Silver Chips Online

Couch Potato: A step forward for primetime

By Temi Ibirogba, Online Managing Editor
January 25, 2013
Couch Potato is a weekly blog focusing on the current happenings in the world of television. Come back next Tuesday for the next edition.

In the past year, the evening TV world has opened up its main roles to famous faces like Kerry Washington and Meagan Good who also happen to be women of color.

Washington, who stars as Olivia Pope on the popular ABC show "Scandal," received attention last year not only for her great acting, but also for her skin color. Similarly in the past month, the NBC show, "Deception" starring Good also turned heads because it was yet another primetime show starring a young, black woman in a dominant position.

Despite the strong career positions that both Washington and Good's characters have, the two shows bring up race without ever explicitly discussing it. They both use subtle methods like the women often being superior to the white people surrounding them, which send the message that ABC and NBC are striving for diversity.

Washington's character, Pope, is a former White House Communications Director for fictional President Fitzgerald Grant and now runs her own Crisis Management firm, Olivia Pope and Associates. Pope is successful, beautiful and intelligent. She's also having an affair with the President of the United States, who is white.

This interracial relationship is another subtle way that ABC is attempting to seem more diverse, but the affair does not lessen Pope's character at all because of the classy and put together character that show creator Shonda Rhimes created. Around Washington D.C., Pope is known for her ability to fix almost any problem and strong influence over the decisions of other characters on the show, white or black.

Meagan Good stars as Locasto who moves back in with the wealthy Bowers family that her mother once worked for. Courtesy of NBC
Meagan Good stars as Locasto who moves back in with the wealthy Bowers family that her mother once worked for.
Even if the writers and producers of "Scandal" didn't have the goal of increased diversity in mind while creating the plot line; it still has elements that correspond with "Deception," a show which NBC did aim for diversity with. But despite their attempt to seem more cultured and open to new types of main characters, it cannot help but seem like they shot themselves in the foot with the effort.

Good's character on "Deception," Joanna Locasto, is a San Francisco detective who is doing fairly well for herself. But the show's plot centers around her having to depend once again on the Bowers, the wealthy white family her mother worked for and she subsequently grew up with. When Vivian Bowers, her childhood friend dies in what Joanna and the police department suspect to be a murder, she must go undercover to try and solve the mystery.

But since Good's mother used to be the stereotypical black, domestic help for the Bowers years ago, it already makes her character seem inferior. Other characters such as Edward Bowers, Vivian's brother, make her feel out of place and refer to her as a "guest" in their home rather than someone of equal respect. Even though the audience knows that she's an undercover detective and trying to solve a crime, racial stereotypes are still enforced because of the background the writers of the show chose to give her.

But despite the contradictions that "Deception" seems to have, it still took a step even though it might have stumbled, in a more diverse direction. Both shows have been successful in bringing a more dominant role for the black woman. These shows might help to change prime time television and set an example for future shows.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/11940