Does anyone remember the Emmy’s Opening Number from last month? Well, here’s a refresher: Kenan Thompson’s intro began with “This year’s Emmy Awards has the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history” followed by an opening titled We Solved It! and by “it” they meant the diversity issue. And by “We Solved It!” they went for 5 minutes to say what they really meant: “We (Did Not At All) Solve It!”
This year’s Emmy Awards had Sandra Oh as the first Asian to be nominated for a Lead Actress Emmy. It also awarded Darren Criss Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, making him the first Filipino-American to win an Emmy. And it only took 70 years! Hooray.
So, we know there’s still a diversity issue, right? That’s pretty clear, right?
We took a look at the primetime shows premiering this Fall and the numbers may not surprise you. Of all 19 shows premiering this season, a whopping 2 (yes, TWO!) have Asian characters billed in their top 5 cast. So Kate McKinnon really wasn’t kidding in that Emmy opening when she sang “You’re welcome, Asian people. We gave you that one show!” This Fall we have Single Parents and I Feel Bad. Thank you, primetime TV. We’re really glad you saw how well Crazy Rich Asians, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, and Searching did and took it all into account with your new shows.
In Single Parents (Wednesdays on ABC from 9:30pm – 10pm) Jake Choi plays Miggy Park, a single father amongst a dysfunctional group of other single parents that help each other navigate through family, friends, and relationships.
Sarayu Blue plays lead character, Emet, in I Feel Bad (Thursdays on NBC from 9:30pm – 10pm). This comedy series follows Emet as she deals with generational differences between both her kids and her parents, societal pressure, and just being a woman, really.
Critics of the shows come with similar reviews. Single Parents is a refreshing take on a hangout sitcom, with potential to be great, but reviewers found that its pilot fell short in that it tried to explain everything in one sitting. Variety praised Sarayu Blue in I Feel Bad for her comedy and acting, but found that the writing and specifically the role of her male coworkers made for a misogynistic “comedy” that just didn’t work in a show that is meant to be empowering for women.
Maybe the win here is that these two actors play roles that aren’t stereotypically expected of them. Jake Choi’s character is a 20 year-old, tattoo-covered, single-father. Sarayu Blue plays a female video-game designer. The best part about these characters is that they aren’t perfect, they can’t be pinned for this idea of a model minority, that they make mistakes, and can be humorous throughout it all. Both characters are flawed and comedic, without having to be the comedic relief or punchline of the show. And that’s what makes them relatable.
Small progress is, of course, better than no progress. Giving these characters their own storylines, rounded and (hopefully) well thought-out personalities, and time on screen is a win nonetheless. Maybe next year we can get THREE Asian roles and really solve the diversity problem!
Now let’s hope Fresh Off The Boat survives the year with ABC on Friday nights…
Blog post by Jillian Maniquis