WGBH Openvault

New Television; Color Schemes

Part of New Television Workshop.

Color Schemes features twelve performers and writers of color who collaborate to recount incidents of racism, particularly racism in the entertainment industry. The work uses the metaphor of washing a load of colored clothing and is divided up into four sections based on laundry cycles. Cycle One, "Soak," opens with an archival piece of animation about the price of labor, with a particularly offensive rendition of a Chinese man who is referred to repeatedly as a "coolie." In a staged vignette, three of the actors are standing at a chicken-packaging factory line in an open air alley. Phones keep dropping down, and they take calls as they work, responding with mock enthusiasm to offers to play stereotypical parts. In Cycle Two, "Wash," another trio of actors are shooting pool, singing fragments of songs, and telling stories that reflect cultural stereotypes they have faced. At one point, a Native American actress says, "We used to watch the cowboy movies backwards, so that way we would always win." Footage of a black-and-white cowboy movie played backwards is superimposed onto a bank of windows on a building in the background. In the Third Cycle, "Rinse," three more actors are seated at a bus stop. One of them unloads animal bones from his sack. One of the performers asks another, "Have you been waiting long?" "So long I could be a statue," she responds. Cycle Four, "Extract," features the final three performers delivering monologues, first individually and then simultaneously in front of a projected film of street scenes. Between each section or Cycle, we see the entire ensemble of performers seated at a dinner table, cutting in unison into TV dinners. In the last scene of this scenario, the performers slowly break out of this superimposed mode of restraint and begin laughing, singing, and playing with their food. The text, "Can you identify the model minority?" flashes across the screen. The work concludes with the performers' voices improvising with the query, "What do you do with the native tongues that keep bursting out?" The work was broadcast as a segment of episode 507 (1989), and episode 107 (1991), of "New Television." Produced and directed by Shu Lea Cheang. Approximate date: 1988

License Clip
New Television

Color Schemes

Series Description

"New Television" began as a local pilot production of WNET (New York) in 1986. In 1987, WGBH signed on as co-producer, and the shows were aired in Boston and New York. In 1988 and 1989, KCET (Los Angeles) and WETA (D.C.) became producers in association. In 1991, PBS picked up "New Television," and it was broadcast nationally. The following year, the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, replaced WNET, WETA, and KCET as co-producer with WGBH. In 1993, WGBH ceased to be a co-producer for the series, and the "home base" moved to Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) in Hartford, CT.

"New Television" commissioned, produced, and acquired programming. In its early years, "New Television" broadcast works commissioned by The Contemporary Art Television (CAT) Fund. Increasingly, experimental films as well as video works were broadcast as a part of this series. Many of the later episodes of "New Television" contain works that play with and deconstruct the documentary genre. Series release date: 1986

Asset Type


Media Type


Hampton, Verna
Miguel, Gloria
Cheang, Shu Lea
Baez, Rafael
Paraiso, Nicky
Stereotyping (Social psychology)
McCanley, Robbie
Aponte, Maria
Durham, Jimmy
Edwards, Vincent
Esteves, Sandra
Hagedron, Jessica
Burns, Diane
Yamasaki, Emily Woo
Film and Television
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “New Television; Color Schemes,” WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed February 26, 2020, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_6C9FD98DBF164CD2B2602F62D6A7DE98.
MLA: “New Television; Color Schemes.” WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. February 26, 2020. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_6C9FD98DBF164CD2B2602F62D6A7DE98>.
APA: New Television; Color Schemes. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_6C9FD98DBF164CD2B2602F62D6A7DE98
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