Network TV featuring more leading Asian American women, sky doesn’t fall

Network TV used to have an unwritten rule that there could only be one Asian
American woman, if that, in a leading (or even prominent recurring) role on TV at a time.
Or in a few-year span.

In the ’90s it was Margaret Cho on
All American Girl, followed by Ming-Na on
ER, and Lucy Liu on Ally McBeal. Then at
the turn of the century, it was Keiko Agena
on Gilmore Girls, and Kristin Kreuk on Smallville,
plus a few others sprinkled in now and then.

But a few years ago, something happened — more specifically, Lost
and Grey’s Anatomy happened, or maybe common sense just finally kicked
in — and we began to get three or four Asian American women in regular
roles on network TV shows. Then last season, it was five.

And the networks discovered something odd: people of color tuned in, and the
white people didn’t stop watching. In fact, ratings even went up on some of
the shows. (Gee, maybe this whole diversity thing isn’t such a bad idea, after all!)

Now, going into the 2007-08 season, we’re looking at a record seven shows with
prominent female Asian American leading or supporting roles on primetime network TV (eight if The
CW renews Smallville).

That’s almost double the number of even a few
years ago. Yes, it’s still a pathetically small number, and there’s still no
Asian American equivalent to shows like Everybody Hates Chris or the
upcoming Latino family drama Cane. But at least it’s trending in the
right direction — and it’s six more than the number of lesbians we’re
going to get next season!

But on to the new roles.

First, Lucy Liu makes her triumphant
return to television in Cashmere
(ABC), a drama about career women in New York that we
blogged about yesterday. Here’s her official Cashmere headshot:

Next is Lipstick Jungle (NBC), a show with a similar premise that
features Lindsay Price as Victory Ford, “a free-spirited
designer who longs to make her dreams come true, and maybe find Mr. Right along
the way.”

Here’s your first look at the Lipstick cast (that’s
Brooke Shields and Kim Raver with Price):

Lindsay is probably best known for playing Steve’s girlfriend Janet on Beverly
Hills 90210
in the late ’90s, but you may also remember her as bisexual
Jane on NBC’s ill-fated British knock-off Coupling,
which only aired one or two episodes before being yanked (okay, so maybe I’m
the only one that remembers that, but here’s
an article I wrote in 2003 about her Coupling role, in case you’re

Then there’s Journeyman (NBC), about “a newspaper reporter [who]
inexplicably begins traveling back and forth in time, changing people’s lives
as he does”, which co-stars Moon Bloodgood (Day Break)
as the ex-fiance of the time-traveler:

Last but not least, newcomer Elizabeth Ho plays a defense
attorney-turned-prosecutor in Women’s Murder Club (ABC), a crime drama
co-starring Ho, Angie Harmon, Laura Harris and Aubrey Dollar as “an all-female
group of experts a medical examiner, a newspaper reporter and a young assistant
district attorney” who “solve the latest homicides while unraveling
the mysteries of their own turbulent romantic lives.” (Maybe they can solve
the mystery of why I still find Angie Harmon attractive despite her socially
conservative politics.) Here’s a photo of the new cast:

And of course, Grey’s Anatomy‘s Sandra Oh, Bones’
Michaela Conlin, and Lost’s Yunjin Kim
are all returning with their respective series next season:

Keiko Agena, who played Lane Kim for seven seasons on Gilmore
, will not be returning, but her storyline was so lame by the end
I wanted to put her out of her (and my) misery. The short-lived Vanished
took Ming-Na with it only a few months after it debuted last fall — but
if Ming-Na has proven anything over the last 20 years, it’s that she has more
lives than all the stray cats in Manhattan.

And now, bring on the comments: which new character is most intriguing? Which would you most like to see have a lesbian affair? And who
would win in a fight, Grey‘s Cristina or Bones‘ Angela? My money’s on Angela, although Cristina would put up a good fight…