The Racialicious TV Upfronts Roundup

By Guest Contributor Kendra James & Managing Editor Arturo R. García

This week, television networks held their Upfronts: these are the meetings where they do their best to convince advertisers (and viewers) that their shiny new vehicles are going to be the best of the lot in the season to come. Among those that got picked up was Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project (above) which will air on Fox. Whatever your thoughts are on Kaling getting her Bridget Jones on, it’s still good to see Kaling as both star and showrunner. According to ThinkProgress’ estimates, she’s one of only five POC showrunners who came out of the Upfronts a winner. (Not among them, sez Latino Rebels, Eva Longoria and Devious Maids.) - AG

Freema Agyeman. Courtesy: Camera Press/Listal

There’s not much to say about NBC’s new comedy lineup aside from wondering why NBC felt the need to give Nene Leakes a show. Oh, and there’s a show with animals who appear to do people things.

That said, there were a few choice pickups: Megan Good’s cop soap/drama Infamous will air on NBC; ABC is giving Mistresses, with Yunjin Kim and Rochelle Aytes a chance; Freema Agyeman is going to be on American TV (finally) on the CW’s The Carrie Diaries, so dramatically, at least, things are looking up. - KJ

Freema has a network gig? YES!

Erm, excuse me, let’s move along. - AG

Courtesy: DisneyDreaming.com

Scandal: Scandal was renewed last week, and thank God, because their ex-CIA torture specialist needs at least two seasons to experience a full mental break, it’s going to take more than seven episodes for the president’s marriage to completely fall apart, and– wait, did someone just get stabbed in the back of the neck with a pair of scissors? The show has successfully combined the elements necessary for a semi-decent and well-received political drama: White House intrigue, lawyer, a broad ensemble cast, and the unabashed promotion of Democratic policies delivered via epic monologues that don’t actually reflect the way anyone speaks. Renewed, Kerry Washington automatically becomes the longest African-American female lead on network television since 1974.

None of that matters in Scandal’s DC though, where Washington’s Olivia Pope’s race has so far been a non-issue. Given her affair with the sitting (white) president it could very well have been an issue tackled by Shonda Rhimes (and still might be– the show is only six episodes in). Some reviewers question the fact that it hasn’t been mentioned, but it is ‘refreshing’ to be introduced to a leading black character in the modern world through the lense of their personality, profession, and actions rather than their race–you know, the way every other character on television is viewed. Furthermore, it’s proof for certain people that writing a character of color doesn’t need necessarily need to be any more complicated than writing a white one.

Scandal might not be the deepest or best written show on television right now, but it’s an entertaining distraction and certainly deserves more than seven episodes. Besides, after cancelling my other guilty pleasure, GCBs, ABC owes me one. - KJ

Michael Ealy (l) and Warren Kole. Courtesy: thedeadbolt.com

Common Law:  He’s a bro. He’s a bro. Together, Michael Ealy and Warren Kole play the best brotectives this USA offering has to … uh, offer. But it’s totally not bro-mo, y’know?

Give USA credit, at least, for striking when the iron’s hot: the series debuted not long after Ealy’s turn in Think Like A Man, and it continues the network’s surprisingly (relatively) race-positive casting for its assembly-line of quirky procedurals: Law joins Legal Affairs, Psych, and the dearly-departed Monk as shows featuring PoCs in the lead (with the sad caveat, of course, that their characters aren’t always defined as PoCs.)

The show’s dynamics are right out of the Lethal Weapon playbook, with some of Sherlock’s gay-panic jokes mixed in for extra “quirk.” See, the hook is, Ealy and Kole are longtime partners who–wait for it–get sent to couples therapy, where everybody assumes they’re totes not straight, even though Ealy’s character is known for (ahem) Thinking Like (Steve Harvey’s Idea Of) A Man around the department . The pilot rides this joke nearly the whole way through until their therapist (Sonya Walger) finally breaks things up by telling Kole, “You’re like brothers.”

One more frustrating inconsistency: this is a show based in Los Angeles without a Latino/a character in sight. At the same time, Ealy’s character is revealed to have grown up in a foster home with a Samoan family–and his foster brother, of course, runs a chop-shop.  Oy. - AG

Courtesy: spidermanreviews.com

Young Justice & Ultimate Spider-Man: On the fandom tip…don’t look now, but both DC and Marvel’s animated divisions should get some credit this season for not only presenting superheroes and villains of color, but doing so in meaningful ways.

On Ultimate, while it’s disappointing to see Marvel go with the Peter Parker incarnation of the character rather than Miles Morales, this series’ premise–where he’s part of a squad of heroes-in-training–allows for other young characters to get the spotlight: White Tiger (who’s a Latina) and the new, Asian-American Nova, along with Luke Cage. The big sore spot is the show’s take on Iron Fist, who’s coded white but with dialogue phrased along the lines of “Ancient Chinese Secret.”

While Peter is the centerpiece, the show’s structure allows him to have both a learning curve (under the watchful eye of Chi McBride, voicing Ultimate Nick Fury) and a varied set of relationships with his teammates–with breaks in the fourth wall and over-the-top renditions of Peter’s emotions, the tone closely mirrors Scott Pilgrim or Tenchi Muyo while weaving in characters from around the Marvel Universe.

Courtesy: Young Justice Wikia

Meanwhile, Young Justice has made a leap this season–not just chronologically (this season, subtitled Invasion, picks up five years after Season One) but in diversifying its character ranks. In just three episodes so far this season, we’ve seen seven characters of color brought in, including Blue Beetle, Bumblebee, Herald, John Stewart, a drastically different Aqualad and, most poignantly, Milestone Comics standouts Icon and Rocket, both–yes, both–of whom are members of the Justice League: Icon joined last season, with Rocket getting a promotion this year. After being involved in some of the action last season, Icon will get to show more of his stuff in a subplot alongside the League’s “Big Seven,” part of a clever nod to the show’s critically acclaimed predecessor, Justice League Unlimited. - AG

The Boondocks: There’s not much info aside from this website from Adult Swim, but Cartoon Network has confirmed a fourth season of Aaron McGruder’s show. My money’s on full episodes dedicated to the success of Think Like a Man, a take on Florida’s “stand your ground” law, at least one appearance by a thinly veiled Nicki Minaj parody, and better coverage of the 2012 election than SNL could hope for on their best of days. With Regina King and John Witherspoon both returning, it could be an interesting season of television. - KJ

As a final treat, here’s clips from a couple more shows picked up for next year: Anthony Anderson & Tempestt Bledsoe in NBC’s Guys With Kids, followed by Lucy Liu in a show we’ve already discussed here at the R, CBS’ Elementary. One of these is … not very promising. We’ll let you decide which one. - AG

  • Anonymous

    Hey, did you folks see this?  “Devious Maids” will hit the TV after all: It was picked up by Lifetime and will air in 2013. Feeling conflicted about that…
    http://tvsomniac.com/2012/devious-maids-from-marc-cherry-heads-to-lifetime-ana-ortiz-mariana-klaveno-susan-lucci-more/

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  • Anonymous

    Question: Does anyone have any news on what happened to the HBO show “The Madonnas of Echo Park” based on Brando Skyhorse’s novel on Latinos in a gentrifying neighborhood of LA?

  • Kate

    Mindy Kaling’s character on her show doesn’t have family members or friends of color? It’s cool that she’s the star and showrunner but the show it’s problematic that everyone in the show besides her seems to be white as if to compensate for  having a non white star. 

  • http://twitter.com/Ellington3 Rhonda Yearwood

    I will be giving Guys with kids and Elementary a chance, and of course the Mindy Project because I like Mindy K. she is funny and talented. : )
    I may check out The Carrie Diaries because I just love Freema A. and I did like Sex in the City (the tv shows not the films).I love Young Justice already its a great superhero animated show, and the Boondocks has made laugh for years.But I will have to give Scandal a pass as I tried to watch it because I do like Kerry W. but the writing was just too twee and forced and it really takes its self too seriously for me.

  • Anonymous

    Just realized that “The Red Van Man” with Edi Gathegi was renamed “Family Tools”. Still odd title. 

  • Winn

    Ok.  “Guys with Kids” looks awful.  And although I’d love to see Freema Ageyman on my TV every week, I would much rather it NOT be on the CW.  I’m intrigued by Lucy Liu’s casting in “Elementary”, and I really like Jonny Lee Miller, but it seems so derivative after “Sherlock” that I’m a little prejudiced.  We’ll see.
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gillian-Rosheuvel/100003397459611 Gillian Rosheuvel

    Wow. Seeing that preview, I have hope for this Sherlock. Watson is my favorite character from the Conan Doyle stories, so I am very intrigued to see Lucy Liu in the role.

    Also, Freema Ageyman on US TV is totally going to make me get cable again!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gillian-Rosheuvel/100003397459611 Gillian Rosheuvel

    Wow. Seeing that preview, I have hope for this Sherlock. Watson is my favorite character from the Conan Doyle stories, so I am very intrigued to see Lucy Liu in the role.

    Also, Freema Ageyman on US TV is totally going to make me get cable again!