Friday, February 22, 2013

Where we are with minorities and gays on network TV

After reading Kylo-Patrick Hart's article and Cedric Clark's four stages of media representation, it got me thinking, where are we on TV today in regards to gay and minorities?

To take a snapshot of this, I proposed using the four major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. Counting only active shows which have not been cancelled, there are 60 current prime-time non-reality shows between these four networks. The table after the jump represents all 60 shows and represents how many gays and minorities appear in either the main cast or the stable of major recurring cast members (based on research on IMDB, Wikipedia and show websites).

NBCThe Office22Gay Hispanic
NBC30 Rock04One in main cast
NBCChicago Fire03
NBCParks and Rec02
NBCGo On02
NBCUp All Night01Maya Rudolph
NBCNew Normal21Centers around gay couple
NBCGuys W/Kids02One in main cast
NBC1600 Penn03Likely cancelled
ABCPrivate Practice02
ABCScandal04Top Two Main Characters
ABCOnce Upon a Time00
ABCModern Family23Heralded for ecclectic cast
ABCThe Middle00
ABCGrey's Anatomy44One bi; all in main cast
ABCThe Neighbors03All playing aliens
ABCCastle02NYPD chief and detective
ABCMalibu Country01
ABCLast Man Standing01
ABCHappy Endings11Straight-acting gay man
ABCZero Hour02
CBSHIMYM10One bi-sexual
CBSBig Bang Theory01Main cast
CBSPerson of Interest01Main cast
CBSTwo & A Half Men00
CBSNCIS: LA01Main Cast
CBSMike and Molly03
CBSCSI02One died off
CBSCriminal Minds01Main cast
CBSBlue Bloods02
CBS2 Broke Girls02
CBSElementary02two in main cast
CBSHawaii Five-O04Four of six main cast
CBSPartners21Most likely cancelled
FOXSimpsons00None in voice cast
FOXFamily Guy10Various gay/minorities
FOXBones02Two in main cast
FOXBob's Burgers01Rare mailman appearance
FOXAmerican Dad10Comedic relief
FOXRaising Hope00
FOXNew Girl02Two in main cast
FOXThe Mindy Project02Mindy is Indian
FOXThe Following00
FOXCleveland Show03Whole Family; 3 voice cast

The results show there are approximately 111 minority characters on prime time network television in the United States. Many of the minority actors are in staring roles and a few shows (Scandal, Grey's Anatomy, Hawaii Five-O) even have mainly minority casts. As for gay actors, there are far fewer with only 24. A few shows (Modern Family, The New Normal, Glee, The Office, Parnters).

If I had to categorize where minorities are at on Clark's scale, I'd put them between step three, regulation, and step four, respect. They could definitely occupy more spots but the numbers are trending up each television season. As for gays, the scale is harder. Some networks like ABC and Fox with eight each, are trending towards step four. Others like NBC with five and CBS with only three are still situated around two or three. In fact, CBS's show Partners is slated for cancellation and is currently off the air, while its lone other character is How I Met Your Mother's Lily Aldrin who is married with a child and has only passing comedic references to her bisexual tendencies.

***EDIT*** Here is a little lighthearted addition I received from a friend this weekend that kind of goes with my post.


  1. SO interesting. I would like to see a similar chart from television shows 20 years ago and see how big a role minorities played at that time. It's also interesting, as you've noted, how gay men are portrayed...whether stereotypically flamboyant as in Modern Family, or against stereotype, as in Happy Endings.

  2. I feel we've made a lot of progress but there is still a long of ground we could cover. I agree with you that minorities are closer to a four than gays are for sure and within the gay community I feel men have a higher score than females. Outside of Ellen and a few side stories, I can't think of too many other lesbian couples on TV? I think one of my first witnesses was "Ruth from Real World?" many years ago. Interested to see where we'll go from here in the decade ahead. Great chart!