ABC On Diversity 1

Does ABC Approach Diversity Well?

While the American Broadcasting Company, also known as ABC, prides itself on being one of the most diverse networks, it’s slew of comedy series seems to lean into the ‘trying too hard’ category rather than groundbreaking. Shonda Rhimes, a popular ABC series director, crafted TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday), a lineup of strong, natural shows. There is nothing forced about it, nothing about the diverse characters seems planted or unlikely, but feels genuine and is done with ease. The characters on shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder, and Scandal are one of a kind and effortlessly portray characters that come from every walk of life.

The characters on ABC’s comedy lineup are set out to do this, but sadly, fail. Instead, the network’s newest fall shows have added to what almost seems as a campy bit. They have Fresh Off the Boat, which is about an Asian-American family that tries to fit in while still holding onto their cultural roots. The show is wonderfully written and is performed well. The network also has Black-ish, a comedy that follows an African-American family, the Johnsons. It is hilarious and has received much critical praise for its quick and smart dialogue and performances. The show has even received multiple Emmy nominations for its most current seasons.

Then, there are the shows that tackle sexuality, disability, and body image stereotypes. Speechless, for example, deals with one family’s struggle to find a school and town that suit their son and his disability. The Real O’Neal’s focuses on an Irish, Catholic, average-Joe type of family, that has a gay son. Then, there is American Housewife, which centers on Kate, a relatable mother of three who raises her children in Westport, Connecticut, and is trying her best to make sure they do not end up as money hungry, vapid, diet-obsessed adults. The show touches heavily on Kate’s weight, which is normal, but plagues her to a label of simply overweight.

ABC On Diversity 2Almost every one of ABC’s comedies tailors the shows to these oddly specific themes. The content is strong and mostly strays away from the original concept of the show, and splits off into subplots that revolve around other issues – as most series do. Individually, these series are wonderfully crafted, but it is the fact that ABC stuck them all together that in a sense, devalues them. They are bringing light to some touchy taboo subjects and are talking about things that some series would never think of, but the way they offer it up to viewers has made it a punch line rather than a praise.

This could have been avoided if the network did not market these shows as ground breaking and diverse. If they would have made the characters’ traits normal, as most series do, they would have been more successful with them. Instead, they made the character’s unique qualities the most predominant trait they have to offer viewers. Which, in a way makes the characters less relatable, which goes against everything they originally set out to do in the first place.

The drama series on ABC do not follow this trend, and I think they are better for that; they focus on the issues presented in the format of the series. If the show is procedural, it focuses each episode on an overall theme, but with these comedies the overlying theme is the trait that makes the character or characters different.

Overall, the shows ABC produce are typically well written and acted incredibly, but it just seems a little too much at once. All of the series focuses are on either race, sexuality, or appearance. They have to take a look at the drama lineup and take note from that, and ease in the diversity, not slam it in avid and intelligent viewers’ faces. It seems as though the network is trying to make sure they can reach every single demographic, even if that means making a show about virtually every group of people. People of all colors, races, sizes, and sexualities co-exist at every workplace, town, and school.

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