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For a City as Diverse as Los Angeles, Are There Too Many TV Shows About White People?

For a City as Diverse as Los Angeles, Are There Too Many TV Shows About White People?

“Too much TV’ is so 2015, but what about “too much good TV”? That answer may seem obvious until you put it into the perspective of a certain subgenre that’s popped up of late. In the golden age of television, dramas and comedies have seen a boom in quality, but comedies set in Los Angeles are all starting to look a little…pale. Among recent high-profile releases set in the City of Angels, most are made up of exclusively or predominantly white casts.

Take the last two Netflix offerings: “Flaked” tells the story of two white roommates living in Venice, played by Will Arnett and David Sullivan, and even features a rather prominent storyline regarding the threat of corporate ownership overwhelming local cultures — all of which appear to be protected and/or established by white folk. The Judd Apatow comedy “Love” offers similar sensibilities on the East side of Los Angeles, as two white leads (Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust) fall in love among friend circles who look a lot like they do (save for the lovely and generally underutilized Charlene Yi). 

READ MORE: ‘House of Cards’ Is Made to Be Binged, But Does Not Bingeing Make It Better?

Add to these two recent releases the likes of “Togetherness” — made up of four white leads — “You’re the Worst” and “Transparent” (which deserves the utmost respect for honestly telling a trans-focused story, but has been criticized for ignoring other minorities), and suddenly there’s a trend of L.A.-based comedies made up of predominantly white casts. Now, one could argue TV through the ’90s suffered from a glut of New York-set sitcoms with white cast members, and that’s in a city often referred to as America’s melting pot. But TV has changed drastically since networks were in charge — so much so that none of the “high-profile releases” we mentioned air on broadcast TV. Moreover, as of the 2010 census, Los Angeles is 48.5 percent Hispanic — and rising. 

So the question becomes two-fold: Why are so many Los Angeles-based programs centered on white characters, even from cable and streaming networks? And is that a bad thing? After all, Indiewire has given a “B” grade or higher to each one of these shows, with “Transparent,” “You’re the Worst” and “Togetherness” landing on a number of our year-end best lists. The answer can’t be so simple as to suggest getting rid of great entries like these, but in the overcrowded field of original programming, what can be done to make room for new perspectives? In the latest episode of Very Good TV Podcast, Indiewire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers do their best to sort through the complex question — while also, at the end, joyously breaking down the many twists of “Flaked.”

Don’t forget to subscribe to Very Good TV Podcast via Soundcloud or iTunes. Follow Indiewire on Twitter and Facebook for all your pertinent TV news, and check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for more, more, more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to Indiewire’s other podcastsScreen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, as well as Indiewire Influencers, hosted by Editor-in-Chief Dana Harris and featuring various guests relevant to anyone tracking independent film or the entertainment industry in general.

Related Articles and News:
– Reviews, reviews, reviews! “Flaked” (per Liz), and “Love,” “Togetherness” “You’re the Worst” and “Transparent” from Ben! Read up and let us know if you think each are worthy of crowding the field, so to speak.

– Speaking of “Togetherness,” Ben has a plan to save the low-rated series. Join the cause here

– Speaking of shows in Los Angeles (but featuring a few more minorities), check out Ben’s thoughts on “Bosch” Season 2

– Get ready for “The Americans” Season 4 with our spoiler-free review!

– If you’re not watching “The Last Man on Earth,” let Will Forte, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller tell you why you’re missing out. 

– Oh, and don’t forget to answer our poll question (as set up in this week’s podcast):

READ MORE: Netflix Orders Joe Swanberg Anthology Series, ‘Easy,’ Starring Orlando Bloom, Aya Cash and More

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Comments

olen

That tools (except Ben) take the time to craft the above comments is a reflection of the guilt and perceived helplessness on the part of Whites sublimated into a manufactured, belligerent, Trump-eting rage that maintains the status quo.
Yeah this article is clearly stating the obvious, and like the silly comments, offers nothing in the way of solution.
I’m a white male writer and I usually don’t consciously write minorities into my show – but I can and I will. Could I just turn all the characters Black? Sure! But would "They" let me?
Is this merely capitalism at play? Can it all be broken down into the racial demographics of paying steaming-service subscribers? What’s the fiscal breakdown by race? Would more non-Whites subscribe if there were non-White shows? What is the breakdown of capital in non-White audiences? Who’s got the money to subscribe or lure advertising dollars? What demographic has the money to see themselves reflected in programming? Would a Black show bring in more subscription money than a White show? Is this all it is?
Or have non-White creators been historically and systematically and (un)consciously shut out of the production process? Are there non-White children going to film school who were raised in poverty? Are there great non-White scripts in a vault somewhere waiting to be discovered with a good ROI? Is there a narrative aesthetic other than White that has monetary value in the current system?

Daniel

White people like watching shows about white people too, because they can relate. I’m white, so thanks for the new show recommendations.

Legion

Articles like this are why we’re voting for Trump.

No

I don’t even undersatnd why the two critics at IW who are both white are even asking this obvious question.

Ben W

So the question becomes two-fold: Why are so many Los Angeles-based programs centered on white characters, even from cable and streaming networks?

BECAUSE vast majority of people involved in the creation and distribution of these shows –from the writer to the director, the network boss to the intern getting his/her tea — is white. And they are the kind of white person who truly feels that they are liberal, they voted for Obama and will do so for Hilary. But they simply DO NOT SEE people of colour, or their stories. They have a blind spot that cannot be erased.
It’s not until the creators AND the gatekeepers become more diverse that things will change

And is that a bad thing?

YES

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