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ABC’s popular dating reality franchise “The Bachelor” is currently under fire because two African-American men are filing a class action lawsuit against the show for racial discrimination, claiming they went to an open casting call to be the next Bachelor and were left out of the normal process because they of their race.

During Thursday’s (April 19) “Today’s” professionals panel, featuring Star Jones, Donny Deutsch and Tamron Hall, tackled the “Bachelor” issue and had some interesting points.

“When I first saw the topic, my instinct was to go, ‘Oh please, it’s reality television.’ But as you look at the law, if they have some evidence that there was some systematic discrimination going on, that’s a real lawsuit,” says lawyer Star Jones.

“I think it’s absolutely nutty,” adds Tamron Hall. “We’re talking about Dick Clark, who incorporated all music because he realized white kids could dance to black music and black kids could dance with white kids and it would all be OK, the world wouldn’t end.”

But Donny Deutsch offers a different perspective.

“ABC, which is owned by Disney, is a business. Television shows are targeted at audiences. They obviously have done research and for whatever reason that show has tremendous appeal … let’s say you cast a black man and the group of women are black and white women and he chooses a white woman. Oh my god, are people going to freak out?

“Has there been anybody over the age of 50 on ‘The Bachelor’? Has there been a gay person? This is a business decision that that is their audience … we’ve gotta stop going crazy when audiences are sometimes targeted. I see it as an unfortunate reality.

When you look at morning talk shows, how many hosts are of a certain age? It’s a harsh reality of this business. I’m not condoning it.”

We think they all made some good points. What if “The Bachelor” does cast an African-American male as the lead and the ratings tank? What a sad commentary that would be. But it would shine a light onto a serious issue.

We’ve written about how hard it is for minority contestants to succeed on “American Idol.” Is it racism on the part of the voters? Maybe not blatant or conscious racism, but subconscious? Or is it identifying with a contestant that is like you, the viewer, and the viewers of shows like “Idol” and “The Bachelor” tend to be white? Is it both?

It’s an interesting discussion. Even shows like “Survivor,” which tends to be a little more diverse in its casting than most reality shows (and not just with race, but age, socio-economic background, age, etc.), often sees the “fan favorites” emerge that are white contestants.

What do you think, reality TV fans?

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."