REFLECTION…the things we do for recognition.

I have tried, desperately, to like NBC’s legal drama, OUTLAW, starring Jimmy Smits. In it, Smits plays a former Supreme Court Justice who through some epiphany decides to leave his seat on the Court to fight for the ‘little guy’ as a regular attorney.  Each week, OUTLAW will probably take us through cases and social issues that make headlines, similar to what the venerated LAW & ORDER franchise has done for almost 2 decades.

Unfortunately, OUTLAW will attempt to make things interesting by making Smits character a gambling addict who is constantly being hunted down by people he owes money to.  Already, OUTLAW’s first two episodes have addressed the death penalty and a controversial law targeting undocumented immigrants. I suspect that future cases will involve gay marriage, the dissemination of classified military secrets via the world wide web, and perhaps the defense of a soldier charged with murdering innocent civilians.  That the storyline of this show can be predictable is not what troubles me.  What does trouble me is that OUTLAW has become the ONLY show starring a Latino character.  And if history is any indication, OUTLAW will probably be one of the next shows to get canceled.

As an artist and activist, I am constantly wondering why it’s so hard for TV networks and cable broadcasters to produce a Latino-themed, Latino-cast show.  Most shows that do become a reality are more often than not treated as if they only serve a specific, niche market.  But Latinos are not a niche market; we’re a growing consumer power who are tired of being under represented on the little screen.  Yes, our Native American and Asian sisters and brothers suffer a worse fate; but the least the networks can do is to allow their annual slate of programming to properly reflect the US population.

I am not a member of the Nielsen’s group, so I do not get a little magic box that I can cheat and say I watch OUTLAW just to make sure it stays in the air.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Jimmy Smits and I’m sure the show will grow on me.  But right now, I have no options.  My only real choice besides this show is MODERN FAMILY (which co-stars Sofia Bergara and Rico Rodriguez) or Don Francisco on Univision.  Sure there are other shows with Latino actors playing important roles or secondary stereotypical ones; but as a consumer and avid television aficionado, I demand more choices.  In the meantime, since I don’t have to report to anyone what shows I’m watching, I will continue to watch and support OUTLAW on whenever I have time so that I won’t miss out on important scenes in the many Latino telenovelas I’m forced to watch instead.

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