Only one reason: ratings.
In particular, producers and studios are concerned about appeal most in the markets where the show will yield the most revenue.
Yeah, I know, obvious answer is obvious.
I disagree. White people aren't the only ones who buy advertisers' products. TV networks figured that out half a century ago. The reason the original Star Trek
had an ethnically diverse cast wasn't because Roddenberry was some great liberal innovator who pushed for it; it's because studies a few years earlier had shown that minority viewers had money too and used it to buy the products they saw advertised on TV, so that catering to minorities by including them in TV shows would help boost networks' and advertisers' profits. (Roddenberry actually failed to deliver his promise of a multiethnic cast in "The Cage;" the closest thing to ethnic diversity in that bunch, aside from the pointy-eared alien played by a Ukrainian Jew, was a guy who was named "Jose" but played by a very, very Caucasian actor with blond hair. We only got Sulu and Uhura because the network
insisted on a more diverse cast the second time around.)
Really, I can't think of many shows today without ethnically diverse casts. I'm going over the shows I watch regularly... I guess Covert Affairs
is a bit lacking in diversity since they dropped Sendhil Ramamurthy, but they had him for two years. Really, though, that's the only one I can think of. Well, Doctor Who
doesn't have any nonwhite regulars at the moment, but it had Freema Agyeman for a year and has plenty of diversity in its guest casting.
Of course, my viewing habits aren't typical. Let's look at the top-rated shows of the past season
. Leaving out the reality stuff, focusing only on scripted shows:
: The leading lady is Sofia Vergara and a Latino actor plays her son.
The Big Bang Theory
: Has Kunal Nayyar.
Two and a Half Men
: Hmm, is Conchata Ferrell Latina?
2 Broke Girls
: Has Garrett Morris and Matthew Moy.
: Has a fairly diverse cast, and I believe is known for its color-blind casting practices.
: Has Lemorne Morris.
How I Met Your Mother
: Hmm, main cast seems all-white, but they've had recurring guests like Kal Penn and Naznanin Boniadi.
Once Upon a Time
: Also a bit lacking, but has Giancarlo Esposito and is adding Jamie Chung as Mulan.
: Has Rocky Carroll and Cote de Pablo.
: Has, or had, the Cleveland character, although he's played by a white voice artist.
Mike & Molly
: Has Reno Wilson, Nyambi Nyambi, and Cleo King.
: Has Shemar Moore.
: Has a pretty diverse cast, so I gather, though they tend to be stereotyped characters.
: Had Shelley Conn, Christine Adams, Naomi Scott, and Alana Mansour.
: Has Eva Longoria and Ricardo Chavira.
Okay, so there's less diversity than I thought in the top-rated shows, particularly the sitcoms and the ABC melodramas, but there doesn't seem to be any inverse correlation between diversity and ratings.