The 2020-21 television season is shaping up to be unprecedented.
Normally at this time of year, approximately three dozen new scripted shows have been announced across the Big Five broadcast networks, but this year as of press time there are only 13. Pilot production orders were already down this year, but the production shutdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic caused series orders to shrink further. While there are still shows in contention to be picked up, developed further or rolled over into next year’s cycle, the few series that did make the cut already are showing an overall increase in representation for women and people of color, both in front of the camera in leading roles, as well as behind-the-scenes as executive producers — with the exception of those on ABC and Fox: Those networks have made strides for women but have no people of color in executive producer roles, nor any men of color in leading roles.
Those 13 new series include 27 roles that Variety considers leading roles. Women make up 85.19% of those roles, and people of color make up 40.74%. Breaking that down further, the roles are comprised of 25.92% women of color and 14.81% men of color.
Behind-the-scenes, there are actually more women creators of these new series than men: 56.25% are women, with 18.75% being women of color. However, when considering everyone at the executive producer level, white men still dominate, making up 58.33% of those positions. Women make up 41.67% of the executive producers overall, with white women comprising 30% and women of color comprising 11.67%. Men of color make up 8.33% at the executive producer level.
Currently, Fox has the most leading roles for women on its live-action “Call Me Kat” and animated “Housebroken,” featuring 75% women leads, but it doesn’t fare as well for people of color: All four of the leading roles Variety identified have been cast with white actors. CBS follows closely behind with its trio of series “Clarice,” “B Positive” and “The Equalizer” with 85.71% women, 28.57% women of color. ABC and the CW also skew more female for its on-screen talent this year: The Alphabet has 66.67% women leads, with 16.67% women of color, while the CW, aided by “Kung Fu” and “Republic of Sarah,” has 58.33% women leads with 33.33% being women of color and 16.67% men of color. NBC trails behind with 25% women leads and 100% of those leads being white women.
When looking at men of color in leading roles this year, neither ABC nor Fox have any. NBC’s “Young Rock,” from and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, puts the Peacock on the map at all (25%) for men of color, while CW sees 16.67% and CBS sees 14.29%.
While there are more series regular roles on these 13 shows than the 27 Variety took into account here, these are the top billed positions and therefore the highest paid. Parity and inclusion are not only about the number of people filing high-profile and visible positions but also how they are treated within this positions.
The notable difference, in addition to the smaller amount of roles, this year is that since the pandemic shut down production before the majority of these pilots could film, some of them have also not been fully cast. As there is more movement on these projects in the next few months, there could be more inclusive casting to come.
Similarly, there will undoubtedly be additions to these shows at the executive producer level as showrunners are set.
For now, Fox also boasts the best numbers for women behind-the-scenes, with both of its new shows being developed by women and featuring 81.81% women at the executive producer level overall. Where Fox has not made strides toward inclusion with these shows, though, is in people of color: all of these new show executive producers and creators are white.
NBC’s new shows feature 66.66% female creators, with 33.33% being women of color. The overall executive producer pool consists of 33.33% women, with 16.66% being white women and 16.66% being women of color, while men of color make up 25%.
ABC shows consist of 50% male and 50% female creators with “Call Your Mother’s” Kari Lizer also serving as showrunner, but no people of color in the creator role. Looking at executive producers over all, the ratio is 83.33% white men to 16.66% white women (again no people of color).
New CBS shows come from 40% women creators (20% women of color creators) and feature 46.66% women executive producers overall. CBS also has women serving as showrunners on two of its three shows: Jenny Lumet and Elizabeth Klaviter on “Clarice” and Terri Miller on “The Equalizer.” CBS also fares better in representation of people of color in the executive producer role, with 26.67% women of color and 6.67% men of color at that level.
And finally, over at the CW women make up half of the showrunners (Christina Kim on “Kung Fu” and Anna Fricke on “Walker”) but only 31.25% of the executive producers overall. Twenty-five percent of the women creators are women of color, but out of all of the executive producers of the four new shows, only 6.25% are women of color. Men of color also make up 6.25% of the executive producers.
As always, these networks’ lineups also include returning series, and for at least one — the CW’s “Batwoman” — there will be a major casting change between seasons, as titular lead Ruby Rose exited the series after the first season wrapped. This year there have also been a number of key acquisitions, such as Spectrum Originals’ “L.A.’s Finest” airing its previously-aired season on Fox, in order to more fully flesh out the fall lineup. However, as these were developed elsewhere and earlier than in the past year, their stats are not included in the numbers in Variety‘s report above.