Thursday, April 23, 2015

Disrupt SVTV!!! ... final (??) thoughts

Amended: Saturday 5/16/15
HBO renewed its hit TV show "Silicon Valley" for a third season, right after the first episode of its second season was aired two weeks ago. I liked most of the episodes of its first season last year, despite that fact that all of its main characters were stereotypical Asian and Caucasian nerds and/or slobs. I prefer shows that cast Black actors in leading or supporting roles, e.g., all flavors of "Law & Order,"  "NCIS, and "Star Trek" reruns. And I still think that the "Cosby Show" and "The Wire" were two of the best television shows ever produced. 

Nevertheless being an aging techie, I also long to see entertaining stories about techies in shows that are closer to real life in the early 21st century than most science fiction. This season I've only found one show that has a Black techie as a leading character ==> Theo, the serial killer on "The Following." 

Theo may be the most prolific serial killer of all time -- ironic/creative casting given the fact that serial killing is a major crime category within which Black men are famously underrepresented. Theo has had such a long run because he's stayed out of the spotlights, i.e, he's been an invisible man!!! -- an hilarious, but probably unintentional riff on Ellison's classic. But Theo is also the uber-hacker of all time, obliterating FBI firewalls and commandeering everybody's security systems as casually as most men brush their teeth. Of course I'd rather watch a funny, harmless Black nerd/slob on SVTV, but Theo's skills are so impressive that some part of me, while not quite rooting for him, is definitely hoping that he will have a "redemptive moment" before Kevin Bacon inevitably kills him in an extremely violent manner because the notion of a Black super hacker is so .... scary??? ... Hmmmmmm ...


Which brings me back to SVTV, its lack of Black actors, and its speedy renewal for a third season. After all of the heart-felt mea culpas from just about all of the Captains of the real Silicon Valley for the last nine months about how sorry they were that they employed so few techs of color, one would have expected that the new season's premier episode of the Valley's favorite selfie would have introduced at least one Black character ... or a Latino ... or a Native American. But no, it was the same gang of Asian/Caucasian nerd/slobs. So I watched the second episode. Still no Black/Latino/Native American characters


Here's a thought. Just spit-balling. Perhaps subsequent episodes could be  cross-overs, you know, shows wherein a character from another show joins the characters from SVTV. How about if Theo came on, did his thing, and threatened to keep coming back again and again until the producers hired more techs of color on the show than Asians and Caucasians  ... Hmmmm ...


P.S. ... Saturday 5/16/15
I've watched the first few episodes of the 2015 season and have formed the same judgment as I formed during its first season ==> This is a very funny show because it's well written and has a barrel of funny actors, but it still has no major Black characters. Indeed if you blink, you'll probably miss the few minor Black characters that pop up here and there. So I'm not going to watch any more episodes ... until this situation changes. I made a similar decision a long, long time ago when I stopped watching M.A.S.H., which was obviously one of the best shows ever produced for U.S. television. The show was based on a movie that had a Black actor in a major role; but Alan Alda and his liberal friends deleted that character. So I said to myself, "You don't see me? Then I won't see you until you see me" ... which never happened. 

For the same reasons I haven't seen a Woody Allen movie since the mid 80s, despite the fact that Mr. Allen is undoubtedly one of the funniest actor-writer-directors on the planet. But I got tired of watching well made movies that had no Black actors, not even non-speaking Black extras in street scenes in New York City as in too many of Mr. Allen's New York movies. As an ex-New Yorker who returns to the homeland from time to time, I can't recall ever looking out onto any street in any neighborhood without seeing at least one or two Black faces. So once again, "You don't see me? Then I won't see you until you see me" ... Full disclosure requires that I admit that I stopped reading reviews of Mr. Allen's movies many years ago. I used to read them in search of mentions of Black actors in major roles, or even minor roles. Eventually I got tired of looking.

Do I watch TV shows and do I see movies that have no Black actors in major roles? Of course I do. But IMHO most "good" movies and most "good" TV shows are really low quality, eminently forgettable schlock productions that are good enough for a few laughs and/or a few cheap thrills. But they aren't good enough to be held to high standards of social responsibility. 

I wasn't surprised that "Silicon Valley" was renewed for a third season right after its second season began. IMHO, it's still a really good show, good enough to be placed in a larger social context, good enough to be held to much higher standards than the usual schlock. But after plowing through an endless series of depressing un-diversity reports from major software companies in Silicon Valley and points north since last summer, I find that my capacity to laugh at apartheid jokes has been severely curtailed. Nor do I buy into any "clever" self-serving arguments that "we are exaggerating real problems in order to satirize these problems" ... translation, we have no Black actors because the real Silicon Valley only has a few Black techies ... So "one more time" as Count Basie used to say, "You don't see me? Then I won't see you until you see me."