Did ABC Pass on Kelsey Grammer and Alec Baldwin’s Sitcom Because it Didn’t Reach a Diversity Quota?

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Ever since I heard that ABC had passed on Alec Baldwin and Kelsey Grammer’s untitled sitcom after committing to a season order, I’ve been very curious as to why. This show is getting made and ABC is paying to make it, so why not just air it, even in mid-season if it’s that bad. And as I’ve previously mentioned, how bad can it be when it’s a who’s who of television success both in front of and behind the camera. It never really made sense.

I think we may have gotten an answer as CinemaBlend reported that Disney Television’s chairwoman of entertainment Dana Walden announced she had passed on a “well-written” sitcom because all the main characters were white.

That’s not going to get on the air anymore because that’s not what our audience wants. That’s not a reflection of our audience, and I feel good about the direction we’re moving.

This was apparently in reference to a show about a white family where all the diversity came from the supporting cast.

You know, like The Goldbergs and The Conners and American Housewife, ABC’s three highest-rated sitcoms.

Look, I applaud ABC and Disney, in general, wanting to increase their diversity both on and off-camera, streaming has made the television landscape absolutely massive and there’s room for everyone. But this seems like the sort of thing that’s doomed to fail spectacularly

ABC!s new diversity standards say that “half of the actors and characters of all new programs must be members of previously underrepresented sects.” Do you know what recent ABC show comes to my mind that doesn’t meet that criteria? Modern Family. Unless you consider white women underrepresented on television, only four of the nine original primary actors on Modern Family were from “underrepresented sects.” You have to consider that while Eric Stonestreet played a gay character, he himself is not gay. And one of those characters was an infant who could not talk.

This reminds me of the BBC using Monty Python as an example of the type of show they wouldn’t make today because of its lack of diversity. No one of any race or sect is going to be happy when you point to a beloved all-time classic and go “yeah, that’s garbage, too white.” It’s just not the way to sell your new way of doing things.

Now, this is not to say that Disney can’t produce good shows with more diverse casts. Eddie Huang may not have felt Fresh Off the Boat authentically represented his childhood, but it was a ratings success for ABC and an entertaining family sitcom. And Black-ish used to be successful with audiences and critics, too. Not, you know, recently, but at first. And its spin-off Mixed-ish is actually ABC’s lowest-rated sitcom.

The problem is that there is only so many hit shows a TV executive can pass on while ratings slip before they get fired. Clearly this diversity push is a business decision, companies as big as Disney don’t care about doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing, so there must be some numbers showing that this is indeed what their audience wants. It’s just not the Nielsen numbers.

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2 years ago

Disney’s decision process is best understood by watching SE13 ep1 of South Park.