As a TV critic, one thing I do is read other critics to get their perspectives.
In general, I think Chuck Barney of The Contra Costa Times is one of the better ones around, but a piece that ran Thursday totally misses the mark.
Here it is: http://www.contracostatimes.com/top-stories/ci_15063605?nclick_check=1
In the column, Barney takes two very popular ABC shows -- "Modern Family" and "Lost" -- to task, saying that both shows aren't as progressive as it seems when it comes to minority characters.
"Modern Family," the best new sitcom of the season, has a gay couple who adopted a Chinese orphan baby as one of its three branches of the title family. The two characters -- Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet -- each have had plenty of brilliantly hilarious moments, sometimes centered around their homosexuality, and sometimes just moments that could be generic for everyone.
They are shown to be a regular couple, complete with the good things and pitfalls any other couple might face.
But Barney argues that this generally positive portrayal of a gay couple isn't all that positive, because ABC doesn't show moments of true affection between the two. (The other couples on the show experience kissing and other intimate moments, he argues).
To be honest, I hadn't even noticed that until I read the column, which I think is more of an indicator that I'm wrapped up in the show each week rather than the individual romantic gestures of any of the cast.
Meanwhile, "Lost" has had one of the most diverse casts on TV ever since its inception. Blacks, hispanics, Asians and even an Iraqi character have all played critical roles that go far beyond the need of simply having a diverse cast for diversity's sake.
Barney, however, writes that "Lost" seems to give the minority characters more gruesome deaths than the white ones. In addition, he said the white characters have more opportunities to be heroic than the minorities.
Poppycock, I say. First off, Hurley, an Hispanic character, was one of four to survive the sub sinking last week. (The other three, Jack, Sawyer and Kate, are white). Yes, three of the four key characters who died on the sub were minorities, but Sayid died heroically trying to save the rest of the gang from the bomb, and Jin sacrificed his life to die with Sun. (Frank Lapidus died on the impact of the sub taking on water).
Throughout its history, "Lost" has killed off both white and minority characters in all sorts of manner. Mr. Eko was killed by the Smoke Monster. Ana Lucia died after Michael shot her -- the same fate as a white character, Libby. Michael himself died redeeming himself on the ship. White characters such as Charlie, Boone and Shannon died relatively meaningless deaths in comparison. Rousseau and her daughter were both murdered. Nikki and Paolo -- well, the less said, the better.
The point is, "Lost" has given all of its dead characters all sorts of deaths for reasons that were germane to the story. Barney said the minority characters got more violent deaths than the white characters, but I don't see any evidence of that. And if there are several white characters who have made it to the end with the chance to be heroes, there are an equal number of white characters who are serving as the villains.
Diversity is a big issue in Hollywood right now, and perhaps some TV shows deserve some scrutiny. But there's no point in kicking up a row for problems that don't really exist. All it does is tell the next producer that no matter how diverse he or she tries to make a show, someone will nitpick it.
THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: "FlashForward" (ABC, 8 p.m.) has an extremely diverse cast -- let's hope something bad doesn't happen to those characters! It's followed by new episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice."
"Survivor" (CBS, 8 p.m.), "CSI" and "The Mentalist" are all new, as are NBC's sitcoms and "The Marriage Ref" at 10 p.m.
Even though I had guessed who the identity of "The Secretary" was on "Fringe," (Fox, 9 p.m.) it was still a cool reveal last week. It follows a new "Bones" at 8 p.m.
Finally, "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.) wraps up its fifth season tonight with a little thing called THE APOCALYPSE! Originally, the series was supposed to end with this episode, but it will be back for another year next season, minus creator Eric Kripke. Still, I expect the sheer awesomeness of this series to continue. It follows the season finale of "Vampire Diaries" at 8 p.m.
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