One of the benefits afforded to viewers by the current era of “Peak TV” we’re in isn’t just the seemingly endless river of content to binge, it’s that a comforting amount of that content – She’s Gotta Have It, Fresh Off the Boat, and many more – tell stories from handful of refreshing and diverse perspectives. During a roundtable discussing the evolution of this diversity in the television industry, Freeform’s EVP of Programming & Development, Kathryn Burke, revealed that this diversity wasn’t only something that Hollywood lacked – it was something they actively resisted.
Burke shares a story of being in the room when Friends, now the New Testament for upper-middle class white Millenials, was pitched to network execs by creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane. According to Burke, the network execs weren’t completely taken with the idea of a cast with the combined whiteness and straightness of a baguette, but in response to this request for diversity, Kauffman and Crane pushed back, emphasizing that “they wrote the script with specific people in mind.”
“I think now it might be a different conversation. I also think that was Gen X, and I think Millenials and subsequently Gen Z are far more diverse generations. And I think to honestly serve those generations…it might feel a little tone deaf to not be more inclusive.”
Karey Burke, EVP, Freeform Programming & Development
In all fairness, Kauffman may have learned a thing or two since those days, as she would go on to co-create Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, which although still sports a pretty racially homogenous cast, features characters that diverge both from the age brackets and sexualities that make up the bulk of who we see on our TV screen.