We get it. 2016 has been quite the year. And not necessarily in a good way. By August it felt like the narrative at the start of the Friends theme song was happening, but in, like, analogous calendar year terms.
You know – the you’re still in bed at 10 and work began at 8 descriptor of one of these really bad days that just continues along in a comedy of errors. Only instead of it being one bad day as the proverbial icing on what The Rembrandts describe as a pretty crappy addition to a late 20s rut. It’s the entire year and the events happening around the entire world. Also, Joey isn’t hanging about with a turkey on his head and Ross isn’t yelling pivot while moving a couch up a stairwell. Has this analogy landed? I’m not sure but I’m going with it.
From the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and multiple terror attacks, to the declaration of the Zika virus as an international public health emergency, along with the death of seemingly every beloved celebrity (RIP Alan Rickman and, in turn, the narrator of my dream satellite navigation system), 2016 has been a pretty bleak time.
But it’s not all been completely bad news. While the world’s had its fair share of downs this year, it seems Television has been the real MVP of 2016. We’re not just talking about Tenplay existing on Apple TV (is this new? Or new to me?), or Viceland taking over from SBS 2. We’re talking about the serious progress that’s taken place on TV this year in terms of diversity.
While it’s got a very long way to go, there are so many shows we’ve seen that really just don’t seem like they would’ve been made even a few short years ago. So, in celebration of World Television Day yesterday, we’re going to give a quick round of applause to some of the standouts.
The ABC series has been pretty widely celebrated after the success of its first season. The sci-fi series is set in the future and blends Aboriginal mythology with a superhero style narrative. It’s been renewed for a second season and, just recently, screenwriter Michael Miller won the, by all accounts esteemed, John Hinde Award for the Science Fiction category. Not only does the show cast a number of Indigenous Australian actors, the central character turns the very American notion of a superhero into an Aboriginal superhero. There’s also some discussion about the show playing a part in showcasing the revival of some Indigenous languages here.
Season 3 of Transparent also came out this year. It’s the American comedy series about a family with grown up children in Los Angeles. The series starts off on the theme of gender identity, as the family learn a member of their family transitions, and then soon becomes about family dynamics and identity more broadly. The show has been awarded a stack of Emmys, Golden Globes, Critics choice awards and even a Peabody.
This video of Jeffrey Tambor accepting the Emmy for best leading actor for Transparent is ESSENTIAL VIEWING.
Master of None
While the show technically first aired in 2015, we feel like 2016 can have this one because, well, it was late in 2015 and also this show is just very good. The made-for-Netflix series is co-created by American actor/comedian Aziz Ansari, who also plays the lead character, Dev Shah, a commercial actor best known for his work in a Go-Gurt commercial. The show is notable from a diversity perspective for many reasons, one is that Dev regularly talks about being typecast as a stereotypical Indian actor, and how there’s never more than one Indian character in a show. This obviously doesn’t apply to actual show, Master of None. Very meta. Bonus: the soundtrack is also very good.
The Wrong Girl
The series adaptation of the book of the same name is based on a book by a female writer (Zoë Foster Blake for those of you playing at home), and the first episode is written and directed by women (Daina Reid and Judi McCrossin). Well done, team.
To use a turn of phrase from our dear friend Chandler Bing, could television BE any more progressive this year? Actually the answer is it totally could – this study from Screen Australia shows a bunch of different diversity measures compared to the national population. Every one of them is under-represented except one. But the progression is totally there, and for that we’re pretty pleased. Happy nearing the end of 2016, F.R.I.E.N.D.S!