Tuesday, December 14, 2010

‘Tis the season, Yet Networks Still Scrooged Latinos

Network Grades & Politics and Working in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The recent release of the annual Television Network Report Cards by the National Latino Media Council (NLMC) reflect a decline in Latino diversity at the for major television networks (ABC, NBC CBS and FOX), and report summarizes progress and shortfalls of the networks’ diversity efforts during the ’09-’10 TV season.

That’s right, the networks got a big fat “F.”

Yeah, well most Latinos already know this and if Latinos are the only ones reading and validating these reports, well it’s like preaching to the choir, and I’m kind of sick of it already. Actually, I shouldn’t say that because I did find feedback comments very telling and amusing. I believe that within these comments is where the pulse of the real problem is. A sampling:

“It was a worse year for African Americans and Whites on Telemundo, Azteca and Univision.”

 These of course are the Spanish-language networks. However over 60% of the U.S. Latino population watch English-language channels, and yes, Virginia, Latinos do speak English. For some it’s the only language they speak. Not all are bilingual or only Spanish-speaking. Shocker!

Another comment:
“You have Sofia Vergara on Modern Family! It’s been a great year for Latinos!”

OK, Sofia has worked hard to earn her place on ABC’s Emmy-winning show. But there’s room for dozens of Sofia’s, Rico’s, etc. According to NHMC report, “ABC earned an overall grade of B- because it slipped in key areas. African Americans and Asian Pacific Americas posted impressive gains in most categories, but when it came to Latinos, the networks failed us.”  

This next comment made the most sense to me:  
“If Irish were part of mainstream America you’d have a point. Latinos are the largest minority and fastest growing demo in the US. They deserve to be fairly represented on major network television in front and behind the camera. As far as executives in the business it’s been much needed by all studios and agencies to hire Black, Asian, Latinos, etc. For all its liberal claims, Hollywood has failed in representing minorities.”

And, then there was this one:
“Problem is that the big Latino numbers don’t speak English, so they don’t see U.S. Networks, they can go to subtitled films, but TV is still difficult.”  Huh?

But the best response (which also came with a solution) to the networks diversity shortfalls is from Dennis Leoni, an award-winning executive producer, writer and director (Resurrection Blvd.):

“Latinos, those born here and those not, don't realize that the disparaging images of us that have dominated the U.S. television and motion picture landscape since the dawn of time are not only, in large part, responsible for how the greater U.S. population views us, but also how we view ourselves, particularly our children. It's why we still struggle with racism and negative stereotyping.

If Carlos Slim or any other wealthy Latino moguls want to start a media company, I would be more than happy to advise them or work with them to create something that progresses us. We shouldn't expect others to help us. We need to help each other and ourselves. If we don't, nothing will change.”

Well said, Dennis. I’m writing a letter to Mr. Slim. Seriously, I used to work for the Azcarraga’s a long time ago, I still remember a thing or two about how get through the myriad of “handlers” to reach a Mexican tycoon.

The Politics of Network TV and How it Affected NBC’s “Outlaw”
I have had so many inquiries as to why NBC cancelled the TV series “Outlaw” after only a handful of episode. “Outlaw” starred Jimmy Smits as Cyrus Garza, a Supreme Court Justice who abruptly resigns to defend the people who he believes have little to no chance at fair and balance representation in our current American justice system. The show tackled important social issues plaguing our society: Abortion and gay rights, immigration, racisms, you name it and it was covered. Well, for first and only 8 episodes aired that is.

The show had its problems but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. So why cancel this show, while other NBC shows with lower ratings survived? “It [Outlaw] didn’t connect with many viewers,” according to one NBC executive interviewed. Bah! Humbug! Baloney!

The In re: Tracy Viladin episode of “Outlaw” which aired on October 16, had the largest viewer audience the network has had in that time slot since June 26, 2010. So why did they cancel it?

Let’s dissect a bit: “Outlaw,” produced by Conaco for NBC, and Conaco, is Conan O’Brien’s production company. Connect the dots to the Jay Leno vs. Conan debacle. It was all a matter of which show had the least appeal to the network -- sheer network politics.

Do you [NBC] want to keep “Outlaw” when your relationship with Conan has soured or do you keep a high costing sci-fi/conspiracy thriller “The Event” created by Nick Wauters and executive produced by Steve Stark who have already given the network a six year hit with mystery/drama Medium)?

With ABC’s hit “Lost” gone and FOX’s 24 done, it didn’t matter that “Outlaw” could have eventually experienced the same success that “West Wing” had as I believe. NBC has a lot invested in “The Event” in spite of the lackluster ratings (Nielson reports indicate show placed 4th in primetime ratings, 2.0/5 vs. ABC’s first place 3.9/10).  With ratings continuing to erode, it is doubtful “The Event” will ever secure the audience it needs to succeed.

A parting thought with a ray of hope: Politics of the networks is what killed this promising primetime series, just like it cancelled the George Lopez Show. However, the George Lopez sitcom was eventually picked up in syndication and it became a major cable hit that is still on the air worldwide. Stay tuned for more “Outlaw.”

Enrique Castillo

The last episode of 'Outlaw' was a fine example of the Latino talent that will no longer have this show to showcase their work. In Re: Tony Mejia, Latinos included guest star Enrique Castillo as Tony Mejia, Marcelo Tubert and Alex Meneses as psychologists, Gary Cervantes as a judge, as well as Carlos Sanz and Toni Torres. You can watch all their performances

Mora and Montecon Working in Louisiana
Got a call from veteran actor Danny Mora from location in Baton Rouge, Louisiana filming “Dragon Eyes,” homage to Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Dollars starring marshal arts champion Cung Le and Peter aka Robocop Wellar.

Danny Mora
Danny called to tell me that there are more Latinos working in Louisiana than in L.A. “Thank God for red beans and rice,” Danny joked. Seriously, he’s having a blast, “it’s almost like I’m working for Leone in an old Hollywood Spaghetti western.”

Crystal Montecon
John Hyams is directing this action flick and Mora plays grandfather to actress Crystal Montecon (Harold & Kumar) who also co-stars in a principal role. Crystal is steadily gaining recognition with each of her outstanding performances. She reminds me of when Rosalyn Sanchez first hit pay dirt in Rush Hour 2 in 2001. Crystal Montecon is a ethereal beauty who can portray any role of any ethnicity. Listen up, Hollywood.

That’s the latest for Latinowood, stay tuned for my funny Christmas story that involves Jose Feliciano.

For more Latino celebrity and entertainment news check out Latinheat.com.