UW-Madison JOURN 201 - Blacks on Network TV (16 pages)

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Blacks on Network TV

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Blacks on Network TV


University of Wisconsin, Madison
Journ 201 - Intro to Mass Communication
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Blacks on Network TV Political Economic Context American in the Mid 1940s Post war industrial boom Nazism defeated Nascent civil rights movement Military desegregates South remains segregated Television s Rapid Diffusion Percent of homes with television 1940 4 1950 25 1956 65 1960 75 Television s Rapid Diffusion Rapid Increase in Airtime As TV popularity grew airtime increased Initially TV accepted blacks By 1950 black stereotypes return Common roles maids servants valets Stereotypes 1950s The Beulah Show 1950 52 Starring Louise Beavers The Jack Benny Show 1953 Co starring Eddie Anderson vid Stereotypes 1950s Subservient roles common in 1950s Buelah and Rochester roles Comedic not dramatic Servants to whites No families of their own First names only Why the Shift From acceptance of blacks to stereotypes Didn t want to offend Southern audience Reliance on proven formulas Adapted successful radio shows for TV Amos n Andy 1951 53 Adventures of three friends On radio two white actors play the roles TV cast all black In syndication until 1966 Sponsored show The Stars Radio Freeman Gosden l Charles Correll r TV Spencer Williams l Andy Tim Moore c Kingfish Alvin Childress r Amos Amos n Andy Amos n Andy generated controversy Black community was split Amos n Andy Arguments against the show Demeaning stereotypes Ignored real life problems faced by blacks Inaccurate depiction of black middle class Amos n Andy Arguments for the show Provided jobs for black actors Normalized black life Depicted black professionals vid Amos n Andy Despite the problems and controversy the show was historically important First nuclear black family on TV Includes breadth of character types Demonstrates TV industry s support for African American performers Public sees many accomplished black actors Blacks on TV 1960s Increasing number of black characters Networks eliminate sponsor system Civil rights movement Emerging market of black consumers Roles were mostly non stereotypical High level professionals Highly intelligent Perfectly integrated Two Shows Two Stars I Spy 1965 1968 Starring Robert Culp Bill Cosby Julia 1968 1971 Starring Diahann Carrol Marc Copage vid I Spy Julia Significant breakdown of black stereotypes BUT they also established a standard for black inclusion in prime time Blacks are acceptable as long as they are teamed with white co stars and don t display racial heritage Blacks on TV 1970s Number of roles for blacks continues to increase Black middle class growing Black political clout growing One Show One Event All In the Family 1971 1979 Starring Carol O Connor Roots 1977 7 part mini series All in the Family Explicitly included racism and other social issues in the plot Lead character is a bigot Success allowed producer Norman Lear to create spin offs with black stars Further success leads to more black programming vid All in the Family Important milestone because the show included frank discussion of race relations and racism in America BUT also established a standard by which these issues could be depicted Dealing with race and racism in the US is acceptable in comedy programs Roots 85 of homes saw all or part of the show Major effort to depict black culture accurately and thoroughly in Africa and America vid Roots First major TV drama to feature a primarily black cast and deal with white racism and black slavery in prime time BUT also established a standard by which white racism against blacks would be depicted Racial oppression by whites against blacks could be shown but in historical settings not the present Blacks on TV 1980s The Cosby Show 1984 1992 vid The Cosby Show Challenging Established Standards Primarily black cast not teamed with whites Black culture history is central to the show Contemporary social issues frequent theme BUT comedy genre vid Frank s Place 1987 88 vid Black cast and setting Black culture and history Contemporary race related themes Dramedy Frank s Place Challenging Established Standards Not a mixed race cast Not culturally generic Not set in the past Not a comedy Frank s Place Went beyond the TV industry s accepted standards of black representation RESULT Cancelled after 22 episodes Today Many TV shows deal with contemporary issues of race and racism against blacks Many TV shows are infused with black history and culture Blacks are not confined primarily to situation comedies 2 3 of black actors in dramas Today BUT All black casts primarily in comedies Blacks are lead stars primarily in comedies Shows with black stars shown mainly on Saturday night the least watched prime time night 2002 Few TV dramas have black actors in lead role carrying the show Conclusion The story of blacks on network TV Two steps forward one step back

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