Diverse TV casts widen audiences

Apparently, everybody doesn't love Raymond.

The hit CBS TV series "Everybody Loves Raymond," the top-rated situation comedy among white Americans, ranks only No. 65 with African-American viewers.

A new study by TN Media, reported widely in the press this week, shows a still-wide gap between what whites and blacks are watching.

"The Parkers," for example, a UPN show with a black cast, was the No. 2-ranked show among African-Americans. But among whites, it was near the bottom, No. 119. In fact, four top shows among blacks ranked below No. 110 with white viewers.

All this was in line with earlier studies, which showed a wide divergence in viewing habits between the races.

What brings viewers together? Seeing people like themselves on-screen. And that means diversity in casting. "Monday Night Football" was the No. 1 show for African-Americans and made the Top 20 for whites (No. 14), as well. The majority of NFL players are black and are shown working closely with white teammates.

Not surprisingly, other shows that did well with both audiences featured diverse casts. The survey found the number of network series with interracial casts rose to 31 from 24 in the previous TV season. Among new shows to offer diverse casts were "Boston Public" (Fox), "The District" (CBS), and "Gideon's Crossing" (ABC).

Despite some progress on screen, Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, recently expressed disappointment with network efforts to increase racial diversity, pointing out that they should extend to off-camera jobs as well.

Write to entertainment@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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