When CBS unveiled the details and even trailers for its new shows for the 2016-2017 fall schedule, spectators noticed one common theme. While the country is quickly slipping out of spring bloom into the summer months, it might as well be winter at CBS; the lineup, it seems, is almost completely white.
Freshman CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller is having to shore up his network’s pilot decisions today at a pre-upfront conference after claims that practically every one of CBS’s new shows feature white male actors, Variety reports.
The recently-hired Entertainment president was asked by multiple reporters at the conference about the uneven racial and gender diversity in the eight new shows to debut in the fall at CBS, to which Geller responded with a coaxing denial.
To the issue of gender-representational inequality, Geller said to the Hollywood Reporter, “We are the network that has Madam Secretary, 2 Broke Girls and Mom — we have lots of female leads, we have a great balance.”
The president even took it a step further to add, “Actually, our new series are more diverse this year than last year.”
From the octuplet of new series–Kevin Can Wait, Bull, MacGyver, Training Day, Pure Genius, the Great Indoors, Man With a Plan, and Doubt–only two actually headline a diverse actor or actress. Training Day, directly based on the Antoine Fuqua drama film, is centered around LAPD officers as they battle narcotics-riddled crime communities. It stars complete freshman Justin Cornwell, the one black male lead in the whole CBS lineup, alongside white actor Bill Paxton (Terminator, Titanic).
The other diverse show, Doubt, crosses a few items off the representational checklist. A legal drama about defense attorneys and their brutal cases, Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy) stars alongside Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black). Both actresses fill together in for CBS’s one female-led new show this season, and Cox takes it a step further as being both black and transgender.
“I think that’s phenomenal,” says Geller. “We are definitely moving in the right direction.”
Both Doubt and Training Day are being held for the midseason, to debut after NCIS. The other six shows, starring white male leads such as Kevin James, Friends alumni Matt LeBlanc, and Community grad Joel McHale, are all slotted to air at the fore-front of CBS’s fall schedule.
And it’s not just the placement of the white-and-male-led shows versus the black-and-female-led ones that had reporters asking difficult questions to CBS today. This weekend, the network also caught a little heat when it announced it would be releasing Nancy Drew to be bought by another channel. The show featured a diverse lead in Sarah Shahi (Persons of Interest) as well as supporting actress Vanessa Ferlito, but CBS felt as though the show was just too similar in content to Doubt for both to come along.
The argument over diversity and a lack thereof will not be the last for CBS, but it’s preparing itself. The network hired Catrice Monson as senior vice president of diversity and inclusion last week, but time will tell if that will be enough.