CBS, which has long been under fire for its lack of diversity, has offered a bewildering defense for its all-male 2017 fall lineup.
It was a tense TCA press tour for the CBS chiefs this week, who had to defend the network’s failure to present a diverse (read: accurately depicting the American population) fall series line-up for the second year running.
The network, which also came under fire earlier this year for failing to match the salaries of Asian actors Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park to those of their white male Hawaii Five-0 co-stars, has a total of six new series premiering this fall, all starring male leads, five of whom are white.
Last year, the line-up was even less diverse, with six new series that all starred white male leads.
And if you’re thinking, ‘Well, at least that’s progress,’ you’d be making CBS chiefs Kelly Kahl and Thom Sherman very happy — because that’s exactly the reaction they’re hoping for.
“We can have a debate and discussion about the pace, but [change] is happening,” said Kahl at the event, noting that diverse series regulars are up almost 60 percent from what they used to be and adding that one of the leads of the mid-season line-up will be gay.
In fact, Kahl doubled down on CBS’ stellar efforts to accurately representing modern America, boasting that, “every single drama on our air has at least one diverse character.” ONE ‘diverse character’ in EACH show, guys. Hold your applause.
One relatively reasonable argument Sherman did present was that they are trying to develop female-led shows, too, but they simply aren’t good enough to compete with what gets greenlit and renewed each season (it’s hard to match the standard of Michael Weatherly’s Bull, after all).
And yes, it should obviously be a given that pilot projects that make it to air are actually the best of the bunch. But to imagine that ‘best’ and ‘white male-est’ should be so universally synonymous at CBS is baffling at best, when you look at the television landscape at large.
Finally, they addressed fact that CBS has long had an all-white, all-male casting department — because that, of course, could also be a factor in who gets cast in these so sparsely diverse shows. But Kahl only said that the casting team “have been together a long time” and “are fantastic at what they do,” noting that they may be looking to expand the team.
The CBS line-up includes old favorites Hawaii Five-0, The Big Bang Theory, Criminal Minds and Elementary, along with female-led series Mom and Madam Secretary.
Premiering this fall are S.W.A.T., SEAL Team, Wisdom of the Crowd, 9JKL, Me, Myself and I and the TBBT spin-off Young Sheldon.
Progress takes time… and a little more time at CBS, evidently.