Thursday, August 30, 2012

GLAAD Fails CBS and TBS, while Showtime, ABC, and the CW Pass with Flying Colors

This year's annual GLAAD report card was released for the the major television networks, and while not much has changed the statistics are a reminder of network priorities.  Here is a quick rundown from their report for basic cable networks:

The report shows that while the CW has dropped ever so slightly they still remain at the top.  The CW is network with much younger demographics, and as youth become more progressive they have used more LGBT representation on shows like 90210, and LA Complex.  ABC got a slight bump from Chaz Bono's appearance on Dancing with the Stars, a casting that also stirred up a lot of controversy, but the network stood by their decision. FOX dropped to third and while NBC moved up in percentages the Peacock network remained in fourth place.  CBS continues to fall farther and farther, but their network and the CW have completely opposing demographics, and while I am sure Les Moonves (a good network head) wants to have a better grade he is doing things to slowly change the perception of this network.  Both the last place networks have two shows focused on LGBT characters, CBS has Partners with Michael Urie and Brandon Routh as a gay couple (from the creators of Will & Grace), and NBC has The New Normal (from Ryan Murphy).  These two shows could help these networks in a major way.  

One thing that's clear is that the same creators create the shows centered around or that contain LGBT characters, and most of those people are gay men.  Ryan Murphy, Marc Cherry, Michael Patrick King, Alan Balll Max Mutchnick all as gay men, and seem to be some of the names that pop up with gay characters at the center.  I am proud that these men have achieved the success that they have, but it would be nice to see other creators incorporate LGBT folks into their framework.  Show runners like David Caspe (whom I believe identifies as heterosexual) has done a great job with Max on Happy Endings, another reason for ABCs bump. Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd who created Modern Family should also be applauded for adding a gay male couple to their line up.  The landscape is changing, but if you look at the gender of all the characters I have mentioned and the creators/producers most of them are men and the networks need to step it up on providing LB and T more.

The cable networks statistics look like this:

  • Showtime (46%), ABC Family (34%), TNT (34%), and HBO (33%) all received “Good” ratings for the quantity and quality of their LGBT-inclusive original programming.
  • MTV (23%) which received an “Excellent” score two years ago received an “Adequate” score this year along with FX (34%), TLC (20%) and USA (17%).
  • For the fourth year in a row TBS (5%) received a “Failing” rating, as did the History network (3%).
Interestingly enough I did not see AMC within this study, although I feel as though they were lumped into the "other cable network status" which is interesting because they have far more original programming than the History Channel.  I would not assign AMC a good grade either, even though most of their programming is some of the best on television, there are no LGBT character, which I can think of.  Everyone states that the cable networks are more progressive, and they take more risks, but in reality their scores are not much better than the three top scoring networks on the basic cable side.There are obviously other factors to look at, like the CBS parent company Viacom oversees Showtime so this could be seen as a win just as much as a loss.  

Statistics matter, but networks should not put something on the air, just to do it. NBCs new fall comedy The New Normal appears to be a forced example getting LGBT folks on television.  As networks attempt to be progressive they forget they need to shop around, and not put something on the air that lacks quality.  I would rather have these numbers with quality representation than force things on viewers.  

Does this report matter, yes and no.  I like that there are statistics to point out the networks which show me on television, but this is also a business, and money talks.  Losing affiliates is costly.  Utah affiliates will not even be showing The New Normal this fall.  My hope is that data like this becomes more useful, and people do not have to something like this in the future because it just becomes a natural occurence to see LGBT folks in television

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