Diverse Shows Finding Flavor With Viewers

Strong ratings performances from a number of multicultural-themed shows during the 2014-15 television season are proving that an audience exists for quality programming featuring people of color.

The Jan. 6 season-three debut of OWN’s primetime soap opera Tyler Perry’s The Haves and The Have Nots set a network ratings record for a series premiere, averaging 3.22 million viewers and ranking as the network’s second most watched telecast among male viewers.

The Fox broadcasting network’s drama series Empire, starring Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson, drew nearly 10 million viewers for its Jan. 7 premiere, the second biggest launch on broadcast TV this season behind ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder, starring African-American actress and recent People’s Choice Award winner Viola Davis.

Add ABC’s comedy sitcom Black-ishto the list, and three of the highest-rated new series for the season are headed by African-American actors and/or actresses.

The Latino family dramedy Jane The Virgin on the CW was the best reviewed new series, according to Ratings Intelligence, and the show’s star, Gina Rodriguez, recently won a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a TV comedy – the network’s first major Golden Globes win.

Also, ABC Latino family sitcom Cristela was the only freshman comedy besides Black-ish to get a full-season pickup, according to Ratings Intelligence

The Television Critics Association press tour provided TV writers and viewers with a glimpse at several new projects featuring prominent multicultural characters and storylines. ABC will soon air the Asian-themed series Fresh Off The Boat, while TV One Feb. 7 will launch a monthly series of original movies featuring African-American themes, starting with White Water.

BET will debut its first-ever mini-series The Book Of Negroes, based on Lawrence Hill’s award-winning novel which chronicles a young slave woman who, in exchange for her freedom, s ides with the British during the Revolutionary War.

Emmy and Academy Award winning actor Lou Gossett Jr. said TV series like The Book of Negroes in which he stars as well as movies like Selma and 12 Years A Slave are being developed for an audience looking for programming that tell stories about the history, lives, struggles and stories of people of color.

“It took a minute to tell our stories … now it’s okay for us to tell our stories to the world,” Gossett told nearly 200 TV critics at BET’s recent Television Critics Association Winter tour presentation. “This is the tip of the iceberg as far as information about our roots are concerned,” he said. “We’re going in the right direction, and you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.