The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) has released report cards to the four major TV networks in regards to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) representation for their 2017-2018 TV season. Long story short: three of them passed and one of them totally bombed.
The report cards were appropriately released on the first day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and it is a great way to take stock of the status of Hollywood’s glacial-paced move to being more inclusive. In this case, the APAMC sheds light on the AAPI community, grading the four major TV networks on their progress toward full inclusion in scripted and unscripted programming, writers/producers, directors, development, commitment to diversity initiatives, and the new category of Diversity Department Relationship with the Coalition.
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“Asian Americans have been increasingly represented in network television over the past few years, but there remain many opportunities to be seized,” notes APAMC Chair Daniel M. Mayeda. “One need only observe the success of API-led shows on other platforms (e.g., Crazy Rich Asians, Killing Eve, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) to realize that the public, Asian and non-Asian alike, is eager to consume new stories and enjoy new talent featuring Asian Americans. We look forward to continuing to work with the networks to elevate the presence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, both in front of and behind the cameras.”
ABC was head of the class receiving an overall grade of B for the second year in a row, riding high on the strength of 24 AAPI regulars and 27 recurring. In addition to the AAPI sitcom touchstone Fresh Off the Boat, the current season of TV featured more AAPI series regulars including Melissa O’Neil in The Rookie, Grace Park in A Million Little Things and Jake Choi in Single Parents.
On the scripted side, ABC scored an A- and on the unscripted side, a C. It still remains the highest ever overall grade awarded to a network since APAMC began assessing the networks’ progress some 17 television seasons ago (NBC also received a B for the 2010-11 season).
Not too far behind ABC was CBS which matched last season’s overall grade of B-. The network saw an increase from 16 to 21 AAPI series regulars, but minimum screentime brought its grade down to a B-. With Magnum P.I. and Hawaii 5-0, set on the Hawaiian islands, the network manages to use AAPI characters for authenticity. With the former, we saw series regulars in Tim Kang and Amy Hill. They join Kunal Nayyar in CBS fave Big Bang Theory when it comes to AAPI representation. The latest TV season includes Suraj Sharma in God Friended Me and Nik Dodani in the Murphy Brown revival.
The network improved in hiring more unique AAPI directors to handle more episodes. CBS received top marks for Development but slid from a B+ to a B in this department. CBS’ Writers/Producers increased from 15 to 17 improving from a C to a C+ but that still places last among the networks — other than Fox. CBS slid in unscripted grade, going from C to C-. They were graded a B for Commitment to Diversity Initiatives and for Diversity Department Relations.
NBC saw a slight drop in grade from last year, going from a C+ to C. It maintained 11 AAPI series regulars but the number of recurring actors was cut in half. According to the APAMC, NBC’s writers/producers grade improved slightly and development remained the same, but the network fell in every other category for 2017-18 and rated lowest in its Diversity Department’s relationship with the Coalition. It slipped in unscripted AAPI inclusion and the network continues to not provide data on non-celebrity contestants for its reality/competition shows. Writers/producers improved slightly from 20 to 21 because the series Champions boasted Mindy Kaling as its showrunner. Nine APIs directed 10 episodes, down from 8 and 18 in the 2016-2017 season, which led to its directors grade slipping from B- to C. Due in part to AAPIs in the Diverse Staff Writers Initiative dropping markedly from 45% to 18%, NBC’s Commitment to the Diversity initiatives grade fell.
On a brighter note, NBC has a fair share of AAPI characters with Nico Santos on Superstore as well as Jameela Jamil and Manny Jacinto on The Good Place. The latest TV season featured Sarayu Blue, Madhur Jaffrey and Brian George on I Feel Bad, which wrapped its 13-episode freshman run with no renewal in sight. Other AAPI actors on NBC include Parveen Kaur on Manifest and Anupam Kher on New Amsterdam.
As for Fox, it received an F/Incomplete for failing to comply with its obligations to provide data or meet with the Coalition. Last year, it received an Incomplete without an F because it provided a partial data set at the last minute.
“The Coalition is very disappointed that Fox once again has violated its commitment to provide data on its diversity efforts and results,” Mayeda said. “We call on the new leadership of the Fox broadcasting network to quickly come into compliance with its MOU so that the Coalition can work with them to increase API presence in Fox’s programming.”
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