Shonda Rhimes & Kerry Washington

Shonda Rhimes & Kerry Washington

*You’ve heard the saying “When you know better, you do better” right?

Well let’s just put it like this: Hollywood execs are still in need of education when it comes to embracing black entertainers in prime time.

The conversation was started when people got fed up with “Saturday Night Live” and put the sketch-comedy show on blast due to their longstanding lack of ethnic diversity (in its 38-year run, only four African American women have been regulars). Then, to make bad matters even worse, all hell broke loose when Keenan Thompson, one of two African American men currently cast on the show, said this is because it is hard to find African American women that are “ready” to join the cast.

But daytime TV doesn’t appear to share the same concern. Here, black entertainers and other people of color are thriving; they are a prominent presence.

Black actors on Y&R

Black actors from ‘Y&R’

Michael Strahan hosts alongside Kelly Ripa on “Live With Kelly and Michael”, and are considered “Daytime’s Dynamic Duo.”  Steve Harvey, Queen Latifah, Cedric the Entertainer and Wendy Williams enjoy popular talk shows as well. And the number of black cast members on shows like CBS’ The Young & The Restless” – in major roles to boot – have never been greater.

What gives?

Why are minorities largely sidelined in favor of white performers after sundown?

Only a handful of returning network series feature ethnic leads.  ABC’s “Scandal,” starring Washington; Fox‘s “The Mindy Project,” with Indian American actress Mindy Kaling; and CBS’ “Elementary,” with Asian American actress Lucy Liu.

Darnell Hunt, head of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, which is conducting an analysis of the diversity of casts on cable and network series, theorizes using the burden of proof as a possible motive, saying, “There’s a lot more at stake in prime time, with productions that involve large casts, a slew of writers and technicians.”

Looking for the broadest possible appeal, he says, network executives almost always favor white leads for prime-time shows.

When characters of color are cast in those nighttime shows, they “are part of an ensemble — the shows are not about them. In daytime, the people of color can be the star — the host of a game show or the head of a talk show,” he adds.

Daytime programmers said President Obama’s election prompted them to consider retooling their lineups to add more racially diverse personalities. In 2010, Steve Harvey became the first African American host of the game show “Family Feud.” Ratings began to climb and then skyrocketed 40% last year to an average of 7 million viewers — the 37-year-old program’s highest ratings since 1990.

Cedric the Entertainer, the host of Walt Disney Co.’s “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire,” says programmers need to step up because if given the opportunity, blacks and other minorities are ready, willing and able to fit the bill. He blames the slow tred towards change in this area on the fact that there are too few minorities in positions of power in the industry.

Ced, who wants to be“It’s that combination of economics and not having that voice in the boardroom who understands our story, our humor and our point of view,” Cedric said. “Jerry Seinfeld and Ray Romano did not have shows that started out as juggernauts, but there was somebody in those boardrooms who understood them and had faith.”

As the L.A. Times’ Greg Braxton  reports, with that said, there are more blacks behind the scenes now than in the past. Shonda Rhimes is the executive producer behind the ABC shows “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy, and Pearlena Igbokwe is a top programming executive at NBC. And then there’s Oprah Winfrey, one of the biggest TV stars of any race, who came to fame on daytime.

Read/learn MORE at LA Times.