New York – With new shows like Black-ish and Jane the Virgin, programmers are beginning to better reflect diverse cultures and ethnicities in prime time, but there is still a danger that content intended to show how different people live and work can easily fall into stereotypes, according to a panel Thursday at the NYC TV Week conference here.
In a panel entitled “More Than Skin Deep: Diversity Programming,” moderated by Revolt TV executive vice president and head of programming and production Val Boreland, executives at several networks said programming is building on pioneering shows like The Cosby Show and are focusing on how African-American, Latino and to a lesser extent, Asian-American families live and work today.
TV One senior vice president of programming strategy & acquisitions Maureen Guthman said that while she was initially unimpressed with the premier episode of Black-ish – she said she thought it was a bit heavy-handed and in-authentic – she warmed up to later episodes that touched on more specific issues.
TruthCo. president and brand strategist Linda Ong said shows like Black-ish and others are representative of a growing trend in programming, developing shows that show different types of families for different types of families.
“It’s a great reflection of the more open culture we live in now,” Ong said, adding that her greatest fear concerning that show is that its popularity will spawn “40 other shows about black families that aren’t very good.”
And that can mean shows that rely on stereotypes to appeal to a broader audience.
NUVOtv senior vice president of programming Lynette Ramirez said some shows – she cited Cristela, an ABC show about a Latin-American law school graduate forced to work as an unpaid intern at a law firm – sometimes take the lower road.
“We are making progress,” Ramirez said. “But then I look at Cristela and I wonder. Particularly in the English-speaking Latino space; it seems that particular genre or point of view is a little bit further behind.”
The proliferation of content outlets is helping programmers, writers and producers break out of the generic mold, said Televisa USA chief creative officer Michael Garcia.
“The universe of TV and media platforms is getting so niched,” Garcia said. “You have the ability to have 40 or 50 networks buying original programming, the ability to make shows targeting more specific voices.”
Ong agreed, adding that while the conversation around race can be closely personal, audiences don’t want whitewashed programming.
“Audiences are against anything that is generic,” Ong said. “They want real voices.”