‘The Bachelor’ reality-show franchise needs more diversity, says ABC prez

The latest cast of 'The Bachelorette.'. ABC

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.

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Among her immediate targets: “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” reality shows which have consistently featured whites in the title roles. There was some criticism when the upcoming Canadian “Bachelorette” was revealed to be a white woman.

“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.

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“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.”

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Folks on Twitter were skeptical of ABC’s plans to change their approach to casting. Others just made fun of the proposed changes.

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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.

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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.

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