“I would very much like to see some changes there,” ABC’s new-ish Entertainment chief Channing Dungey said at TCA this morning when asked about the ongoing lack of diversity among lead players on the network’s Bachelor franchise.
But, she indicated it won’t happen overnight, explaining that the biggest change, is the “need to increase the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning,” who, in competition success, could be elevated to Bachelor, or Bachelorette in a future editions. “That is something I really want to put some effort towards,” she said.
Asked why the network, in addition to that long-term investment, could not just pluck some minority male from somewhere else in the pop-culture landscape to be the next Bachelor, Dungey agreed ABC could, but noted, “the show has been very much in cycle, where the first runner-up becomes the lead in the next cycle and it has worked very well for us,” because that person is a pre-sold commodity for the show’s loyal viewers. “What we’d like to do is widen the pool.”
In January at TCA, her predecessor, Paul Lee said he would be, “very surprised if The Bachelorette in the summer isn’t diverse.” said Lee. And yet, this happened, though, in fairness, Bachelorette JoJo Fletcher is of Persian heritage, and her stable of 25 guys included a few men of color, with one getting the hook in the premiere episode.
Speaking of The Bachelor, in her first TCA Q&A as president of ABC Entertainment, Dungey this morning also got asked whether there had ever been an ABC exec-suite pow-wow about UnReal, Lifetime’s Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro co-created behind-the-scenes glimpse at production of a suspiciously Bachelor-ish dating competition program called Everlasting.
‘I don’t think there ever had been a full network conversation about UnReal,” she said, adding, “I enjoy watching it as a viewer. Think those two women are incredibly compelling.”
The Bachelor franchise, which includes The Bachelorette, does not have a good track record when it comes to diversity. It’s all the more notable because ABC has gotten high marks for minority casting elsewhere on its primetime schedule. After a dozen-ish years on the air, the story of the franchise’s dismal casting history in its combined title roles also included facing a class-action lawsuit for racial discrimination. Though a judge dismissed the 2012 class-action lawsuit, saying the shows had a First Amendment right to cast as they saw fit, the issue continued to loom sufficiently large in the pop-culture zeitgeist that it got the Saturday Night Live treatment about a year ago.