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Friday, 20 October, 2000, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
Spike attacks TV ghettos
Spike Lee
Spike Lee: Turning to television for the first time
Spike Lee, whose latest movie Bamboozled is critical of the TV industry, is to turn his attention to TV comedy and drama.

Lee has said his priority is to take black actors and stories out of the "sitcom ghetto".

The award-winning director of movies such as Do The Right Thing and Malcolm X has signed a one-year development deal with Studio USA, which produces Jerry Springer and Xena: Warrior Princess.

African-Americans are ghettoised into TV sitcoms

Spike Lee

The deal will see Lee develop and produce drama series and comedies.

He is expected to direct pilot episodes of any scripts which go into production.

"There's a whole wide world outside of the sitcom, and it seems like African-Americans are ghettoised into (TV sitcoms),'' he said.

"I don't think sitcoms should be blown off, but I'd love to go in a different direction."

The director said he was excited by the opportunity.

'Virtual whitewash'

"I've always wanted to do television. It's a frontier I've never been able to crack."

Lee's film Bamboozled criticises America's obsession with black families in sitcoms and examines the role of black actors in American TV.

Lee said that the lack of black actors on network TV stemmed from TV executives fearing that such projects would alienate mainstream audiences.

Last year the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attacked American TV networks for "a virtual whitewash in programming".

I think the criticism of our business is richly deserved

David Kissinger

Lee said: "Executives in television, and in the feature business, think that the white masses are more accepting of black people in comedy roles than in something a little more challenging.

"There's a vast underestimation of the audience.''

Studios USA programming president David Kissinger said he appreciated Lee's frank opinions.

"I think the criticism of our business is richly deserved.

"While Bamboozled paints a portrait that's intentionally extreme and brutal, its point is well taken."

He added: "It's no coincidence here that Spike is very publicly turning his attention to TV right after putting out a movie that excoriates us."

See also:

31 Aug 99 | Tom Brook
US networks accused of racism
12 Oct 00 | Entertainment
TV adopts ethnic plan
19 Sep 00 | UK
The actor who would be king
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