With the Success of Black Shows on Television, Is This a New Day for Diversity?

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EMPIRE: Cast Pictured L-R: (Bottom Row) Bryshere Gray as Hakeem Lyon, Jussie Smollett as Jamal Lyon, Trai Byers as Andre Lyon (Middle Row) Grace Gealey as Anika, Kaitlin Doubleday as Rhonda Lyon (Back Row) Gabourey Sidibe as Becky, Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon, Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon and Ta'Rhonda Jones as Porsha on EMPIRE Season 2 premiering Wednesday, September 23 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: James Dimmock/FOX.
EMPIRE: Cast

The past two weeks have been big for Black TV.

Viola Davis won an Emmy for her work on the Shonda Rhimes show, How to Get Away with Murder. Regina King won for her work on American Crime and Uzo Aduba took home another Emmy for her work on Orange Is the New Black.

Last week, How to Get Away with Murder, Empire, and Black-ish premiered to huge audiences, with Empire leading the way, attracting over 16.2 million viewers. The shows join Scandal, Being Mary Jane, Sleepy Hollow, The Flash, Power and others to a growing list of programs with diverse casts.

Many people are wondering if this is the golden age of Black TV, mimicking the 1990s when almost every major network had a popular TV show with a Black majority cast.

Added to the mix of new shows with a Black lead is Morris Chestnut’s forensic procedural, Rosewood, which premiered on Fox to an audience of 7.2 million, which Entertainment Weekly reports was better than network executives expected Rosewood joined other new shows with Black leads including Minority Report on FOX, starring Meagan Good and The Player on NBC, starring Wesley Snipes.

What we see now is the beginning of something that should have always existed—Black actors can have roles that traditionally would have gone to white actors.

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Rosewood is a prime example of a show a typical white actor would have starred in just five years ago. The fact that network is willing to put a Black actor in a leading role is a step in the right direction.

More Black series are slated to be released later this year, including ABC’s Uncle Buck, starring comedian Mike Epps. NBC’s The Carmichael Show, which debuted in late summer, has been approved for a full season (though Craig Robinson’s Mr. Robinson will not be renewed). Producer Will Packer also has two new projects in development, both at NBC Universal, according to Shadow and Act. Packer has an overall deal which was recently extended through 2017.

As Black television shows continue to produce big numbers, expect more diverse programming in the near future.

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