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Emmy telecast was lacking in diversity

Very few people of color were among the nominees and presenters.

September 22, 2009|Greg Braxton

If trophies were handed out for promoting diversity in nationally televised award programs, CBS' telecast of the Primetime Emmy Awards would not stand much of a chance to win. On a night dedicated to spotlighting the television industry's best and brightest, it was difficult to see many people of color onstage during the three-hour ceremony.

Few minorities were represented as nominees in Sunday night's telecast. Only one individual nominee of color received an award, Shohreh Aghdashloo for supporting actress in a movie or miniseries for HBO's "House of Saddam."

The lack of diversity was just as evident in the presenter ranks. Out of 39 presenters, three were minorities, all African Americans -- Chandra Wilson of "Grey's Anatomy," Tracy Morgan of NBC's "30 Rock" and LL Cool J of the new CBS program "NCIS: Los Angeles."

"I was sitting in my chair and kept sinking lower and lower," said Vic Bulluck, executive director of the NAACP's Hollywood office. "It shows a clear lack of creativity and vision in network television. In this age of President Obama, the networks are clearly on the wrong side of history. You don't see families like the Obamas on network television."

Executives of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the governing body behind the ceremony, could not be reached, while CBS executives declined to comment.

Last year, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People issued a 40-page report titled "Out of Focus -- Out of Sync" that accused the networks of perpetuating a segregated view of America and failing to diversify behind the camera as well. The NAACP report found that CBS employed the fewest minority writers and producers among the four major networks.

However, the report also praised CBS for hiring more minority development executives than its rivals and for having an African American lead in a prime-time show, Dennis Haysbert of the now-canceled "The Unit." CBS later hired Laurence Fishburne as the lead of its popular "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

"Where are the [former NBC entertainment heads] Brandon Tartikoffs and the Warren Littlefields who are looking for the next 'Cosby Show' or for people of color that will appeal to all Americans?" added Bulluck. "If the people working at the networks now are writing and creating what they know, then we need new people in there."

This summer, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler was asked at the annual press tour about the lack of diversity in CBS' comedies.

A reporter stated that the shows, which include "The Big Bang Theory," "How I Met Your Mother" and "Gary Unmarried," revolve around "affluent white people."

Replied Tassler: "They're not all affluent."

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greg.braxton@latimes.com

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