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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Where have you gone Weezie Jefferson?

I caught the live broadcast of the Emmy nominations this morning, and something about it has been bothering me all day. I couldn't quite put my finger on my issue until I had a Skinny Bitch (vanilla voddy & Diet Coke) this evening.

Of all the lead acting nominees, Larry David is the most ethnic? What the fuck?!

That's right, for best lead actor and actress in a drama and comedy, 20 total nominees, and not one of them were brown, black, or yella. Expand it to the supporting categories, and we get the brilliant Alfre Woodard and Sandra Oh. Expand it to include miniseries and made-for-television movies, and you get...well, Alfre Woodard again, but if you have to schlep to the folks for special event programming, it doesn't count.

I grew up in rural Eastern Kentucky. In my hometown, there was one black family, the Gross family who ran the veterinary clinic. The only reason many locals weren't openly evil to them is because they took care of the cows. And yet in this hell-hole of closed-minds, my favorite shows as a child included "The Jeffersons" and "What's Happenin'?". My grandparents had one of the early satellite dishes, one of those gigantic NASA jobs you had to turn by a crank, and I used to drive my papaw nuts by parking myself in front of it on Saturdays watching "Soul Train" on WGN.

My point in this is that there was a time in this country when a show had to be good in order to get an audience. Back in the 70s and 80s, we were supposed to be less open to diversity, yet everyone watched "The Cosby Show", "Amen", "227", "Chico & the Man", and "Benson". Kids of all races thought that J.J. Walker was dy-no-mite! And you know that Marla Gibbs got paid a helluva lot more than Mr. Belvedere.

Now the major networks all seem to be going for the most bang for their buck by hitting the largest audience, white folks, while leaving racial minorities to flounder with low-budget messes on the UPN. But again, they miss the point Norman Lear hit on so well in the 70s...if it is funny, folks will watch it, and most of them don't give a damn that the stars don't look like them. There weren't a huge number of shows in those years starring minorities, but there seemed to be a lot more than there are now.

I'm not trying to deny racism here, as if everyone will automatically turn on a show starring a family of Latinos. But funny is funny, and I've seen bigots from my hometown laugh their mullets off at Eddie Murphy back in the day. When was the last major sitcom hit churned out? "Three and a Half Men"? Maybe if the majors tried going for funny instead of demographic, we could do a little better than Charlie Sheen AND have an awards show that looks like the rest of the country.

Why have you left us, Weezie? We need you now more than ever!


JonboySF said...

Last major sitcom hit was Arrested Development, but in their infinite wisdom, execs cancelled it after it won 6 Emmys and a Golden Globe (among tons of other lesser known awards). Of course the only non-white character on that show was a puppet... I would also put forth Scrubs for your consideration sir, with a multi-ethnic cast to boot.

Ms. Val said...

Christopher, TV was better in the 70s and 80s--whether a show featured an ethnic cast or not--than it is today. Although, I will admit Diff'rent Strokes was WAYYYYYY better than Alf!!!

But then, as a child who used TV to escape real life, I thought pretty much everything of the time was good. Also, growing up in Phoenix, it was always too hot outside to do anything but watch TV.

Sistermarycliff said...

I see Kathy Griffin isn't the only Angry Black Woman! Tell it child!

WeeZie said...

Here I am! LOL!