I don’t watch much TV. I don’t have the patience for it, really. I have a handful of favorites (Scandal is everything, and don’t you dare judge me), but for the most part, I’m a book and movie kind of girl. I checked out on most programming when it became apparent that networks were never going to give up cheap, mindless reality shows and focus on quality storytelling. There is just something inherently insulting and annoying about the fact that shows about fake relationships, extreme weight loss transformations, and fading singers judging other people’s singing are huge ratings draws. Who needs an intriguing show with intelligent, relatable characters when you can watch some self-involved asshole or desperate shrew choose the network-selected partner (who they’ve slept with) for weeks of weeks of faux relationship bliss as the runner-up weeps (whom they’ve also slept with)? Riveting stuff, I’m sure.
But that’s not why we’re here.
How I Met Your Mother ended a very long, and apparently, very successful run this week. I wasn’t a fan of the show.
I watched a few episodes out of boredom over the years, and may or may not have been entertained. I honestly can’t remember, nor can I tell you anything specific about it. It was one of those shows I just happened to see while flipping through channels, because I am a sucker for 90s nostalgia, and let’s be honest: How I Met Your Mother was loaded with it. Neil Patrick Harris could play a heroin-addicted, axe murdering porn star in his next project, and I’d still see Doogie Howser. I would imagine that’s the case for most people, which is why the poor guy has never really had a hugely successful career. Brutal.
Aside from the happy childhood feels I got whenever I stumbled across it, How I Met Your Mother never quite did it for me, but it wasn’t until its finale that I could put my finger on why I found it so underwhelming: it was too white. That is something that has been driven home ad nauseum this week, as America said goodbye and HIMYM rode off into the sunset of television history. It was a show about white people being very, very white. So white, its writers didn’t bat an eye at possibly offending the Asian community in a certain episode. And in 2014, that’s kind of not okay.
Now, I could be delicate about this, or go on and on (and on) about how much I enjoy nearly everything mentioned on Stuff White People Like and love my white friends, but that would undermine the point of this post and completely ruin our time together. And I want very much for our time to matter.
The average American spends just over five hours each day watching television, and will spend nine years doing so over the course of his/her lifetime. I probably spend around half of that, watching shows I’ve enjoyed for a few years, or recently discovered, and realized that the shows I’m drawn to have some of the most diverse casts on television. Sleepy Hollow, 30 Rock, The Good Wife, Scandal (shut up), Suits, and the now-defunct Chuck. Feel free to check out the cast for each of these, and then compare them to what you watch. I’ll wait.
You back? You good? Did you spot any major differences between your favorite shows and mine?
Before you get offended (or cocky, depending on our television compatibility), I’m not out to shame or slam you, or even the people who bring us our programming. Rather, I’m just trying to make a point that I and many others feel is worth making in light of the demise of How I Met Your Mother: TV shows are still really, really white. AMC’s Mad Men. CBS’ How I Met Your Mother (and post- Taraji Person of Interest, so you won’t think I’m cheating). Fox’s The Following. White, white, and white. I’m not overly sensitive about these things. I don’t get my back up over most racial “controversies” in the media because most really aren’t worth the time, but the lack of commitment to and/or awareness of the need of diversity on these shows gives me pause. Do the writers, producers, and network heads really not get it? At all? I’ll be generous and give Mad Men a bit of break, because it’s set in the sixties, and, well, you know, inequality. Still, minorities were educated and capable of being more than just “the help” in those days. And in 2014, despite what Mad Men’s willfully ignorant creator appears to believe. They couldn’t have shown blacks or other minorities working in advertising? Because they certainly did, and still do. To its credit, AMC did acquiesce in later seasons and add black characters, but in seriously limited roles. It kind of defeats the purpose of being inclusive if you don’t really give the underrepresented actors something meaningful to do. Which is fine, I guess. I just won’t watch or give your advertisers my money.
Yes, we live in the age of Shonda Rimes’ genius, but beyond Shonda’s current shows, is there much diversity to be had on television? Besides the token black/Asian/Latino (supporting) characters? Kerry Washington in the first black actress in twenty years to play a lead character in twenty years. TWENTY. YEARS. Isn’t that kind of ridiculous? And in 2012, one of my favorite cable shows, Covert Affairs, killed its only minority character in the season opener, and with it, its claim to diversity. Sendhil Ramamurthy, by all accounts, was not planning on leaving the show, so why this was done is still a head scratcher.
Maybe this seems silly to you, and I’m just rambling on nonsensically, but I would like it if television shows reflected a little more of America’s diversity. I refuse to believe that Americans don’t want to see minorities in lead roles. Have you seen Scandal‘s numbers? Obviously, something has shifted. I just wish TV networks would recognize this.