‘Crazy Rich Asians’ success failed to boost APA representation on TV: media group

The recently cancelled ABC sitcom ‘Fresh Off the Boat’

The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC)—the only organization to have graded the top four television networks since 2001—issued its annual Report Cards for the past 2018-19 season, assessing the four major TV networks on their progress toward diversity and inclusion of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) onscreen and behind the camera.

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Although ABC and CBS maintained their same grades for Actors and NBC increased (from C to C+), the Coalition fears that the unprecedented success of Crazy Rich Asians in the Summer of 2018 failed to boost significantly the number of APA-led series on network TV. ABC had three pilots in contention that would have starred APAs (first name in the credits), including two that would have featured Asian American families. NBC had a pilot about an Asian American magician, and CBS was considering an Asian American family sitcom including Ken Jeong as a cast member. But none of them made the 2018-19 line-up.

What’s more, with the cancellation of ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat” and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” the number of APA regulars is expected to fall in the 2020-21 season.

“Since the APAMC began meeting with the networks in 1999,” noted APAMC chair Daniel Mayeda, “we have generally seen an improvement in the various categories (such as Actors, Unscripted, Writers/Producers, Directors). For example, in the 2002-03 season, onscreen representation of APAs was so bad, we gave two networks Fs in the Actors category.  As part of the larger Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition (MEMC)— which also includes the NAACP, National Latino Media Council, and American Indians in Film/TV—we pushed the networks to sign Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), create diversity departments, actors showcases, writers and directors programs, and other pipeline programs.”

Netflix’s ‘Always Be My Maybe’ is one of the biggest gains for APA
APAMC’s Report Card shows diversity grades for the major networks

But progress has plateaued in many cases for the networks, with Fox recording its lowest grade in the Actors category (D+) in the past 18 years.

The biggest gains for APAs now seem to be happening in non-network media, including streaming services Netflix (“Master of None,” “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” parts 1 and 2, “Ugly Delicious,” “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” “Always Be My Maybe,” “Tigertail,” “Never Have I Ever,” “The Half of It”), Amazon Prime (“Man in the High Castle,” “Warrior”), and Hulu (“PEN15”); cable channels Comedy Central (“Awkwafina is Nora from Queens,” “Ronny Chieng: International Student”), AMC (“Into the Badlands,” “Killing Eve,” “The Terror: Infamy”), Bravo (“Family Karma”), and Disney Channel (“Andi Mack,” “Mira, Royal Detective”); and theatrically-released motion pictures (“Searching,” “The Farewell,” “Plus One,” “Stuber”).

“While we continue to advocate for the networks to feature more APAs in leading roles, the Coalition applauds the increased inclusion of APAs in other venues,” Mayeda said. “We recognize that many of these programs and films would not have been possible without the training and opportunities created by the networks’ diversity efforts. But the networks themselves need to redouble their efforts to avoid slipping behind their streaming and cable counterparts in representing APAs.”

“Given the backlash many Asian Americans have faced because of COVID-19, we urge the networks to also produce news stories on this rising concern as well as the remarkable contributions our communities have made to this country,” added Rita Pin Ahrens, executive director of OCA—Asian Pacific American Advocates, an APAMC member organization.

Finally, this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, APAMC celebrates all APA creators and artists who represent and reflect the diversity of the Asian American and Pacific Islander experience. “We urge everyone to take advantage of the many online programs available in May that will showcase the tremendous talent in the APA community,” remarked Francis Cullado, Executive Director of APAMC member group Visual Communications. “We also want to bring attention to the multi-part documentary series ‘Asian Americans’ that will air on the PBS network of stations on May 11-12.” — Asian Pacific American Media Coalition

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© The FilAm 2020

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