Tuesday, November 15, 2022

TV: Duplicity and Diversity

Duplicity -- it's the heart of many things.  Sadly, that does include Congress.  But we're referring to  comedy and drama.
  3 JESS

NBC has a strong new sitcom entitled LOPEZ VS LOPEZ.  George Lopez returns to the sitcom genre with this series.  In the '00s, he starred for six seasons in THE GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW.  In the earlier show, he played an assembly line worker providing for his family.  This go round, he's a contractor facing troubles which force him to move in with his adult daughter.  Some might feel that's not enough of a contrast from the previous show; however, Mayan Lopez -- his own real life daughter -- is playing the part and this isn't THE GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW.

In fact, it's as different as HERE'S LUCY and THE LUCY SHOW were from I LOVE LUCY.  George, Mayan and Debby Wolfe created this show and wanted something very different.  George is not the hero.  He's not the villain either.  But he has a clear character he's playing.  Mayan and her mother Rosie (Selenis Leyva) needed George and George bailed on them.  That was then.  

Rosie still has a soft spot for George but she also sees him clearly and knows he made her life a mess.  Mayan is adamant that her life will not be her nursing the problems her father has left her with.  She's making a better life for herself, her boyfriend Quinten (Matt Shively) and their son Oscar (Al Madrigal).  If you're not getting how different George's character is on this show, just focus on Oscar.

That's the grandson that George loves.  That doesn't stop him from repeatedly telling Oscar that Quinten isn't his father.  That joke, by the way, has been played about as far as it can go.  Last week, Oscar told George that his mother already told him George was lying.  That really should be the end of that joke.

Yes, it has demonstrated that this is a different George.  But to continue it would be abuse.  You don't tell a young kid that their father isn't their father.  That's how you screw them up and Mayan's character would never allow George -- homeless or not -- to live in her home if he continued to tell Oscar that Quinten wasn't his father.

By the way, that's our only 'note' for the show.  Everything else they're doing is perfect. 

That includes Mayan.  Where has she been?  She was on one episode of her father's previous show.  That's probably a good thing.  Not only is she a fresh face, she's also got a unique way with lines that too many other projects might have ironed out of her.  She's truly unique and one of the best Latinas on TV right now.  Granted, it's not a crowded field.  Last year, NIELSEN noted:

The shift toward inclusion is important for many reasons, one of which is the notable growth of the U.S. Latino population. In fact, Hispanics now account for 19% of the U.S. population, having fueled more than 50% of the U.S. population growth over the past decade.

Frustrated by decades of erasure in Hollywood, Latinos are calling for authentic share of screen in content, with 39% saying their individual identity groups aren’t represented enough on TV1. This sentiment is reflected in traditional TV viewing, as Hispanics accounted for just 12% of the linear TV audience in June. Comparatively, Whites accounted for 66% share2. Programs that do attract notable Hispanic audiences are those that star Latinos, such as SelenaNCIS and Criminal Minds. This viewing behavior is in sync with the sentiment from nearly 60% of Latinos who say they’re more likely to watch programming featuring their identity group.

Just a year ago, on-screen Latino representation was just 6% across linear and streaming platforms. This year, on-screen has increased to just under 10%, but that’s still well below the 19% representation in the U.S. population.

As they seek out programming that features their identity group, Latinos are spending an increasing amount of time watching content on streaming platforms, many of which are attracting larger Hispanic audiences than linear programming is. In June, for example, Hispanics accounted for 22% of the minutes streamed on Netflix. The behavior supports the sentiment from 55% of Latinos who say that streaming options have more content that is relevant to them.

NIELSEN's report was so hopeful and so positive . . . and so ungrounded in reality.  Last month, Jalen Brown (CNN) reported:

Latinos remain grossly underrepresented in the media industry and are significantly more likely to perform service roles, according to the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) newest report on Latino representation in film, television, and other publishing entities.

The GAO’s 2021 study found that Latinos make up 12% of the media workforce and 4% of industry management, despite making up 18% of the overall U.S. workforce.

This latest report, released on Wednesday, provides a more comprehensive data analysis of Latino representation in the media industry over the last decade and solutions federal agencies could take to help increase diversity in the industry. The population of Latinos in the media industry increased by 1% from 2010 to 2019, compared to the slightly larger 3% rise in representation across all other sectors, according to the report.

“This invisibility means that Americans don’t know who Latinos are or how we have contributed to the success of our nation. This year’s report will be a call-to-action to achieve greater Latino representation in media and enable the Latino narrative to finally be part of the larger American narrative, ” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, who led an effort in Congress to investigate the state of diversity in media.

The findings released on Wednesday are part of the second installment of the GAO report. Last year, the agency released its first report, in which researchers analyzed Hispanic representation by media industry and by occupation. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus had asked the GAO to investigate the issue in 2020.

The initial report, Castro said in a statement, “put a national spotlight on the industry’s failure to recruit and retain talented Latinos.”

And the picture is actually much bleaker.  Since taking over WARNER BROTHERS, DISCOVERY INC. has slashed through the film and TV offerings destroying diversity.  Congress should never have allowed the merger to go forward and, in fact, should be calling DISCOVERY INC. execs in to testify and explain their actions which have resulted in films being cancelled (the Latina led BATGIRL, for example) and TV shows being axed as well as streaming programs.  DISCOVERY INC. lied to the government and intentionally misled them as to what their actions would be.

That's not breaking news at this late date.  March 15th, Castro's office issued the following:

Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) released the following statement slamming the decision by AT&T and Discovery to exclude Latino members from the new Warner Bros. Discovery Board of Directors:

“Warner Bros. Discovery is off to a bad start. Latinos make up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population and nearly 30 percent of movie ticket buyers – but with today’s Board announcement, AT&T and Discovery made clear that they don’t value our voices. This is what cultural exclusion looks like,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro. “Latinos disproportionately patronize the media and entertainment industry as consumers and subsidize it as taxpayers. Two of the largest tax breaks for the media industry are in California and New Mexico – each with a Latino population of 40 percent or more. State legislators should be wary of subsidizing an industry that excludes the people they represent – and antitrust regulators need to block mergers that reduce workforce diversity and harm minority communities.”

In May 2021, AT&T and Discovery Inc. announced an agreement that would spin WarnerMedia off from AT&T and initiate a merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery to create Warner Bros. Discovery, a new entity. Under the agreement, the Warner Bros. Discovery Board includes six members chosen by Discovery and seven chosen by AT&T. Of the 13 total members announced today, none are Latino.

In December 2021, Congressman Castro and a coalition of other members of Congress sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter urging the Department of Justice to investigate the proposed Discovery-WarnerMedia merger for violations of antitrust laws. In addition, members asked the Justice Department to examine whether the merger would reduce diverse content in a more consolidated and less competitive market.

Congressman Castro has long been concerned about the lack of Latino representation in the media. In 2021, he commissioned a Government Accountability Office report to evaluate workforce diversity in media. The report found that the media industry had significantly fewer Latino workers than other industries, with particularly egregious exclusion at the senior level. Among senior-level media roles, just four percent are held by Latinos.

And last month, US House Rep Castro was noticing more problems with the merger:

Following more steep layoffs and the shuttering of a program for emerging writers at Warner Bros. Discovery, Texas Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro sharply criticized leadership at the Hollywood studio, which he called “outright hostile” to new talent, particularly “creators of color.”

Since the merger that created it, Warner Bros. Discovery, Castro said, “seems to go out of it’s way to make the company less inclusive,” and has “imposed a double standard within the company.” He also suggested that political, rather than financial, concerns have motivated recent decisions, evidence that there is “a double standard within the company.”

“So far the new @wbd has been outright hostile to content creators, creators of color, new voices trying to break into the industry, etc. The new WBD seems to go out of it’s way to make the company less inclusive while getting rich off the communities they’re sidelining,” Castro said in a Twitter thread on Tuesday.

“And for what? The business model isn’t working. @WBD stock has lost more than 50% post-merger. So stockholders suffer too. After the Batgirl fiasco (completed project dumped for $90M tax break) content creators discussed making WBD their ‘last look’ when pitching studios,” he continued.

“They have also failed so far to deliver on promises they (leadership) made to civil rights organizations prior to the merger about commitments to inclusion. They have also imposed a double standard within the company,” Castro said.

“Let’s take Warner Bros. and CNN together as an example,” Castro added. “WB cut projects and pre-merger employees over ‘quality’ (profitability) concerns. Yet for CNN David Zaslav indicated that he’s not worried about ratings for now (ratings = profit). Apparently not, a top business side executive hired to run CNN had zero experience in the business.”

Castro’s comments come hours after Warner Bros. Television laid off 26% of the division’s employees — 125 jobs — shut down its digital shortform content team, and killed its 40-year-old Television Writers Workshop. The workshop has long been a way for people without family or financial access to break into Hollywood and has particularly benefitted women and creators of color; notable alumni include Regina King and Sonya Winton-Odamtten & Jonathan I. Kidd (“Lovecraft Country”).

DISCOVERY INC. has not been hiding in the shadows.  They have willfully and visibly worked to destroy diversity.   The only time that they hid reality was before the merger was allowed to go through.

NBC needs LOPEZ VS LOPEZ because it needs a funny show.  Leading the first hour of prime time on Fridays, LOPEZ VS LOPEZ is delivering -- it's audience is far greater than YOUNG ROCK which follows it.  But more than NBC needing it, the US needs it.  We need funny shows, we need to laugh now more than ever.  And we need shows that represent us.  LOPEZ VS LOPEZ delivers on that in terms of a largely Latino cast and also in terms of where most Americans are today.  George's business struggles are a product of the time we live in.  Mayan's efforts at work and family are as well.  

The country needs shows to escape with, absolutely, but we also need programs we can relate to.  

Is it duplicity on our part to hope the economy (and the country) get better?


But duplicity is built into STARZ's new series DANGEROUS LIAISONS.  We love the book, we love the films (especially the one with Michelle Pfeiffer).  We're trying really hard to love the TV series.

First off, it's a prequel.  There's more than enough in the novel to just portray those events.  Portrayals are the worst part of the show.  There are far too many White faces (often made whiter with make up) who do not stand out in terms of looks or in terms of acting.  It's often difficult to tell who is who -- unless it's one of the two people of color -- Valmont's step-mother and Kosar Ali's Victoire.  We're having a very hard time believing that "Bland" was at the top of the casting notice.  

But bland is what show runner Harriet Warner went with.  The show was supposed to be a co-production with BBC but BBC dropped out.  Now it's an 'American' show -- that's how they list the program.  This despite the fact that it's not filmed in the US -- or even in North America.  This despite that there's not a role cast with any US actor or actress.  They're Brits, and they're Irish, and they're Dutch and they're . . . 


A bunch of bland strangers reciting dialogue in a bland manner?  We're confused as to how this shapeless blob got renewed for a season two before the program began airing?  

If they'd waited for the ratings on the first episode, it might not have gotten a second season renewal.  Seasons one through five of OUTLANDER, another STARZ series, far outperformed DANEGERIOUS LIAISONS. THE WHITE LOTUS also beats it in the ratings -- beats it severely.  While it can post 4 million viewers, DANGEROUS LIAISONS can't even scare up 400,000 viewers -- 88,000 watched the first episode.  88,000.

How is this mess still airing?

That we're knocking it -- two people who love the source material -- goes to just what a waste of time the program is. 




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