile and weak you really are when you get all up in arms about pointing out disparities in society. You could learn a lot from men who take the criticism in stride and try to do better and be better. But your pride won’t let you will it.

      • carrie says:

        I agree with Spike. And I’m a woman and native American. Get over it peeps and focus on good entertainment.

  15. Robbie says:

    WAAAAAAAH!

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