It's kind of funny how Hollywood is full of liberal actors and directors, yet TV shows (and movies) remain so disproportionately non-minority in casting. I realize that the Asian population in this country is still small (5% according to this report). But offhand, I'd guess that the aggregate actor-screen time allotted to Asian actors is well less than 5% for TV shows. In fact, though I've blogged before about how there seem to be a relative plethora of Asians on TV right now, that included two reality TV game shows. Putting those aside, in the scripted TV shows, I'm aware of Jin and Sun on "Lost," who are two relatively minor-major characters; the sinister Asian guy (Reggie Lee) on "Prison Break," who gets just a couple of minutes an episode, if even that; Boomer on "Battlestar Galactica," who ranks as a secondary character; Hiro on "Heroes," whose screentime I can't analyze since I stopped watching it; and, as readers brought to my attention, some minor characters on "Studio 60" and "Deadwood."
UCLA law prof Russell Robinson has looked into this situation and concluded that "[c]asting directors take into account race and sex in a way that would be blatantly illegal in any other industry." Do characters have to be white (or African-American, or Asian)? In the case of Jin and Sun on "Lost," to serve the storyline they have to be non-English speaking, so I suppose the creators get credit for not making them German or French, or something. But of course, a con artist like Sawyer doesn't have to be white; he could be any race.
Ah, but Sawyer is supposed to be part of a love triangle with Kate and Jack, and if Sawyer weren't white, would viewers accept an interracial romance? Maybe, maybe not. But the Hunter Tylo case suggests that that's not a legitimate basis for discriminating against actors. It's not a perfect comparison, of course, but the gist of the Tylo case was that she was hired to play a seductress vixen on "Melrose Place." After she was hired but before filming her scenes commenced, she announced that she was pregnant. Producer Aaron Spelling fired her, on the theory that viewers wouldn't want to see a pregnant woman as a seductress. The part was recast, and Tylo sued, later winning lots of money.
I'm not necessarily suggesting that Hollywood should necessarily be producing Asian versions of "The Cosby Show" -- however, as "Prison Break" and "Battlestar Galactica" (and "24," back when Daniel Dae Kim, who now plays Jin on "Lost," was Jack Bauer's trusty subordinate) demonstrate, you can cast Asian actors at least in secondary roles that would traditionally go to non-minority actors.
 They get more screen time than most of the 47 plane crash survivors, but much less than the major characters like Jack, Kate, Locke, and Sawyer.
 Again, an important character, but with less screen time than Admiral Adama, President Roslin, Major Adama, Captain Thrace, Number Six, or Baltar.