It doesn’t seem like a thing that would be a challenge given the great diversity of talent available for television, from directors to writers to actors. However, doing diversity right proved to be rather elusive in 2018. Some shows did the dang thing and we are so glad they did! TV influences culture and is influenced by culture, so each step forward creates exponential progress.
Diversity for us means not only checking off the box of a variety of races, ethnicities, sexualities, gender identities, religions, and disabilities (although, checking off the boxes can be a great start). Diversity means including voices that haven’t been heard before. So, a show like One Day at a Time is high on our list even though most of the characters are Cuban Americans.
Diversity is not necessarily in the characters being different from each other. Diversity is in giving viewers different voices to listen to in 2018. Here are twenty shows that did diversity right in 2018.
1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine checks the boxes. Within the lead ensemble, there is a gay black man, a bisexual Latinx woman, a Jewish man, a second Latinx woman, a second black man, a white man, and a white woman. There are more characters from marginalized groups than from privileged groups, which is in itself cause for celebration.
But the copper comedy doesn’t stop with checking the boxes. The characters obliterate stereotypes and tokenism. Terry is a big buff black man whose storylines most frequently center on fatherhood. Captain Holt is the opposite of flamboyant and his particular quirks have nothing to do with his race or sexual orientation.
Rosa Diaz found her family in the precinct and was able to say, over and over, that she is bisexual. That was incredible, but it never became the most significant thing about her. For each character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the aspects of their identity that make diverse have never been the driving aspects of their character. They are all individuals first, which is the goal of diverse representation. We give that more than one NINE-NINE chant!
2. One Day At A Time
Despite the fact that Hollywood is located in a community that is majority Latinx, there are few Latinx stories gracing our small screens. One Day at A Time not only gives us diverse stories from the Alvarez family’s life in Los Angeles, but it also tackles a diverse set of political topics from gun violence to stigma related to taking medication for mental health issues.
The second season starts off by digging into a conversation on colorism. The sitcom handles the topic as it does every other- it takes pain and bigotry seriously but is achingly gentle and tender to its characters. The show lets its characters be ignorant and it lets them grow away from that ignorance. One Day at a Time is doing diversity right and will give us another dose of its meaningful voice in January of 2019. Dale!
3. The Good Place
The racial diversity on the cast of The Good Place is one thing the show is doing right in 2018. It also does it right by making the lead antihero a crude, sexual, sarcastic and egotistical WOMAN.
The show takes aim at the follies of different U.S. states (Florida and Arizona take particularly hard hits) and by doing so brings us an incisive commentary on the ways geography can impact our paths to morality. It also seamlessly presents bisexuality and pansexuality as normalized and comfortable. It treats sexuality in a way that is a step ahead of culture and indicates how the future can be if we let it.
The Good Place takes diversity to a higher level and a higher power, and that is just what we needed in 2018.
Timeless kicks it up a notch by taking us on diverse journeys through history, with a diverse cast guiding us the whole way. On Timeless 2×08 “The Day Reagan Was Shot” gives us Agent Christopher’s backstory. Agent Christopher is a gay woman in the early 80s, fighting against the discrimination of the world and the traditional values of her South Asian family. This is one example that is representative of the entire series in 2018. It grapples with and triumphs in telling lesser-known stories from lesser know perspectives, throughout history.
We wouldn’t expect anything less from a show that from the get-go has Rufus, a black time-traveling pilot, noting that there is no place in history that is awesome for him. The Timeless movie special continues the commitment to diverse stories with Dr. Lucy Preston explaining that she just didn’t have time to get to the stories of men in her history class.
We are lucky that in 2018 we have a show like Timeless to give voice to the historically silenced, through the performances of a diverse and gender-stereotype-busting cast.
5. All American
The CW’s newest sports series All American hits it out of the park when it comes to diversity. The cast is comprised of mostly Black actors and there are a spectrum of skin tones represented. It feels accurate the Beverly Hills would have more light-skinned students than Crenshaw, and it’s important that we see dark-skinned characters being accepted as equally attractive, talented, and complex as light-skinned characters.
Coop is an incredibly important character. As a masculine expressing gay Black woman, she provides a needed voice to the TV screen. Her coming out story on the series highlights the oft-overlooked impact religion can play in accepting or rejecting someone’s sexuality.
Coop and her arc on All American take the show from doing diversity pretty well to doing diversity RIGHT in 2018.
We hope that the show grows in its inclusion of explicitly Latinx characters. Because the series is set in two different parts of Los Angeles, where nearly half the population is Latinx, the lack of characters who are identifiable as Latinx is a major oversight.
However, the diverse representation that is included is so excellent that All American easily earns its spot on this list.
6. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend features a bevy of perspectives, backgrounds, and identities delivered through song, dance, and dialogue. It’s an exceptional show that reflects accurately the diversity of the show’s main location, sexy West Covina, California.
A stand-out moment of diversity for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in 2018 comes when Valencia, a Latinx woman in a same-sex relationship, finds out that her secret high school love, Asian American man of the cloth Father Brah, never got her love letter. The two discuss their missed connection and admit that, though it hurts, they are both now in relationships they want, Valencia with her girlfriend Beth and Father Brah with God.
All those relationships are validated and tenderly celebrated. A Catholic priest telling a woman that her relationship with another woman is what is right and good is not something we’ve seen on TV. It is groundbreaking. This is doing diversity right.
It is also very important to note that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is showing how healing from depression and anxiety, and managing borderline personality disorder is not a linear and clear journey. Hard work and misstep pepper the road and Rebecca Bunch’s story hilariously and joyfully portrays this complex reality.
7. Black Lightning
The CW superhero drama Black Lightning features a majority-black cast and a family with father-daughter superpowers going on. The show provides much needed in the genre that has been dominated by white male leads.
Not only does Black Lighting give us non-white heroes to root for, but it also gives us non-white villains, sidekicks, and love interests. Black characters fill nearly all the roles and our TV screens are more diverse for it.
Significantly, the show also features a young gay black woman, Anissa, who is grappling with her double identities. Her double identity isn’t related to her sexuality. Refreshingly, her family supports and is nonplussed by her sexuality.
Instead, it is Anissa’s identity as crime-fighter Thunder that is the hidden feature of her life (and her dad- Black Lightning’s life). Black Lightning is entertaining, sleek, and delivering diversity the right way in 2018.
Not only does Vida bring Latinx actors, writers and directors to the small screen in a way that is virtually unseen, it also crafts diversity within what it looks like to be Latinx. The inclusion of many different gender expressions and sexualities only heighten its effectiveness at giving us diversity.
Vida also dares to showcase Latinx women who, frankly, kind of suck. This is important diversity too. Latinx women don’t always need to be the sugar or the sexy spice. They can be complex, difficult to get along with, self-centered hipsters, too.
The new Starz series gives its characters freedom to be flawed, Mexican-American women who are changing along with their circumstances.
9. Dear White People
Dear White People Season 2 is a stunning example of diversity done well. Most powerfully, via the robust and incredibly well written and acted scenes between Gabe and Sam, where the couple is battling with whiteness, oppression, love, self-loathing, and colorism.
It is a masterpiece of how to richly show people grappling with what diversity means and why it matters in a time when the mattering is happening to them, whether they like it or not. Dear White People does diversity with a whip-smart and juicy style that works in nearly every instance.
10. Jane the Virgin
Jane the Virgin, the critically acclaimed and oft-overlooked dramedy on The CW, does diversity right year after year. The majority-Latinx cast is flamboyant and passionate as they tackle big and small events in their lives. The telenovela concept works to help characters bust out of their stereotypes and tropes by calling out the expected before letting them transcend those boxes.
Jane the Virgin gives us needed representation for the diverse voices of unabashedly dramatic Latinx folks in 2018.
GLOW is a show about women who put on ridiculous costumes that play upon the cultural stereotypes of the times and then fake beat the crap out each other. Honestly, we don’t need to say much more than that.
But, it is worth adding that the diverse cast of characters, including black women, queer women, Asian women, thick women, and poor women, takes on how playing a stereotype on TV can impact their self-esteem and integrity in real life. That message is timely, meta and helps make GLOW a show that did diversity right in 2018.
Pose is a surprisingly optimistic and romantic show about ball culture in the late 80s. The show includes trans writers, trans directors, and trans actors, as was the priority of series creator Ryan Murphy.
As a result, the show has authenticity. In 2018, we need shows to do more than talk the talk. Pose walks the walk, and adds dance, song and a power pose at the end.
13. On My Block
On My Block does diversity right by reminding us that adolescents are malleable and often exists in these pre-segregation spaces that have natural diversity. Monse, Ruby, Cesar, and Jamal have different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Their families look very different, but their neighborhood is the same. Growing up is so hard, and you find your people in order to survive. The nerdy and tender-hearted friend group on On My Block shows us that it’s not always black and white or black versus white. Life is often a lot more brown than that.
On My Block doesn’t get credit for entirely doing diversity right, though. Unfortunately, the role of Olivia, who is a Chicanx teenage girl whose parents were just deported, was given to a non-Chicanx/Latinx actress. That is a big misstep that will hopefully be rectified in the amazing show’s next season. Even so, the diversity amongst the cast is important and the portrayal of the inclusive friendships lands the show on our list of shows that did diversity right in 2018.
Superstore has Cloud9 sized diversity, which is to say it has endless aisles of it! Garrett is a black man in a wheel chair and let us just say, he can get it. It is refreshing and fun that he is not limited by his disability and it is very rarely even mentioned, much less seen as a limiting factor for his character.
In 2018, Superstore pushed itself to new heights with its representation of the impacts of poor benefits on women who have had children. Amy rips Glenn a new one as she describes is horrifying detail what has happened to her own butthole.
Each character’s diverse traits are highlighted only when they are relevant and utilized to make a greater political point, which the show doesn’t shy away from. It is actually one of the most political shows of 2018, it is just stealthy about it.
Superstore sets the bar for diversity and it right up there with Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in breaking records and setting new limits for the lengths TV shows can travel to include new voices. The sitcom is a frontrunner of shows that did diversity right in 2018.
iZombie makes it onto our list of shows that did diversity right in 2018 mostly by virtue of Rahul Kohli as Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti. The actor and his character push the scenes and characters’ relationships to new levels of inclusion. It is not frequent that you get to see a South Asian man be central to the stories and charact development of every other lead character.
iZombie could push harder in the area of diversity by letting Ravi and other men of color on the show be legitimately sexy. So far, that quality has been reserved for the white men and women on the show. Showing men of color as both comic relief AND legitimately sexual and sensual human beings worthy of being the romantic interest of the lead character is an area of growth for iZombie and other Rob Thomas shows (ahem, Veronica and Weevil should’ve had a thing, ahem).
Atlanta is continually helping us viewers see that the traits, good, bad, and flabbergasting, that were once reserved exclusively for straight white men, are actually held by non-white men as well. Black men are stoners, nerds, entitled jerks, and all-around strange, too.
The dark and powerful Atlanta Season 2 Episode 6, “Teddy Perkins,” extricates us from whatever it is we thought we knew about the show and black creators. It’s a game changer and that is diversity done right, according to our standards.
Youtube’s original series Impulse diversifies the TV landscape by making the superhero origin story much more about the main character’s trauma story than her superpower story. And while there are characters of colors, queer characters, and religious minority characters, a real boon of diversity comes from the character Townes.
Townes is an autistic teen who becomes, quite literally, Henry’s knight in shining armor. His different way of existing in the world is explored and shown, not used for emotional effect. Henry’s relationship with Townes is one of the most beautiful things about the first season and it is the result of the carefully crafted and edited development between the characters. Impulse is doing diversity right and we think it’s the show on our list that you are most likely to have skipped in 2018. There is still time to soak in the diversity it brings, so catch it on Youtube ASAP.
18. Legends of Tomorrow
The LGBTQ community and the Muslim-American community get hefty and meaningful doses of representation on Legends of Tomorrow. The intentional diversification of the characters and their love stories on the CW show is an encouraging development from 2018. Not only is the show more and more diverse, it also wants to be that way.
In the TV superhero realm, there hasn’t been a Muslim woman included on screen. Legends of Tomorrow changed that with Tala Ashe’s Zari Tomaz. The show also embraces without baiting or complaint, the love story between Sara Lance and Ava Sharpe. For many, including us, that willingness to go all in on a queer couple is deeply healing. Legends of Tomorrow did diversity right in 2018 and we’re confident 2019 will be no different.
19. Fresh Off the Boat
Fresh Off the Boat Season 5 continues to provide us with much-needed diversity on our screens. Asian and Asian-American characters are severely underrepresented in media. Fresh Off the Boat provides a cast of Asian characters and also gives us rich and hilarious stories of what it is like to assimilate (or not) in American culture during the 90s.
The show dances along the line of heartfelt and silly in a way that quite perfectly allows the diverse voices to be heard and appreciated. As the Huang family continues to mix and grapple with their Taiwanese identity in a ‘Merica landscape, we will continue to appreciate the perspective it gave us in 2018.
20. Wynonna Earp
The queer representation Wynonna Earp lavishes upon its fandom is reason enough to include the supernatural show on our list for 2018. Beyond that, we appreciate the diverse types of femininity and strength that the small screen standout includes. Women are whimsical, deadly, crass, and considerate on the show, and sometimes that same woman and sometimes on one episode. That is diversity we like to see.
The show needs to address its struggles with racial and ethnic diversity. It seems that people of color don’t survive the Wynonna Earp universe like white folks. We certainly all miss Dolls. However, as is the case with several shows on our list, the ways that Wynonna Earp did diversity right in 2018 was so important and particular that any shortcomings are just notes for future seasons.
We are thrilled that 2018 had enough shows doing diversity right that we can compile a list 20 shows deep. But, we are sure we still missed some of your favorites. What shows did diversity right in 2018, in your view? What are your thoughts on our list? Let us know in the comments!