Quotable Quote of the Month

What does it take for Republicans to take off the flag pin and say, 'I am just too embarrassed to be on this team'?".- Bill Maher

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

EW Article: The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Black TV

In the May 20th 2011 issue of Entertainment Weekly, there was an excellent article by Jennifer Armstrong titled "The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Black TV". Because I feel it's required reading for anyone who follows pop culture, I wanted to share it with you. Here it is:

Entertainment Weekly — Two years ago broadcast TV officially got out of the African-American sitcom business. The CW canceled the long-running Girlfriends in 2008, and the following year it yanked both Everybody Hates Chris and The Girlfriends spin off, The Game– also known as the last two successful black-eccentric shows on network television. ••►But today something is saving black TV from becoming as outmoded as Bill Cosby’s acrylic sweaters: basic cable, where scripted programming is experiencing explosive growth. In January, BET revived The Game to a record-breaking 7.7 million viewers–which is three times the audience it got on The CW and, in fact, twice the size of anything on the teen-skewing network now. (Sorry Gossip Girl.) The success of The Game and BET’s Queen Latifah produced romantic comedy Let’s Stay Together, which also premiered in January, has spurred the network to develop Reed Between the Lines, a new fall sitcom starring Girlfriends Tracy Ellis Ross and The Cosby’s Show’s Malcolm-Jamal Warner. Meanwhile, VH1 has joined up with Queen Latifah, who will be exec-producing its new dramedy Single Ladies (debuting in May 30), starring Clueless’ Stacy Dash.

In reality, this new generation of African-American-focused scripted TV can be traced to TBS’ success in 2007 when it acquired House of Payne from the proven brand of Tyler Perry. (Some 222 episodes later, the network recently announced it would be ending Payne but staying in the Perry business with For Better or Worse, an adaptation of his film Why Did I Get Married?) The reason for the big ratings and latest development rush is simple: pent-up demand. “I’ve had plenty of people say to me that it’s great to see something on TV that represents them”, says Jacque Edmonds-Cofer, exec producer of Let’s Stay Together”. “It’s also important for people to see that every African American woman is not a Real Housewife”. Adds VH1′s exec VP of original programming, Jeff Olde, “I think our shows should reflect the country we’re living in– go, Barack and Michelle! We’re thrilled that we have a large number of African-American women who watch us, and quite frankly, we’re always looking for new stories to tell.

Both BET and VH1 set their programming in response to direct viewer demands. BET first ran The Game in reruns, which sparked an onslaught of fans begging for the network to revive the show. VH1 initially shot Single Ladies as a TV movie, but market testing on the project garnered a “crazy ridiculous response,” Olde says. “[The marketers] SAID, ‘Not only do they want you to make this a series but the audience will actually be mad at you if they don’t see where these characters go next’.”

The ratings for the black-centric shows that have already premiered bear this out. Let’s Stay Together debuted in January to 4.4 million viewers, and Perry’s shows consistently hover near the 3 million mark. Even the competition has taken notice of The Game’s blockbuster debut: “Those numbers were wildly impressive to everybody,” says Michael Wright, TBS’ head of programming. “We’ve done really, really well with Tyler’s shows, but [The Game] surpassed even Tyler's ratings. That premiere number should've made everyone think, "that's a rating anyone would be happy to have.'"

So far, the broadcast networks have yet to act on the trend. While ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW have made progress the past few seasons when it comes to casting diverse ensembles, the selection of shows in the pipeline for this fall once again lacks series with predominantly African American (or Latino or Asian) casts. “The world on television should look like the world I see when I walk outside my door,” says Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, developing of the fall season’s strongest contenders with a black lead, ABC’s Damage Control starring Kerry Washington as PR guru. And Queen Latifah, who starred for five seasons on Fox’s Living Single, sees African-American series as a way to represent a point of view sorely missing on television: “People live in bubbles and they perpetuate racism and classism. There’s still plenty of places they can go [on TV] that are as un-diverse as they could possibly be,” says the Ladies producer. “It’s just something that’s going to be a continuing fight, to try to keep making these things happen.”

Regardless of why the networks program for black audiences, viewers are clearly hungry for these shows: Not only are the few shoes doing well, reruns of long-cancelled series like My Wife and Kids and Everybody Hates Chris still top cable charts among African-American viewers. Says Charlie Jordan Brookins, senior vice president of programming for BET: “We’re not necessarily trying to say this is the new frontier. We’[re trying to super-serve an audience who has been underserved." Adds Malcolm-Jamal Warner, "The black viewership is important. Black shows do make money. It seems like a no brainer.

[Entertainment Weekly Columnist: Jennifer Armstrong; Additional reporting by Archana Ram and Tim Stack]

What are your thoughts on the article and the current state of diversity (or lack of it) in regards to scripted TV? Also, Jennifer Armstrong is also one of the co-founders of the site The Sexy Feminist.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fox "News" Once Again Exhibits Common Nonsense

The Fox "News" Channel's decision to make a big deal over the recent White House performance by rapper Common is the latest example of the lengths they and the rest of the right-wing media will go to in order to smear President Obama. The killing of Osama Bin Laden was a huge victory for the Obama administration. Since the "Obama is weak on terror" meme isn't likely to fly with most people, Fox has chosen to milk the Common controversy (started by The Daily Caller) in an effort to paint the president as an angry black radical intent on harming America.

Their rationale for why Common shouldn't have been invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to recite poetry at the White House falls to pieces when you look at some of the individuals who've previously been honored and/or received invitations from presidents.

Fox cited Common's spoken word poem from a few years ago ("A Letter to the Law") which includes the following line:

Burn a Bush cuz for peace he no push no but-ton. Killing over oil and grease, no weapons of destruc-tion.

According to Fox and others on the right, this line is a call to kill then-President Bush. Come on, seriously?! Take a listen to the entire piece and judge for yourself whether or not it was cause for Common not to be invited to the White House:

If violent lyrics are such a problem with the right-wing, why wasn't there an outcry when Johnny Cash (who was known for lyrics that feature violent imagery) was honored by then-President George W. Bush in 2002?  Also, in March 1991, gangsta rapper Eazy-E (a member of N.W.A.) accepted an invitation to a lunch benefiting the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle, hosted by then-President George H. W. Bush. Although Fox wasn't around to pollute the airwaves during Bush 41's administration, do you really think they would have given him the "Obama treatment" for inviting Eazy-E to the lunch benefitting the RSIC?

Fox has also accused Common of writing a song which praises a cop killer. However, this is a blatant distortion. There are many who feel the accused cop killer (Assata Shakur) is innocent. Although Bill O'Reilly claims Common has no idea what happened, the rapper was inspired to write "A Song for Assata" after visiting her in Cuba (where she has lived as a political exile since 1984). In addition to detailing the improbability that Shakur could have killed the police officer, the lyrics to "A Song for Assata" also recounts the treatment she received by law enforcement officials and hospital employees, her experience in prison and her eventual escape. Here is a link to the lyrics of "A Song for Assata".

Where was Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine when Bob Dylan performed at The White House in February 2010 at the request of President Obama? If you are wondering about the Bob Dylan reference, please note that one of his most famous songs (1975's "Hurricane") is a protest tune in defense of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (who was convicted in 1967 of a triple homicide which occurred the previous year). Other than the fact that Carter was freed without bail in November 1985,  his case is similar to that of Shakur's: they are both people who many feel were wrongly convicted of murder.  Apparently, it's easier to smear a black mainstream rapper that the average Fox viewer knows little to nothing about than it is a white rock-n-roll icon.

This latest attempt by the right-wing (with Fox "News" being the ring leader) to portray President Obama as a menace to society due to Common's White House invite is not only weak, but has the ugly stain of racism as well. It shows they are getting increasingly desperate as 2012 approaches.

Just to be clear, I have no issue with the previous presidential honors/invitations of Eazy-E, Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan.

Below, Jon Stewart gives his hilarious take on the ridiculousness that is Fox "News":

Monday, May 9, 2011

Martin Bashir and Andrew Breitbart Go Head-to-Head

Although MSNBC host Martin Bashir's interview of conservative blogger/author Andrew Breitbart took place late last month, I still wanted to share it with you in case you missed it when it first aired like I did. The tough questions by Bashir had Breitbart ducking, dodging, and running for cover. Now this is how you interview someone who's a proven liar with highly questionable journalist ethics. Bashir's handling of Breitbart was the antithesis of his MSNBC colleague Dylan Ratigan, who just a day earlier lobbed softball after softball at the Tea Party darling.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sally Kern Questions the Study Habits of Black People

And the hits keep right on coming! On April 27, 2011, while debating in favor of SJR 15, a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate Affirmative Action in Oklahoma, Rep. Sally Kern (a Republican member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives) said the following:

"We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them."

In the clip below Michael Shure of The Young Turks gives his take on Kern's recent comments:

In just the past couple of years, Republicans have made several missteps in regards to race issues. Although some of these stories have been covered here at Diversity Ink, frankly it's been hard to keep up. Whenever Republicans/conservatives cite examples of racism within the Democratic party, they often have to go back in time to prove their case. For example:
  • Quotes by Thomas Jefferson (I once asked a conservative blogger to explain the inconsistency of touting the values of Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers while also using a Jefferson quote as proof of racism within the Democratic party. I never got an answer)
  • The late Robert Byrd (the Democratic Senator from West Virginia) was a member of the KKK when he was young. 
  • The fact that it was a Republican president who abolished slavery. Of course, what they fail to acknowledge is that the Republican party of the Lincoln era was considered liberal/progressive as opposed to the Democrats during that period. It wasn't until much later that the two parties switched ideologies.
On the other hand, if a Democrat/liberal wants to look for examples of racism on the Republican side, all they need to do is follow current events. If there happens to be a dry spell and a couple of weeks go by without any racially offensive comments by a Republican such as the ones made by Rep. Sally Kern, just wait. Bill Maher said the following in 2010 and I agree with him:

"I would never say and I have never said, because it's not true that Republicans, all Republicans are racists. That would be silly and wrong. But nowadays, if you are racist, you're probably a Republican."