New ABC chief: seeking diversity in ‘Bachelor’ franchise
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Six months into the job as ABC Entertainment's president, Channing Dungey said she's clear about where she wants to see the "black-ish" and "Fresh Off the Boat" network go, including toward further diversity.
ABC is "very proud that we reflect America authentically in all of its diversity, and we definitely want to continue to move in that direction," the network's programming chief told the Television Critics Association on Thursday.
Among her immediate targets: "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," reality shows which have consistently featured whites in the title roles.
"I would very much like to see some changes there," said Dungey, the first African-American to head a broadcast TV network. She said that could best be accomplished by adding more people of colour to the shows' initial contestant pools, which yield the runner-up who tends to become the next cycle's starring bachelor or bachelorette.
"So that's something we want to put our energy toward," Channing said.
Asked if a season of "The Bachelor" couldn't simply start with a non-white star, she said the promotion approach has "worked very well for us because the audience really feels engaged in helping to choose that candidate."
On another front, Dungey said, ABC is adding inclusiveness with "Speechless," a comedy about a family with a special-needs youngster. Minnie Driver stars as mother to son JJ, who is non-verbal and is played by Micah Fowler ("Labor Day"), an actor with cerebral palsy.
She said the show is smart, funny and "relatable" and manages to avoid being earnest.
Dungey, who had been ABC's executive vice-president for drama development, movies and miniseries, replaced Paul Lee as head of programming in February. Other topics she touched on in a Q&A session:
— There have been conversations with Lucasfilm, the creative home of "Star Wars," now owned by ABC parent Walt Disney Co., about the possibility of finding a "way to extend that brand into our programming," but she didn't elaborate on how or when that might occur.
"As a fan, I would absolutely love to say 'yes'" it will happen, she said.
— Kyra Sedgwick will star in a new drama series, "Ten Days in the Valley," as a working mom, producer of a TV shows that includes stories about police corruption. When her daughter goes missing, Sedgwick's character has to figure out whom to trust, Dungey said, describing it as a "taut thriller." She said the show is going into production and could air as early as midseason or as late as fall.
— Although prime-time Thursday has become known as the exclusive property of producer Shonda Rhimes' shows, including "How to Get Away with Murder" and "Scandal," ABC's fall schedule for the night will include a non-Shondaland drama, "Notorious." That's in part a response to the delayed return of "Scandal" because of star Kerry Washington's pregnancy, and the extended production time required for Rhimes' new series "Still Star-Crossed."
Dungey said that Rhimes "has a clear sense of what it takes to schedule a network."
Lynn Elber, The Associated Press
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