Archive for the ‘saturday night live’ Tag

Minority Report Card: Whitney and More.   Leave a comment

“There are two things I know about white people: they love Rachel Ray and they are terrified of curses.”-Ken Hotate

With premiere season over, this column is now going to monitor representation in a sample of seven episodes every week (until midseason premieres – woohoo!). I will be looking at whether it passes the Bechdel test, a test that asks whether the premiere has two female characters who have a conversation about something other than a man. I will also see whether it passes the same test modified to apply to people of color (the “Troy and Abed test”) and then modified to apply to queer people (the “Will and Jack test”). I’ve selected one TV show from every night of the week to look at. I don’t have a particular system devised for selecting episodes to look at, so please comment if you have any requests.

Bob’s Burgers (Fox)

For Sunday I looked at the show I believe is the strongest part of the animation domination line-up. The episode I watched was 3.4 “Mutiny on the Windbreaker.”

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Fail

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: This is among the best shows for great female characters, but as usual this episode was a let down for representation of people of color and queer characters– even though this episode had a very large supporting cast, so there was plenty of opportunity for diversity. There was one character who did seem to be gay, but it was played entirely as a joke.

Gossip Girl (The CW)

On Monday I looked once again at the final season of The CW’s once excellent series. The episode I looked at was 6.5 “Monstrous Ball.” 

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Fail

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: As usual, the final season of Gossip Girl fails at diversity and everything else.

Go On (NBC)

On Tuesday I watched the freshman sitcom starring Matthew Perry as a man going through grief counseling. The episode I looked at was 1.8 “Video Game Set Match.”

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Pass

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: This is easily one of the best sitcoms around for diversity. Although this episode failed the Will and Jack test, Anne continues to be a strong character.

Whitney (NBC)

On Wednesday I watched the premiere of the second season of comedian Whitney Cummings’s show. This was Episode 2.1 “Bawl and Chain.”

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Fail

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: One of the things that annoyed me about the ad campaign and first couple of episodes of this show were the broad generalizations about women. Based on this episode, they seem to have fixed that problem– statements about Whitney being irrational were statements about her personally, not women in general. However, there is no racial diversity on the show and Lily’s many comments about her gay ex-boyfriend were definitely annoying, if not problematic.

Parks and Recreation (NBC)

On Thursday I looked at my favorite show on television, Amy Poehler’s excellent sitcom about the people who work for a small town government office. The episode I looked at was Episode 5.7 “Leslie vs. April.”

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Pass

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: This show is so progressive in most ways that the lack of queer representation always surprises and disappoints me. Come on, guys. Throw someone in there!

Last Man Standing (ABC)

On Friday I looked at the second season of Tim Allen’s family sitcom. The episode I watched was Episode 2.3 “High Expectations.”

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Pass

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: The “we have new neighbors….but they’re black!” plot line is, uh, not exactly fresh. (In fact, this same show did basically the same plot last season with a lesbian couple). Also, because the plot was about the novelty of a black family, I couldn’t stop being reminded that we used to have shows that were actually about black families. Television does not always move forward as time progresses. The lack of queer representation is no surprise. The plus side here is that the subplot about the two daughters showed them as fully realized human beings with an array of pursuits that don’t have to do with men.

Saturday Night Live (NBC)

On Saturday I watched this long-running variety show. The episode I looked at was Episode 38.8 “Jeremy Renner / Maroon 5.” 

Bechdel test: Fail

Troy and Abed test: Fail

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: This cast is 36% people of color and 36% women. One wonders what all those people were doing throughout this episode.

Minority Report Card: Last Man Standing, Malibu Country.   Leave a comment

“You want to pick on immigrants? Then pick on Willie!”-Groundskeeper Willie

“Willie, please, the children want to pick on someone their own size.”-Principal Skinner

For every major network premiere this season I will be looking at whether it passes the Bechdel test, a test that asks whether the premiere has two female characters who have a conversation about something other than a man. I will also see whether it passes the same test modified to apply to people of color (the “Troy and Abed test”) and then modified to apply to queer people (the “Will and Jack test”). This week we had the very last trickle of network premieres, with Last Man Standing and Malibu Country.

Last Man Standing (ABC)

Tim Allen’s sitcom returns for a second season.

Bechdel: Pass

Troy and Abed: Fail

Will and Jack: Fail

Notes: What’s interesting about this show is that the main premise and protagonist have scared off a lot of people who would probably actually enjoy it. The title and the fact that Tim Allen is the star suggest the story of a man trying to deal with a woman’s world and his values being questioned– an icky premise for people in search of progressive shows. However, the female characters are far from being the embodiment of ideas for Tim Allen to refute with old-fashioned morals. Instead they are fleshed out, intelligent, independent human beings who it’s easy to sympathize with. To give you an idea of how far this show is from being the outdated man’s man sitcom it appears to be from the ad campaign, the opening scene is the four female characters all discussing politics. As someone who’s been monitoring how often female characters are allowed to talk, on their own, about things other than boys, this scene was music to my ears. While the development, intelligence and prominence of the four female characters is very surprising and refreshing, the show is pretty lacking in representation of queer people and people of color. Hector Elizondo’s Ed isn’t given much to do besides be a sounding board for the Tim Allen character. A lesbian character was featured in an episode last season, but even though she was established as a neighbor and became friends with the protagonist, it seemed clear she was a one-off character. While more progressive than you might expect, this show still lacks the diversity of most other ABC sitcoms.

Malibu Country (ABC)

Reba McEntire’s new sitcom centers on a recently divorced mother who moves from Nashville to Malibu.

Bechdel: Pass

Troy and Abed: Fail

Will and Jack: Fail

Notes: Jai Rodriguez provides the only non-white character, in a role that seems very one-dimensional. His character is most likely gay, since this does not seem like the kind of show that would give a character stereotypically flamboyant mannerisms and then make him anything other than homosexual. There’s another male character I’m somewhat intrigued by who claims to be gay, but is later revealed to regularly kiss girls. This doesn’t seem like the kind of show that would handle bisexuality or pansexuality well, but I might keep tuning in to find out where they’re going with this kid.

Well, premiere season is over! Here is a list of the premieres that passed every test:

 

Glee (Fox)

Saturday Night Live (NBC)

Modern Family (ABC)

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

The Amazing Race (ABC)

The Good Wife (CBS)

Congratulations to ABC for being the clear winner here.

With premiere season over, my monitoring schedule will be much less clear cut. I’ll continue tracking American Dad! until it manages to pass one of the tests. Other than that, I’ll be watching whatever grabs my interest or seems popular enough to warrant taking a look at. If there’s a show you’d like me to look at, I’m completely open to suggestions (keeping in mind that I don’t have premium channels).

Minority Report Card: Glee, The X Factor and More.   Leave a comment

“Crackers are a family food. Happy families. Maybe single people eat crackers. We don’t know. Frankly, we don’t want to know. It’s a market we can do without.”-Southern Cracker Executive

For every major network premiere this season I will be looking at whether it passes the Bechdel test, a test that asks whether the premiere has two female characters who have a conversation about something other than a man. I will also see whether it passes the same test modified to apply to people of color (the “Troy and Abed test”) and then modified to apply to queer people (the “Will and Jack test”). This week is slightly confusing because NBC doesn’t know what words mean; they’ve been calling the second episode of all of their sitcoms the “premiere.” I’ve adopted a policy of looking at both the pilot and the episode that the network is calling the premiere. Let’s begin!

The Voice (NBC)

This hit singing competition returns for a third season this fall.

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Pass

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: It’s pretty easy for reality competitions like this to pass the first two tests. Unsurprisingly, at some point a woman talked to Christina and a person of color talked to Cee-Lo. While the premiere didn’t pass that third test, queer contestant De’Borah is on Christina’s team, which means that if she makes it through the battle rounds she’ll be coached by out bisexual Billie Joe Armstrong.

Go On (NBC)

This new sitcom features Matthew Perry in a grief counseling group. The test results below reflect the first two episodes of the series.

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Pass

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: While the leads of this show are pretty much what you’d expect– white, heterosexual, attractive and successful– the ensemble is very diverse and interesting. In particular, there’s George (Bill Cobbs), an elderly black man with multiple disabilities; Anne (Julie White), a gay woman in her 40s who is now a single parent after the death of her partner; and Yolanda (Suzy Nakamura), an Asian woman who might be asexual or celibate. Once the minor characters start interacting more with each other and it becomes less focused on Matthew Perry, this could be one of the more progressive shows on TV.

The New Normal (NBC)

This new sitcom from Ryan Murphy focuses on a gay couple and the woman who is having their baby. The test results below reflect the first two episodes of the series.

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Fail

Will and Jack test: Pass

Notes: I can’t stress enough how much this show fails to represent people of color. Occasionally Nene Leaks shows up to yell at people, talk about how rich her boss is and say things like “this is why my people spank!” The two other people of color we’ve seen are a highly sexualized Asian woman who is just there to have sex with a white man and then have bigoted insults hurled at her and a silent Latino mover who is just there to have bigoted insults hurled at him.

Parenthood (NBC)

This drama about an extended family returns for its fourth season this fall.

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Pass

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: It was nice to see a plot line about agnosticism, although the show wasn’t as frank as it could have been. The show also features a child with autism. It seems weird to me that there isn’t any queer representation on this show since it seems like it’s trying to be realistic and statistically you’d think someone in the extended family would be gay.

The X Factor (Fox)

Simon Cowell’s new singing competition returns for a second season this fall.

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Pass

Will and Jack test: Fail

Notes: Unlike American Idol, queer contestants are allowed to be out on the show. However, despite the fact that they often show the contestants with family, friends and partners, we didn’t get to see two out queer people interact with each other in a significant way.

Glee (Fox)

This musical comedy show, which primarily exists to sell iTunes singles, is returning for its fourth season.

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Pass

Will and Jack test: Pass

Notes: This show passed all of my tests easily. The most exciting part of this season is the surprisingly not terrible portrayal of Unique, the first trans character to be in the main cast of a major network show. As much as I was prepared to hate Glee, during the scenes where Blaine, Brittany and Unique were interacting, it was pretty incredible to realize that this was a major network show where three queer people are interacting and they’re all queer in different ways (gay, bisexual and trans, respectively) and since the plot was all about competing over solos, it was a plot line that wasn’t just about being queer. Throw in the racial diversity and I have to admit that I was impressed, even with all of my hatred for Glee that’s built up over the past three years. That being said, one inoffensive episode doesn’t necessarily mean the show is changing its ways. In the past Glee has been a highly offensive show. (Don’t take my word for it. You can read articles on some of the problems with Glee at Feminist Fatale and Think Progressive). It’s important to approach it with an extremely critical eye because of the problems it has dealing with women, sexuality, gender identity and race. Also, I want to point out that while it is very diverse, it’s not the only show out there to boast that kind of diversity. I highly recommend The L.A. Complex and Degrassi, two shows that are also extremely diverse but are far less problematic than Glee.

Shark Tank (ABC)

A reality show about business returns for a fourth season.

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Pass

Will and Jack test: Unknown

Notes: I couldn’t find anything on the personal lives of the “Sharks” and none of the contestants identified as queer. Since this show doesn’t delve into contestants’ personal lives as much as talent competitions do, it doesn’t feel as weird to not have anyone mention being queer.

Saturday Night Live (NBC)

This sketch show returns for a millionth season.

Bechdel test: Pass

Troy and Abed test: Pass

Will and Jack test: Pass

Notes: Things aren’t looking great. The episode passed all three tests, but each time it was only because of one very quick interaction. They would have a much better chance at passing with a female host or a host who is a person of color, but so far they’ve got three white guys lined up.