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Networks chase Latino viewers with 'Cristela' and 'Jane the Virgin'

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Cristela Alonzo is the star of the new ABC sitcom, "Cristela."
Associated Press
Cristela Alonzo is the star of the new ABC sitcom, "Cristela."

Alex Nogales, CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, says the networks are making progress with Latino representation, but still have a ways to go.

The TV networks would love to reach the huge and growing Latino audience. Last Friday, ABC introduced  “Cristela” — a sitcom starring comedian Cristela Alonzo as a law school student coping with her less than supportive family.

On Oct. 13, the CW premieres “Jane the Virgin” — a dramedy about a young woman who accidentally becomes impregnated when a doctor thinks she has come in for artificial insemination.

The Frame spoke with Alex Nogales, the president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. We asked him how those new shows fit into the evolution of Latino representation — and under-representation — on television.

On how he thinks "Cristela" will be received:

We have something called the Latino Premiere Club, and we have influencers [watch] the different shows that the studios want to get behind. We saw "Cristela" and everyone was overwhelmingly happy with it. But beyond happy, they're ready to promote it. We're promoting it across the United States with all our [member] organizations.

On whether some acculturated or assimilated Latinos may resist shows that are targeted at them:

Let's see who [watches these shows]. Our feeling is it's going to have a huge audience, not only with monolingual, English-language Latinos, but also with the bilingual Latino. Remember that particular generation is very young — they're getting acculturated at a very fast rate. So when you combine both of those numbers, you've got 80 percent of the U.S. Latino market right there .... ["Cristela"] is a superior show. You see this young woman performing and you say, Wow. She is an ordinary person doing exemplary, extraordinary work. 

On why successful Latino shows have been so few and far between:

It's a lack of wanting that to happen. [But] you have someone like the president of ABC Entertainment, Paul Lee — who is incidentally from England — who worked in Brazil for many years and then came to the states and made many of the big shifts at Disney [with youth programming] and then shifted over to ABC [network]. He sees what he is doing very differently than some of the other presidents of entertainment. He comes from a different perspective. He's looking at the numbers and saying, "What we've been doing doesn't reflect the reality of the demographics in this nation." So he's got a black show, he's got an Asian-Pacific American show, he's got a Latino show. He's seeing reality in a different way. Besides, he's number three [in the ratings]. He wants to be number one, so he wants to capture that minority audience. 

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