jj abrams

TV Show Fades to Black, then Fades

When JJ Abram’s hour-long drama, “Sexy Sexy Black People” Undercovers showed up in the TV listings, I was super worried. A show with Oreo-esque leads might lead to other TV shows to feature layered characters of color and then how would I stand out??

But my fears were allayed with NBC announced they were canceling it.

Writing for The Root, Marcus Vanderberg mentions that Undercovers had a lot of challenges–including untested acting talent, weak scripts and a poor time slot.

Another problem:

Black viewers, who many might have guessed would rally behind the show, never embraced it. Undercovers only cracked the top 10 on Target Market News‘ list of the top 25 broadcast shows in black households twice, and that was during its first two weeks on air. On Nov. 4, the night before the show was officially canceled, Undercovers finished 16th in black households behind Hawaii Five-0 and The Mentalist, both of which lack black lead characters.

Black people didn’t want to watch a show with untested acting talent, weak scripts and a poor time slot. So now, networks are feeling skittish again about casting leads of color in a show.

The fact that black leads are such a gamble on network TV these days highlights the noticeable shift in programming during the last 25 years….

…The UPN and the WB, which is now the CW Network, copied the Fox blueprint (think Girlfriends) before they all abandoned most of their black programming in order to appeal to a more mainstream audience. And now it seems as if all the inroads of the past few decades have been for nothing…

I took a look at other shows that have been canceled or threatened with cancellation this year and noticed a disturbing trend:

18 To Life: Kids Get Married on a Dare

100 Questions: A girl and her friends navigate life in NYC - canceled after 6 eps

As The World Turns: Stodgy Soaps Suddenly Seems Sexy

Man with huge hands gives advice - canceled after 2 eps

The Bridge: Cop does cop things.- canceled after 3 eps

Gravity: Suicide survivors make jokes - canceled after 10 eps

Huge: Nikki Blonsky goes to camp

Lone Star: A con man has a conscious...and also a lot of sex. - canceled after 2 eps.

My Generation: Angst and agnst with a dollop of angst. - canceled after 2 eps

Outlaw: Jimmy Smits knows justice; but not TV audiences - canceled after four eps.

Notice anything about most of the people in these shows?

They’re actors! Apparently, actor-led TV shows have a really hard time sticking. I hope the networks don’t feel skittish about gambling on having actors in their shows after this disappointing season.

Crossing my fingers for you, actors. You’ll figure it out.

And if you do wanna see some of colors leading a show…there’s always the still-climbing-in-the-ratings Real Housewives of Atlanta where next week, Phaedra and Apollo will have a baby…or won’t they???

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Self Loathing in Space…It’s logical, Captain.

Science fiction often involves the colonization of new places and the enslavement or eradication of the alien species found there. Thus, a fairly Anglo-Saxon genre. And consequently, a genre any good Oreo should learn to enjoy.

So I went to see Star Trek this weekend and was pleasantly surprised to find a fellow Oreo welcoming me to the fold.

Officer Uhura (NOTE: Mild spoilers ahead)

While the actress playing Uhura, Zoe Saldana, is mixed race and therefore ineligible for Oreo status, Uhura herself clearly is.

Three indicators make her penchant for non-ethnicity delightfully obvious.

  1. Physical profile. Urhura’s rail thin body as depicted in the film happily erases any hint of ethnic curvature.
  2. Her mother tongue. Uhura is clearly in the top first or second percentile of her class and speaks many languages and dialects. Not included in her language list: jive, ebonics or urban.
  3. Identity safe sex. According to the latest film, Uhura is romantically involved with Commander Spock. While there were no other cadets of color on board the enterprise, there were a host of cadets of color at the academy. Uhura could have unwisely chosen one of these young men to bed with. However, she rightly chose interracial, nay interspecies love, just like a good Oreo should.
  4. Bonus points for chosing a near Vulcan version of an Oreo (Voreo? Vuloreo?). Spock is half human, half Vulcan and his decision to have emotional relations anyone betrays his Vulcan (minority) side.

Whitewashing knows no planetary bounds. And thank the cosmos for that.