US networks primetime TV fails to tap talented Asian Pacific Americans

MUMBAI: A report by the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) finds that the US television networks' efforts to increase diversity among their talents over the last year has in some cases, not only stalled, but is deteriorating.

Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) president and APAMC chairperson Karen K. Narasaki says, "Primetime television this season does not mirror the realities of the growing numbers of Asian Pacific Americans in the US. It is disappointing that five years into this effort, we don't have much greater progress."

The report, The 2005 Asian Pacific American Report Card on Television Diversity, is based on data provided by ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. Since 2000, they have had agreements with APAMC and other coalitions to increase their diversity onscreen and behind the camera.

Narasaki adds, "The number of regular roles in primetime television for Asian Pacific American (APAs) actors increased by one since last year for a total of 17. However, not all of the regular roles held by them are truly quality roles. Moreover, the number of APA actors in recurring roles fell precipitously at three of the four networks: NBC, CBS and Fox."

According to the report, none of the networks earned more than a C+ for their overall grade. For the first time, ABC received the highest grade of the four networks. FOX and NBC dropped to a C, while CBS remains unchanged at C(minus). Only ABC continues to consistently improve, earning the highest overall grade of C+. ABC is benefiting from the significant long-term investments it has made in pushing for more diversity in the network.

"We believe that their progress is dependent upon increasing the number of writers and show runners who feel comfortable writing and producing for Asian American talents" said Narasaki.

ABC continues to benefit from the significant long term investments it has made in pushing for more diversity in the network. Its top shows Greys Anatomy, Commander-in-Chief and Lost feature Asian Pacific American writers, producers, and directors.

At least two other series feature an Asian actor in a regular role- Hot Properties (Amy Hill) and Emilys Reasons Why Not (Smith Cho). Naveen Andrews of Lost and Sandra Oh of Greys Anatomy were nominated for the Emmys this year.Unfortunately, Hot Properties is reported to have been cancelled. ABCs grade increases to a C.

The reality show Extreme Make-Over Home Edition featured an Asian American family. The summers hit series, Dancing with the Stars featured Carrie Ann Inaba as a judge. The report says that the appointment of a senior vice president for diversity who reports directly to the president of ABC will hopefully continue to strengthen and broaden ABCs diversity initiatives. He will have a strong base to build on. ABC retains its grade of B+ for its diversity initiatives.

CBS initiatives for writers and directors is showing modest results, but not enough to boost them out of the last place position that they have occupied in the last four years. Their

numbers in terms of writers/producers and directors are actually slipping from last year, and the network has fewer Asian Pacific Americans in regular roles than when their diversity initiative began five years ago.

The report adds that overall, CBS maintains its grade of C-. The 2005-2006 season includes one regular and five recurring Asian actors. The hit series Numb3rs bumped up Navi Rawat from a recurring role to a regular. Close to Home will feature Dom Magwili in a recurring role. Karen Maruyama supposedly has a recurring role in the Ghost Whisperer but has barely been seen.

The network has added Ron Yuan to CSI: New York a city which has close to 10 per cent Asian American population. However, CBS still has fewer Asian Pacific Americans in regular roles than when their initiative began five years ago and most of the recurring roles for Asian Pacific Americans are quite marginal. All of CBS' sitcoms are centered totally on white families.

Since last season, Fox made some progress in including more APAs in their reality shows and as directors of episodes for various other series. Much of this progress, however, was made in shows that were ultimately cancelled, such as Method and Red and Big, Fat Obnoxious Boss. Fox continues its slide of the past two years to an overall grade of C.

FOX claims an increase by one in the number of regular roles, but the number is still down from two seasons ago. In addition, the coalition does not feel that all of the roles the network counts as regular really have substance and many are cartoon characters. Fox lost a number of Asian acting roles in recurring roles which fell from 16 to 6 and several of the roles that remain also seem largely marginal.

Among the series King of the Hill and Malcolm in the Middle continue to produce opportunities for Asian actors either as regulars or recurring actors. New shows such as Bones, Killer Instinct and The Loop feature various APA actors like Michaela Conlin.

The report notes that Fox's commitment to diversity initiatives, once the standard for the networks, continues to lose the focus and creativity it once had. The lack of significant progress is the result. Their grade falls to a C-.

Despite the robustness of its talent diversity initiatives, NBCs grade dropped to a C. The cancellation of Hawaii, Third Watch and American Dreams, which would have featured several Asian actors dragged their grade down. The cancellations also point out the fragility of diversity initiatives in the face of what it takes to make a show a commercial success.

Regular and recurring Asian actors dropped significantly this season compared to 2004-2005. The drop is especially steep among recurring actors, from 28 in 2004-2005 to only 6 this season. Most of the drop can be attributed to the cancellation of the earlier mentioned shows.

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