TEN got a rude lesson this week in what should have been a moment for celebration, when a Jane Kennedy-tweet took aim at the lack of women in its 8 Pilot Week titles.
Amongst names like Rove McManus, Kyle Sandilands, Troy Kinne, Dave O’Nell, Rhys Darby and even Sam Dastyari, there was barely a female to be found (just one, Anna Heinrich, was mentioned but there are others in the mix).
“Oh, look!! How very exciting for all these men!!! And look! … There’s a lady in this picture with the remote control so she can watch all the clever, funny men who have the opportunity to pilot their own shows,” Kennedy tweeted.
Kennedy, whose Working Dog production company produces one of TEN’s biggest shows in Have You Been Paying Attention?, was soon joined by Meshel Laurie and Magda Szubanski -both having featured on TEN shows in the last 12 months. It was hardly ideal.
TEN chief content officer Beverley McGarvey, Australia’s only female commercial programmer, told the Herald Sun she was disappointed with the response.
“The reaction’s probably not surprising but we are a bit disappointed,” she said.
“What we were looking for in the process was ideas that we wouldn’t otherwise commission. We were trying to be bold in our commissioning.”
Kennedy has since clarified she has no beef with the men cast, but with the pictorial used by the Herald Sun of 8 blokes and a female holding a TV remote.
That said, the social media reaction is a good reminder that casting diversely continues to be a hot topic.
As we head towards Upfronts season in a few months, networks are on notice that the buzz of a new slate can be hijacked by politics if it doesn’t strike the right balance. Those networks also need to remember they have all signed an industry charter seeking to effect change both behind and in front of the camera.
Yet while Kennedy’s complaint is a legitimate one, should it overshadow the bigger picture?
TEN’s Pilot Week is a bold move in a risk-averse industry. Not all the shows sound like winners but the fact a commercial network is having a go (ABC is the only other network to attempt such) is a positive. Involving the audience, supposedly, in the commissioning stage is to be encouraged.
TEN is also looking over three female-driven narrative comedies with “high-profile women” for future consideration.
“If they do make it to pilot it will be next year’s Pilot Week because the lead-time on narrative comedy is about 18 months.”
Bonus, seems we’re getting a Pilot Week in 2019 too. A chance to cast wider ….and choose better print imagery.
TEN has been approached for comment.