Look What's Missing From Daytime TV
09/22/2010 - 13:49|
Recent news from the world of daytime television has heralded some dramatic changes: the decline of soap operas. The remaking of talk shows from tabloid to respectable (so much so that President Barack Obama can drop by). The dusting off of old game shows -- "Let's Make a Deal," "The Price Is Right" -- with snazzier sets and hipper hosts.
Yet from where I sit, the picture remains depressingly similar to the one I grew up watching. Despite just released Nielsen statistics that show 40 percent of new television homes will be Hispanic, among the casts of the many daytime talk shows that begin kicking off this month, there is not a single Latino to be found.
In June, CBS announced to great fanfare its own version of that popular daytime staple "The View." The new chat-fest, called "The Talk," will feature six female co-hosts -- but while one is an Asian American (Julie Chen), and another is African-American (Holly Robinson Peete), there is no Latina. This despite early 2010 census data showing that Hispanics are second in numbers only to white Americans, comprising 17 percent of the U.S. population and more than 50 million people -- representing a 40 percent increase from 2000.
The same goes for ABC's own planned "View" spinoff, which would be aimed at men. Early reports indicate the show will have five co-hosts -- two African-Americans (Bryant Gumbel and Jacque Reid) and an Asian-American (Alec Mapa) -- but no Latinos. It's a similar story over at Oprah Winfrey's new network, OWN, where among the initial slate of shows there is not a single Hispanic host to be seen, while perhaps this fall's splashiest daytime syndicated debut, "The Nate Berkus Show," is fronted by a white man.
As for "The View" itself, well, despite myriad cast changes in its 14 seasons, the show has never granted a Latina a permanent slot. (Former "Real World" star Rachel Campos-Duffy tried out twice for the show but was passed over for, respectively, Lisa Ling and Elisabeth Hasselbeck.)
So where is the Latina Rachael Ray, or Ellen DeGeneres, or even Tyra Banks? It seems likely that part of the problem when it comes to casting talk shows is in how producers think about reaching a Hispanic audience. Traditionally, reaching Latinos has meant reaching us via language -- and, conventional wisdom holds, the language Latinos speak is Spanish.
This kind of thinking is not only disappointing; it also perpetuates stereotypes -- and creates a major missed opportunity. According to early census projections, the majority of Latinos are acculturated, meaning we are born here and grow up speaking English as our first language. Moreover, we consume our media in English -- meaning we are more likely to be watching "Regis and Kelly" than Univision's Cristina Saralegui.
And while the growth in the U.S.'s Hispanic population was being driven by immigration 30 years ago, today's Latino explosion in America is being driven by births.
The children who are growing up here, attending school here and engaging in online social networks here are doing it all in English. The result is a Hispanic population that is younger, savvier and better educated than previous generations -- and emerging as the driving force behind the changing face of America.
With Latino culture on the verge of becoming mainstream culture in many markets -- by 2016, for example, New York City is expected to be 51 percent Hispanic -- inviting us to be part of the daily conversation is more than just a smart business move. It is also the only way to achieve what daytime talk shows claim to be interested in: an informative and exciting look at American life today.
It is time for Latinos to have a seat at the daytime table.
As published in AOL News & AOL Latino