Another network pilot season comes to a close and no network show has a predominantly Latino or Asian-American cast. It's pathetic that the most Latino and Asian-Americans ever seen on prime-time television were during the riots. A lot of us thought that since there were more cartoons and aliens from outer space on network prime time than Latinos and Asian-Americans, perhaps the network executives decided to change their policy of aggressive discrimination. A lot of us didn't know it was a real riot--we thought it was an open casting call.
A friend who works for one of the studios said I should be excited it's the Year of the Hispanic in the entertainment industry. If the Year of the Hispanic consists of a hundred prime-time network shows without a predominantly Latino cast, then I should be stoked-- it's been the Year of the Hispanic for the past 40 years!
I understand the network's fear of Latinos. The only image they have of us is on the news, committing crimes and getting into gang conflicts. In their minds, if you let a bunch of Latinos loose in a TV studio, chances are we'd start spray-painting everything.
But it's no joke that NBC wants out of third place. It was in this position just over a decade ago and, thanks to the "Cosby Show" and "A Different World," shows with universal appeal that tapped into black middle-class America, NBC capitalized on a huge market that other networks were ignoring.
Ironically, NBC is the only network with a new show starring a Latino: "The Second Half," starring John Mendoza. It is the most refreshing portrayal of a Latino male in that he doesn't rely on cultural quirks.
NBC should repeat what it did in the '80s by tapping into Latino and Asian-American middle-class sensibility. It would provide badly needed positive role models and get better ratings too.
It's time for the networks to realize that it was back in the '50s that television was black-and-white. It's the '90s and television--just like the rest of the country--is no longer black-and-white. It's in color.