Asians Underplayed On Nets

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The broadcast networks are still underrepresenting Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) in prime time shows, according to a new study by the National Asian Pacific Legal Consortium.

Only 13 of 113 prime time shows studied featured at least one APIA actor, and at least four of those are either not on the air or about to exit--NBC's Hawaii (canceled) with three actors, and  ABC's Boston Legal* (haitus 'til fall), ABC's NYPD Blue (ended its 12-year run), and UPN's Enterprise (canceled), all with one actor apiece.

NBC had the most shows with APIA actors at five (a total of eight actors), followed by ABC with three shows (five actors), Fox and UPN with two shows and two APIA actors apiece, and UPN with one show and one actor.

ABC's Lost has the most of any show still on the air with three actors.

On the postitive side, Lost, NBC's ER, and The WB's Gilmore Girls were singled out for special recognition for their "more complex and nuanced" APIA characters.

In the report, the NAPALC opined that the percentage of APIA regulars in prime time was less than half its actual percentage of the population.

Other highlights (or lowlights) of the study:

  • Regular Asian Pacific characters are missing or underrerpresented in shows set in cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles with large populations of APIA.
  • The virtual absence of APIA actors in sitcoms may suggest they do not represent the "Amreican family."
  • Even when they do appear, APIA actors get "significantly" less screen time than others.


*Grey's Anatomy, the show that replaced Boston Legal, has an Asian Pacific actress in a major role.

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