The Real Problem with MTV's Loosely Exactly Nicole Cancellation
Comedienne Nicole Byer isn’t in a joking mood. Her show has been cancelled.
The reality of having a TV show past the development stage means there is always the possibility of cancellation. Always. But MTV’s decision to rid itself of freshman series “Loosely Exactly Nicole” (LEN) in early February has far more serious repercussions for Women of Color than the network may realize.
As a fan of the show myself, I’m not laughing either.
Aside from the success of ABC’s Blackish & Fresh Off The Boat and Netflix’s Chewing Gum & One Day at a Time, there aren’t many comedy series that showcase women as main characters at the forefront in TV today. Tracy Ellis Ross, Constance Wu, Michaela Coel and Justina Machado are exceptions to the leading lady rule because their shows are flourishing.
Why didn’t LEN have the same fighting chance?Truthfully, the only possible explanation is that audiences didn’t know LEN existed at all.
Advertising for episodes was sparse across the board and even prompted a change in air dates, moving the show from Mondays to Fridays where programs go to fade away silently. But throughout the short-lived series, Nicole’s character was quite layered for the niche genre. She had a love interest, core friendships, a semi-professional career. Her wardrobe reflected that heavy set Women of Color can wear more than moo moos and look amazing. Simply put, LEN was a vibrant example of how to debunk TV stereotypes about what female comedic characters are capable of.
Variety reported that MTV’s recent acquisition by cable group giant Viacom (VH1, Logo) in October, was the catalyst that prompted the split with the half-hour comedy series set around Nicole Byer's (MTV Girl Code) real life, hilariously struggling to find success as an actress in Hollywood.
A deeper look into the ratings shed light on just how much MTV failed LEN. Sources revealed that “overall the season earned an average rating of 0.9 in the 18-49 demo and only 198,000 viewers.” Barely a blip on the scale of dedicated viewership where other MTV series like Teen Mom and Catfish pull in infinitely larger numbers.
VH1 President Chris McCarthy, who now handles MTV’s lineup said this about Viacom’s new direction in the future. “The big theme is really for MTV to run back into youth culture — where we really made our mark.”
I can understand putting the music back into Music Television but the damage has already been done for Women of Color. The real problem with MTV canceling LEN is there will be no more representation for Women of Color comediennes on the network any longer. Erasing representation means viewers who might have been inspired to follow their passion for comedy after seeing the show, will never have that chance.
So as I bitterly binge reruns, I’ll remember this cancellation is evidence that the strive for a more diverse narrative for Women of Color on TV is still a steep, uphill battle.
RIP Loosely Exactly Nicole, you will be missed.