So HBO has a problem with Girls. Mainly, that a lot of smart people are really pissed the show is so white! And they’re right. I’ve refrained from writing extensively about this because (a) so many other people (links above!) are doing it well, (b) I think the show is smart, and (c) I agree with Seitz: race is the industry’s problem, not Lena Dunham’s. She is privileged, yes, but, let’s be honest, also got lucky with a sweetheart Louie-like deal: cheap production and relative freedom in lieu of high ratings (Girls‘s paltry 0.4 rating in the demo would get it canceled everywhere but HBO, and maybe FX**).
In the spirit of shifting blame back on the industry and being constructive, I’ve decided to link to some web shows mainstream TV critics might not know about, because there are so many.
The Girls imbroglio, which was easy to see coming but surprised and heartened me in its scale, has shone a light on the ugly side of Hollywood most people forget about. Mainly, that most everyone is white, and most people in power are male. Alyssa Rosenberg has done a really great job highlighting this in the past week (see: her posts on women of color already writing for TV and her stats on their employment).
There’s been some discussion about how the Internet figures into all of this, with a number of people mentioning Awkward Black Girl, hugely popular and shopped to networks only to stay online (following The Guild, that might be a good call for Rae). Latoya Peterson linked to my black, gay and latino web series pages — links at the top — in her great critique of Girls.
I thought I’d make it easy, and, in the spirit of “put up or shut up,” spotlight a few shows, past and present, which could use an FX-style pick-up. A lot of these shows would be cheap to do, but could benefit from the little bit of low-risk cash TV networks can deliver (I’ve highlighted shows by men and women, because the problem isn’t just with female-led shows on TV, far from it).
As always, this is the tip of very large iceberg. Please put other suggestions in the comments!
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
An obvious mention, Awkward Black Girl isn’t a perfect show — what show is? — but it’s smart, fresh and incredibly adept at speaking to specific concerns of black women, young black professionals and anyone who’s ever worked in an office or had to choose between two romantic interests.
Black and Sexy TV
Dennis Dortch’s online network features a number of relationship dramas and comedies. They’re pretty made-for-web, but I’d be intrigued about what a TV version would look like.
BJ Fletcher: Private Eye
This lesbian detective series ended its run last week — final episode embedded above. It built a sizable cult following and almost made it television, but the producers decided to end it on the web.
I emailed the show and creator Regan Latimer told me why: ”It was a very conscious decision for us to bring the show back to the web – it’s an amazingly creative and open format for telling the stories we want to tell. It’s a new industry that is quickly opening up as a new standard for traditional media. And we’re excited to have been in on the ground floor.” For its part HBO is not foreign to lesbian web shows, having funded years ago the short-lived Time Traveling Lesbian.
PS – another lesbian sitcom about two “girls” (and, like Girls, anti-heros as well!): The Slope.
Drama Queenz went all-out in its third with 20-minute episodes and higher production values. The show wants to be on TV, someone should shepherd it through! (It won’t be Logo).
There’s no better way to balance a comedy about privileged hipsters in Brooklyn than with another comedy about gentrification in Brooklyn. East WillyB is currently raising money for its first full season — visit Kickstarter.
Melody Set Me Free
Performance and video artist Kalup Linzy’s web series has new episodes out right now! If we’re looking for an arty/avant-garde show by and about people of color, we need look no further.
Pete Chatmon’s under-seen show is high concept: a former (black) party girl pitches her story about being a seventies’ wild child. The show presents her youthful exploits as proto-reality television in 8mm. Can you beat that?
The Real Girl’s Guide to Everything Else
This satire of Sex and the City and female-targeted media is arguably the polar opposite of Girls: diverse, politically aware, campy and silly. A second season is apparently in the works. Why shouldn’t it air on television?
This early web series is no longer in production, but when’s the last time we saw a Latina-focused, racially aware sitcom on television?
**Yes, HBO is in fewer homes. You get my point.