Rick Porter at Zap2it writes about the relative lack of minority characters (again) on the 2009-10 schedule. He does so by looking at the percentage of lead actors who are minorities but the problem with current TV is not just a matter of percentages (which aren’t really that disproportionate). As Mo Ryan and others have pointed out, the cancellation of The Game and, more sadly, Everybody Hates Chris leaves TV almost devoid of shows that focus on African-American characters. The problem is not that TV isn’t colour-blind, but that it’s too colour-blind these days. The networks had many shows about black characters, particularly comedies, in the ’80s and ’90s — The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince, Family Matters, to name only some of the big hits. And though these shows started to disappear from the major networks in the late ’90s, the WB (Sister Sister, The Wayans Brothers) and especially UPN filled the gap. Now UPN is gone, all its shows are gone, and black shows are pretty much gone.
However, even though the lead character of The Cleveland Show is voiced by a white guy, the show, as befits Seth MacFarlane’s obsession with the TV of his youth, seems like a sort of tribute to the black sitcoms of the ’70s and ’80s.
The disappearance of African-American shows may also account for some of the Cosby Show nostalgia I noted in an earlier post.