Film

Agenda of a Broadcasting Company

Mark H. Harris
Actor Harold Perrineau being bad, from Lost.

Think ABC has a hidden agenda against the positive depiction of African Americans in its hit shows? According to this purported communiqué from network brass, it sure seems like it.

Memorandum from the Desk of Stephen McPherson, President of ABC Entertainment. FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY.

Re: Black people

Hi-ho everyone!

Congratulations on another fine year at America's number two television network (Suck it, NBC!). With the recent season finales of our flagship shows, Desperate Housewives, Lost, and Grey's Anatomy, I'm proud to announce that we at ABC have successfully launched our new strategic programming initiative, Operation Bad Nigger ("OBN").

As you recall from last month's pep rally and weenie roast, OBN hinges on the belief that black people in the media have lost their edge, their inherent, brooding villainy. Our overly PC culture has diluted images of the lovable black buck with a hair-trigger temper and the neck-craning sista-girl who'll cut you with the razor blade inside her cheek. This is the proud African-American heritage we're after, people, and with your diligent efforts, we're making it a reality.

The past is the past. Old wounds have healed and old stereotypes forgiven. We believe it's time for black people to be bad again. After all, they're the ones who coined the slang of "bad" meaning "good", right? In the good — er, "bad" — old days, every movie would have a black mugger attacking our hero in an alley, not realizing that he's a kung-fu master/munitions expert/all-around ass-kicker. Now we've got black people in these new-fangled, cookie cutter authority figure roles like judges and mouthy police chiefs. Enough with the police chiefs already! It's time to return our black brethren to petty thuggery, moderate thuggery, excessive and unprovoked thuggery, and oh yes, interracial rape.

The Desperate Housewives finale showed our strategy in motion when it was revealed that heretofore model son and upstanding man of color Matthew Applewhite (Mehcad Brooks) had killed his ex-girlfriend in a fit of rage. And apparently, hitting teenaged girls with two-by-fours runs in the family, because Matthew's mentally challenged (and thus insanely homicidal) brother Caleb (NaShawn Kearse) had done the same thing to this gal just minutes earlier. Two brothas in one night? She was asking for it! Of course, after that, Matthew could never be allowed to date white girl Danielle (Joy Lauren), so he faced facts and took his bullet like a man. Like a proud, black man.

Then, on Lost, nice guy Michael (Harold Perrineau, whose wuss-laden film roles have included dressing up in drag in Romeo & Juliet and getting eaten by a grizzly bear in The Edge) went all Bernie Goetz, shooting island newcomers Anna Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez) and Libby (Cynthia Watros) in cold blood, although since toxicology reports indicate that they were drunk at the time, it might've been an accident (Kidding, ladies! Seriously, call HR about those final checks.).

Even on Grey's Anatomy, we managed to toughen up Dr. Burke (Isaiah Washington) by putting a bullet in his shoulder — not only to scare him into growing a pair, but also for the two most important words a black man can hear during his lifetime: street cred. West side!

Meanwhile, our competitors continue to play it safe. Every black person over at CBS and NBC is a pampered, elitist suit sitting fourth on the pecking order in a CSI or Law and Order spin-off. And Fox and WB don't even have black people. UPN? OK, sure, but we're not staging the Million Man March here.

Today, in year eight Post-Urkel, we at ABC are in our prime, and with OBN hitting its stride, the future looks as bright as ever. Our aim is to one day become the BET of television. Next season, phase two of our operation will bring exciting programming changes like these:

  • A crack house pops up next door to According to Jim.
  • The Black Bachelor: Don't hate the player; hate the game!
  • Drive-bys with the Stars
  • What About Brian: Brian is sent to jail for negligent homicide, and two dozen black inmates run a train on him. What about Brian, indeed!

Sure, in the past, ABC has had its share of "safe" Negroes, but with the cancellation of My Wife and Kids, our slate is clean. A black man with a family life? How's that leave time for slappin' up bitches?

Of course, the general public may not be evolved enough to fully appreciate the beauty of our corporate strategy, so if anyone outside of ABC — particularly those leeching, skeevy reporters (sorry, Stossel) — asks you about it, tow the company line. Here's a scenario you might encounter, along with some appropriate responses:

Troublemaking Interloper: Hello, ABC Employee. How are you today?
ABC Employee: Cut the crap, Interloper, what do you want?
[Tip: Be forceful and to the point.]

Troublemaking Interloper: Whoa, whoa, what's with the hostility? You got something to hide?
ABC Employee: Just the secret dedication of our company to honest portrayals of people of all races.
[Tip: Company line. Tow it.]

Troublemaking Interloper: Oh, really...?
ABC Employee: Why? What have you heard? You can't force me to talk about OBN! I'd rather die! Die! ...I mean, yes, really.
[Tip: Don't get defensive.]

Troublemaking Interloper: Well, word has it that Stephen McPherson has implemented a programming policy designed to portray African-Americans as criminals.
ABC Employee: Outrageous! Mr. McPherson is a paragon of virtue. His sense of honor and purity of being is outstripped only by his rapier wit and sexual girth.
[Tip: Defend me within an inch of your life.]

Troublemaking Interloper: Please, don't give me that corporate B.S. What's it gonna take for you to spill the beans?
ABC Employee: $500,000.
Troublemaking Interloper: I've got $47.50.
ABC Employee: Deal. I'll meet you at your place tonight at 8:00. Where do you live?
Troublemaking Interloper: 842 Skeevy Media Drive. Don't be late.
[Tip: Go to his house and plant a pipe bomb in his car.]




There have been rumors of some rumblings within our ranks that OBN is somehow "prejudiced" or "wrong". Well, as you know, racial sensitivity is a top priority at ABC, so we conducted an internal investigation and are pleased to announce that 100% of our black executive is in agreement with our plan. Way to be a team player, Maurice.

It's this kind of effort and dedication that will allow us at ABC to once again raise the black race to the level of fear and intimidation that it has toiled so hard to earn. Kumbaya, people, kumbaya.

S.M.

PS — To my Disney kinsmen at ESPN: For God's sake, get your act together with this candy-assed Barry Bonds show trying to present him in a "positive light". Rarely has there been a black man with so much built-in villainy, so go with it! Everyone knows he's a damn, dirty, doped-up cheater who bathes in children's tears. He's sopping up all of the praise that should be saved for true American heroes who do things the old-fashioned way, with honesty and integrity, without relying on foreign, performance-enhancing substances. Like Mark McGwire. He has freckles.

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