ABC Studios’ recent approach to diverse content has been questionable. It was recently reported that Black-ish creator Kenya Barris was mulling a possible exit from ABC Studios over recent clashes over "Bedtime Stories," a politically-themed episode of the comedy series that dealt with rights of athletes to kneel during the national anthem at football games. Right ahead of the ABC upfront, ABC entertainment chief Channing Dungey gave a response regarding the canned episode and the controversy that followed it.
"As you know, we’ve long been supportive of Kenya and his team tackling challenging and controversial issues in the show. And we’ve always, traditionally, been able to come to a place creatively where we felt good about the story that he was telling even if it felt like it was pushing some hot buttons, and he felt that he was getting to share the story in the way it should be shared,” Dungey said. “With this particular episode, there were a number of different elements to the episode that we had a hard time coming to terms on. Much has been made about the kneeling part of it, which was not even really the issue, but I don’t want to get into that. At the end of the day, this was a mutual decision between Kenya and the network to not put the episode out."
Despite Dungey's response, the decision to pull the episode hints at a selective approach on the network when it comes to political censorship, especially when looking at other shows on its programming slate. Ironically, the network has displayed instances of political uncensorship with the Roseanne reboot, particularly a recent episode depicting the titular character addressing her Islamophobia and perception of her Muslim neighbors, which drew the ire of many online.
With Shonda Rhimes signing a deal with Netflix, Kenya Barris potentially on his way out and black-led pilots being passed over, the future of diverse programming on ABC is a bit unclear.