"Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels and NBC are trumpeting their commitment to diversity as they search for a black female cast member, responding to an uproar over the historic lack of African American females on the veteran sketch comedy show.
Auditions of several candidates are reportedly scheduled for Monday on the "SNL" stage.
But if and when "Saturday Night Live" makes good on its promise--which came only after the furor erupted--will the show fall into the "token syndrome" that has befallen other shows and producers who have added blacks to series only when they come under fire?
The following examples illustrate the awkwardness:
1. After being repeatedly blasted by the media for the all-white cast of HBO's "Girls," creator-producer Lena Dunham addressed the furor at the start of the second season by casting Donald Glover from "Community" as a black Republican who becomes romantically involved with Dunham's character, Hannah.
However, their relationship lasted only a few episodes and Glover's character was dispatched. "Girls" continued for the rest of the season with an all-white cast.
2. "Friends," one of NBC's top comedies during the late 1990s and early 2000s, was regularly criticized for not featuring people of color even though it was set in multicultural New York. Aisha Tyler in 2003 appeared as a doctor caught in a love triangle between Ross (David Schwimmer) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc). After several episodes, her character was gone.
3. "Desperate Housewives" in 2005 featured the first black resident of Wisteria Lane, Betty Applewhite, who was played by Alfre Woodard. Applewhite was made a mysterious woman who kept one of her sons chained in the basement, a plot that sparked protests. After one season, Applewhite--and Woodard--moved out.
Actress Vanessa Williams, who joined "Desperate Housewives" in 2010, was still steamed about Woodard's story line when she joined the series in 2010--so much so that she had to be persuaded to come on the show.
"She had her son in chains in the basement," Williams said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "It was like, 'Really? Do we have to go there with our first black character?'
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"I honestly fell off the show after that. I think it was just so implausible and just an image that black folks don't want to see -- their child chained and shackled in the basement."
4. NBC's critically acclaimed "The West Wing" was heavily criticized when it premiered in 1999 because its cast was all white, even though the series was set in a liberal White House. Creator Aaron Sorkin cast Dule Hill as Charlie Young, a personal aide to President Bartlett (Martin Sheen).
[For the Record, 4:18 p.m. Dec. 18: An earlier version of this post misspelled Alfre Woodard's last name as Woodward and gave the last name of her "Desperate Housewives" character, Betty Applewhite, as Applegate.]