Hot, Young, and Snarky: Too Many Actors Look and Talk the Same Way on TV Today

Herbie J Pilato

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[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

Where is the diversity? Where are the seniors? Where are the happy characters of yesterday's television?

I remain both astounded and annoyed by the continued lack of diversity in casting in Hollywood, especially on television shows. It’s like a bunch of androids have taken over TV.

Look at any cast on any TV series today — and everyone looks the same, and if they don’t look the same, they resemble or talk like one another — with very few distinguishing characteristics in appearance and sound.

All the guys are hot, young and white with brown hair — and all the women are hot, young and brunet with blue eyes — and all of them are super-intelligent, fast-talking, acerbic drones.

On the other hand, watch any classic episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. and you’ll see a senior lead male with gray hair with blue eyes, a young white associate with alabaster skin and brown eyes, and a female secretary of Latin descent in her mid-40s with light brown hair and eyes, and an olive complexion.

Tune into a retro ’70s segment of Bridget Loves Bernie, and you’ll see a dark male Jewish lead and a blond white female lead, surrounded by a supporting cast of all ages with varying degrees of brown, blond, black, and white coloring.

Turn your world on with her smile for any episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and you’ll catch a white mid-western woman intermingling with a thirtysomething Jewish girl, a heavy-set, short and balding middle-aged white man, a silver-haired male fox, a middle-aged female blond with piercing blue eyes and your Mom’s hairstyle; another middle-aged female blond with a bouffant hairdo.

Investigate Mannix and you’ll find an Armenian lead male detective with a female African-American secretary.

Engage in warp speed over to the original Star Trek and you’ll see a leading blond male captain, a tall dark-haired man with pointy ears, an Asian male, a hippie Russian, a female African-American, and a middle-aged Southern doctor. (Ok, maybe that was part of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s ideal vision for a united humanity, but still…).

Mosey on over to The Golden Girls and you’ll find four distinguished female citizens each with their own look: one very tall and thin Jewish woman with gray hair and a low voice playing a tall and thin Italian woman with gray hair and a low voice; one tiny in stature female with white hair; one with light brown hair, a Southern accent, and a vivacious walk; and yet another one who looks an awful lot like that middle-aged woman with your Mom’s hairdo from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Explore the endless possibilities of the mind with episodes of Frasier and you’ll find two brothers who act and sound alike but by way of the talented actors who portray them are somehow magically transformed into different people, both of whom interact with a tall, thin British woman with brown hair, a mid-western earthy female with red hair, and an elderly gray-haired physically-challenged man with a cane.

Have breakfast or lunch with Alice, and view the following three stand-out waitresses serving an assortment of various oddballs at a grumpy man's Mel’s Diner: a dark-hair girl from Jersey, a hot, red-headed hot-head from Texas, and an Olive-Oil school graduate.

Swim on over to the castaways of Gilligan’s Island and you’ll discover a scrawny little buddy with a white cap palling around with his rotund sandy-hair Skipper; a stuffy pre-Big-Bang-Theory professor with his khaki-beige science duds; the stuffy millionaire and his wife — and the ultimate female dichotomy of the little dark-hair down-to-earth country girl alongside the tall, slinky, red-haired movie star with an attitude.

Yes, most of the performers on all of these classic shows are, in general, attractive. But ultimately, that’s the similarities between each of them end…and where the similarity to the casts of contemporary TV shows is non-existent.

Back in the day, TV casts were diverse; they didn’t all look, act and talk alike — as they do on most every new television show today.

Where are the unique traits? Where are the distinct personalities? Where are the uncommon looks (beyond the sci-fi/fantasy genre)? Does EVERY character have to be sarcastic, sardonic, quick-witted, and edgy? Does EVERY actor cast have to be young and perfect-looking? Does EVERY character/actor have to blend into the other to totally confuse the audience into believing they’re watching just one big mess of people, stuttering, garbling, and mumbling their words (as was stated and explored so eloquently on this site with a previous post?)

Transparently so.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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