I didn’t want to pull a punch in the title.
Since 2017 the number of shows with queer rep has decreased. This trend continued in 2018 and 2019, and then 2020 happened and it all got weird. To the point that I did not actually collect stats in June to figure out growth. I’m working to reconstruct things, but the status is… strange.
New Shows vs Cancellations Is Still Too High
When I try to figure out why it doesn’t feel like it’s getting better, I start by looking at the ratio of canceled shows to new shows. In a perfect world, we would always have either more new shows than canceled or (given the practical limits of time, at least close to even).
In reality, we can see the 2019 had a lot of new shows and a record high cancellation count.
2020 actually is better than 2019, in that we had fewer cancellations. That is until you look at the other change:
You can see the peak in 2019 and the noticeable drop in 2020. This confirms my hypothesis from last October. The bubble’s popped.
It’s Worst In the US
Arguably this is because the US has more shows than other nations, but the flip in 2019 where we have more cancellations than growth is bigger, and the difference between them in 2020 is even closer the wrong way.
Also you can see the drop in the number of shows in the US. This is absolutely COVID related, by the way.
Just slicing it to the last three years, you can see a trend:
|Year||New Shows||Canceled Shows||US Shows||New US Shows||Canceled US Shows||Death on US Shows|
- New Shows — Of all the shows on air, what percent are new?
- Canceled Shows — Of all shows on air, what percent were canceled?
- US Shows — Of all shows on air, what percent were based in the USA?
- New US Shows — Of all new shows on air, what percent were based in the USA?
- Canceled US Shows — Of all canceled shows on air, what percent were based in the USA?
- Death on US Shows — Of all dead characters, what percent were on US shows?
And that trend line we looked at with the percentage changes and how we crossed into the bad place in 2017?
Yep, still negative growth.
What About Good Rep?
We don’t just use raw on-air numbers to measure representation for good reason. Our show scores take into account the myriad angles of impactful TV. That is, it’s not just enough to have a lot of queers on TV, that rep has to be good. Last year I mentioned this as the major US linear stations had a happy-surprising upward trend!
Bad news. 2021 isn’t a repeat. Calculating at the same time (spring) as 2020, we have bigger drops and smaller gains.
|ABC||CBS||NBC||FOX||The CW||Total Change|
|Avg. Score (onair)||10.76%||0.35%||0.76%||1.39%||2.57%||3.17%|
The average scores for all shows on all major linear networks went down (except for ABC). The On-Air score grew significancy less. The characters, dead characters, and shows will always be ticking upwards, as unless we math wrong (or someone comes back from the dead, Sara Lance…) they’re always increasing. But shows on-air paints a devastating picture.
We decreased the shows on mainstream, linear TV noticeably. We lost 12 shows. And that may not sound like a lot, but it’s almost 16%.
Are there Good Stats?
Well. We haven’t recorded a death since December 2020, which is not the record (that would be 1429 days (1980-05-27 to 1984-04-25), but at 121 days, it’s the most since June 2001. And just to give you a historical sense, that was when Xena died.
Also a number of shows are picking up again, and ones like All Rise are returning Amy Acker to the screen, which is always wonderful. But that means we’re going to have more queers on fewer shows, and I can’t count that as a win for anyone.