The television landscape for Asian American representation hit a major milestone in 2015 with Fresh Off the Boat and Dr. Ken, which struck a chord with mainstream audiences and critics, proving that an Asian American-fronted sitcom can sell a successful TV show without having to resort to typical stereotypes and tropes that Hollywood has managed to sculpt out of Asian cultures. It’s the first time in television history where two sitcoms on television are on major networks. The country hasn’t seen something like this since 1994’s All-American Girl starring Margaret Cho. The show was canceled after one season, but still remains a significant benchmark in television as the first Asian American-led family sitcom.
Fresh Off the Boat and Dr. Ken could have been a way to open the doors to more sitcoms and shows with a predominantly Asian American cast in 2016, but at the recent network upfronts for the fall TV primetime schedule, no new Asian American shows were announced, but there’s still representation from the big five networks. Upfronts is a presentation where major networks and now digital platforms like Hulu and YouTube present their upcoming fall slate of TV programs. For this list, we’re focusing on the major networks: NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS and the CW. Here’s a helpful guide of what shows have been renewed, cancelled and picked up for the forthcoming season.
The aforementioned Fresh Off the Boat was renewed for a third season while the Ken Jeong-headed Dr. Ken will be coming back for a sophomore season.
Also back in for a second season is the FBI thriller/drama Quantico starring Priyanka Chopra. The is one of the hugest stars in India, but since crossing over stateside, she has become a breakout star with the popular ABC show and her upcoming role as the villain in the big screen adaptation of Baywatch.
Although Marvel couldn’t save Agent Carter on ABC, managed to pick up a fourth season of Agents of SHIELD starring Chloe Bennet and Ming-Na Wen. Another one of ABC’s shows, How to get Away With Murder featuring Fil-Am actor Conrad Ricamora was also picked up for another season — which is no surprise for the popular Shondaland staple.
The upcoming fall slate for CBS featured shows like Man with a Plan starring Matt LeBlanc, Kevin Can Wait starring Kevin James, and other shows with a white male lead which don’t contribute to alleviating the lack of diversity in Hollywood. On the brighter side of things, the network renewed a long list of shows that features Asian American actors such as 2 Broke Girls, Elementary, Scorpion, Hawaii Five-0 and a 10th season for their never-ending ratings grab, The Big Bang Theory.
Other shows renewed include newcomers Crazy Ex-Girlfriend starring Vincent Rodriguez III and other Asian American actors on the CW and NBC’s Superstore featuring Nico Santos and mixed race cast member Nichole Bloom.
Each year, upfronts isn’t shy when it comes to giving the ax to shows both old and new — and this year wasn’t any different.
After one season, the TV adaptation of Rush Hour starring Jon Foo was cut from the CBS schedule. Other one-and-done shows included Fox’s Second Chance, which featured Dilshad Vadsaria as well as the John Stamos-starrer Grandfathered featuring Ravi Patel — which was a surprise to many. NBC chopped the medical drama Heartbeat with Maya Erskine and the superhero saga reboot Heroes Reborn which starred Toru Uchikado, Kiki Sukezane and Masi Oka.
There are no new show that feature a cast toplined by Asian American actors, but there are plenty of Asian American actors featured in an ensemble cast.
Kal Penn and Maggie Q will star opposite Kiefer Sutherland in ABC’s new show Designated Survivor, which centers on a low-level cabinet member who is suddenly appointed President of the United States after a catastrophic attack during the State of the Union kills everyone above him in the Presidential line of succession.
The reimagining of the classic ‘80s action series MacGyver on CBS will feature Nice Girls Crew star Michelle Krusiec. On the same network, Brenda Song and Reshma Shetty will appear in the Silicon Valley drama, Pure Genius.
The CW’s highly anticipated subversive take on the Archie comics titled Riverdale stars Disney Channel star Ross Butler as Reggie who, in the comics, is Archie’s frenemy.
Other shows to look out for are the USA supernatural drama, Falling Water with Cindy Cheung and the Fox comedy The Mick with Susan Park.
The 2016 TV season is looking to be a good season for Asian American actors. What show will you miss? More than that, which show are you looking forward to the most?
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Dino-Ray Ramos is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and host of the Off White podcast. He currently writes for Bustle.com and has contributed to Entertainment Tonight Online, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Oakland Tribune.
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Update: We mistakenly stated that Vella Lovell from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is Asian American. She is often mistaken as a South Asian American, but is not.