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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 23, 2003

New fall TV lineup show more diversity

By David Bauder
Associated Press

Come to Whoopi Goldberg's hotel, or Luis Guzman's doughnut shop. Cheech Marin is dad to a talk-show host. Steve Harvey is back, and Will Smith airs family dirty laundry.

Television makes a strong move toward ethnic diversity with its new fall programming, particularly in comedies. Eighteen programs will feature minority stars, including eight new comedies — up from two new comedies last year.

NBC also committed to a series starring Tracy Morgan of "Saturday Night Live" for midseason.

Four years ago, television networks came under harsh criticism for lack of minority representation in prime-time programming, and the NAACP threatened boycotts if there were not improvements.

Those attacks, coupled with the success of programs such as ABC's "My Wife and Kids" and "George Lopez" and Fox's "Bernie Mac," may have contributed toward this year's increase in diversity, said Doug Alligood, senior vice president at the advertising agency BBDO.

"The criticism did not hurt in terms of making people wake up to this, although I'm sure a lot of people don't want to admit that had anything to do with it," Alligood said.

Goldberg stars in NBC's "Whoopi," as an ex-singer who runs her own hotel in New York City. Fox has given the green light to "Luis" and "The Ortegas," featuring Marin in a show with improvisational elements. Harvey hosts a talent show for average folks with odd talents.

The WB will launch "All About the Andersons," with comic Anthony Anderson playing a struggling actor and single father, and "Like Family," in which a troubled poor white teenager is sent to live with a suburban black family.

Alligood noted the increase of multi-ethnic casts, where networks are obviously trying to appeal to more than one group. The challenge is to do it seamlessly, he said, not in a way that makes it appear as though one ethnic group is being used as a comic foil.

"When a white person is brought into a black show, the white person is usually pretty stupid," he said.