Gail Choice | 5/14/2009, 5 p.m.
Knees are knocking, and a lot of bicarbonate of soda is flying off the shelves as producers, writers, and directors find out if they are on the chopping block or not. And television viewers are crossing their fingers in hopes that their favorite shows aren't canceled. Indeed, it's a tough time in television land and even more so for black actors and actresses because if they're a part of a series that's cancelled, they may be out of work for a long, long time.
There are very few shows on the air that actually star black performers in leading roles however, the CW corners the market. "Everybody Hates Chris" is returning for its fourth season, as is "The Game" which is returning for its third season.
Most of the ensemble shows that feature multi-racial casts are returning because they work and are very popular with viewers. Shows such as NBC's "30 Rock" which stars Tracy Morgan ("First Sunday") is returning even though last year it was almost axed. Network executives realized this very adult comedy was actually funny and a wee bit outrageous and research indicates that the show's viewers ranked high in the money earning bracket.
ABC's "Ugly Betty" is returning, and the NAACP will be sure to watch in order to honor the show, its producers and actors next year with an Image Award. Enough said on that.
We'll be saying goodbye to James Lesure part of NBC's struggling drama Las Vegas. Even the addition of Tom Selleck couldn't save the show. ABC's "Men in Trees" is a goner and that's too bad, it was great seeing 'J J's daddy,' John Amos. Maybe it got a little much for viewers when Amos' character fathered a whiter than white 'white' boy.
Ironically the white boy was too white for himself; after being struck by lighting, and loosing his memory, he came back changing everything he didn't like about his former life.
No doubt the writer's strike struck a very deadly blow to the newer comedies and dramas, one such series "Big Shots" featured the very versatile Nia Long. They didn't make the best use of her talents, like most of television's black characters, her role stayed in an advisory capacity. ABC's "Carpooler's never really caught on and neither did actor Jerry Minor. The show featured characters nobody cared about. It was touch and go for ABC's "Women's Murder Club" but it just recently got the ax. And the absence of Paula Newsome's role as a medical examiner means there will be one less black in a role that usually is reserved for people of color.
Another ABC comedy "Miss Guided" didn't last and that's too bad, it had potential, and Earl Billings was very interesting as a disconnected principal of a California high school. CBS announced they wouldn't be renewing "Moonlight" the vampire action drama that breaks all the rules. The vamp was allowed to walk around in daylight, that's a stretch. One actor will be truly missed from the production, Brian J. White, the handsome, clean cut detective that seems to be appearing more and more in feature films. We'll also have to say goodbye to another handsome hunk, Henry Simmons of "Shark" this brother has a rich, distinctive voice, and will seriously be missed. Another CBS show "Jericho" tried its best to hold on, but time ran out for the show.
Lennie James and April Parker-Jones will have to look for greener pastures. D.B. Woodbine, the incredible actor will also exit network TV for now, Woodbine starred in the CBS drama "Viva Laughlin" a very short-lived drama.
Perhaps one of the most unique dramas was Fox's "New Amsterdam" the lead character, a detective, happens to be immortal. He married a black woman and fathered a son Stephen Henderson, who is over 30 years older than his father. The episode introducing Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) to his black family was particularly entertaining, given a little more time, it could have proven to be interesting viewing.
"Oprah's Big Give" gets the big heave-ho from ABC's line-up. The reality show proved to be too much for the Oprah machine.
Along with the canceled productions, Networks are also beginning to announce their new line-ups. In a future article we'll examine the roles or lack there of of black actors and actresses however, as long as ensemble shows continue to be a success, black performers will keep working.
- Gail Choice can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.