March 27, 2015

Where are the Native TV shows?

Where are the mainstream TV shows about American Indians?

By Yohana DestaOn television screens, American Indian characters are virtually invisible.

Despite the recent TV diversity breakthrough (see: Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Jane the Virgin and the record-breaking Empire), native people as a whole are still largely left out of the picture on the small screen. They make cameos in subplots (e.g. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, House of Cards), but don't get the reins to their own series.

Where are the shows dedicated to this country's American Indians?

Though there have been some recent attempts (The Red Road from Sundance has been panned by critics), there has yet to be a popular, mainstream series starring American Indians as a whole in the U.S.

"We’re one of the few ethnic groups they don’t know what to do with," actor Michael Horse tells Mashable. "America sees us as an antiquated culture."
Non-Native Travis Holt Hamilton is trying to do a sitcom based on his movie More Than Frybread:For now, Hamilton still has to work independently, because studios are hesitant about Native stories. He remembers taking a recent film workshop where an instructor bluntly told him why his script wouldn't work.

"As soon as I said Native, the instructor stopped me [and said] 'Not to be rude, but Hollywood’s not really interested in Native films,'" he recalls.

When it comes to TV, Hamilton says Canada far surpasses the U.S. The country has the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, or APTN, a channel devoted to its Aboriginal community. Aside from fictional TV shows, it also produces documentary and news shows.

A similar U.S. attempt is the First Nations Experience, or FNX, launched with PBS affiliate KVCR in 2012. The network is only available in a few states.

Another U.S. attempt is the Red Nation Television Channel, an online channel devoted to Native content, founded by actor and filmmaker Joanelle Romero. It launched in 2006 and now boasts 10 million viewers, according to the site's About page. When it first opened, the website crashed due to an overwhelming number of visitors.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Deadline Hollywood on TV Casting and TV Starts to Reflect America.

Below:  Jonathan Joss in Parks and Recreation.

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