TV takes aim at Latino shows and stars. While a new study finds few decent roles for Latinos in primetime, look for fall's lineup to offer greater diversity
Tessie Santiago, Good Morning, Miami
Credit: Good Morning Miami: Paul Drinkwater

Last Saturday night, TV execs patted themselves on the back for something they rarely can: providing rich starring roles for Latino performers. The ALMA (American Latino Media Arts) Awards honored ”NYPD Blue”’s Esai Morales, ”Oz”’s Rita Moreno, and Showtime’s family drama ”Resurrection Blvd.”

What’s more, a study of primetime diversity released last week by the advocacy group Children Now showed that recurring Latino characters on the six broadcast networks doubled this year — from 2 percent to 4 percent of all recurring characters. But that’s still far short of the 12 percent of the U.S. population that consists of Latinos. The study also found that only two percent of primary characters are Latino, and that Latinos are the group most likely to be portrayed as service workers, unskilled laborers, or criminals.

Now that the networks have announced their fall lineups, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), which gives out the ALMAs, will be keeping an eye out for new Latino characters who may perpetuate unfavorable stereotypes. ”If we have a problem with these shows, we’ll let producers know,” says NCLR spokesperson Lisa Navarette, ”but if they do good, we want to honor them.” Counting cable and public television, there will be five series with predominantly Latino casts and several others with Latino actors in primary roles. Here’s what to expect:

”Greetings From Tucson” This new WB comedy with a primarily Latino cast has an autobiographical premise for creator Peter Murrieta: It’s about a family headed by a Mexican-American dad and Irish-American mom. Costar Lupe Ontiveros, who plays the grandma, told the New York Times last week that she’s played about 150 maids in her career.

”The George Lopez Show” A midseason replacement this year, the family sitcom will return to ABC in the fall.

”Good Morning, Miami” Can’t have a show set in Miami without a Latin presence. This NBC sitcom about a local TV morning news show, from the creators of ”Will & Grace,” features Tessie Santiago as a supporting character described in the press as an airheaded, sexpot host with a thick, Charo-like accent.

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