CBS’ fall TV slate features six new series fronted by a total of eight white men — a glaring fact that network president Glenn Geller was asked to account for on Wednesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
“We’re very mindful at CBS abut the importance of diversity and inclusion. We need to do better and we know it,” Geller acknowledged. “We are definitely less diverse this year than last year, and we need to do better.”
Because whereas ABC, NBC and The CW’s new fall shows feature a mix of male and female leads, and Fox’s Pitch is fronted by a young black female, CBS’ Bull, MacGyver, Pure Genius, Man With a Plan, The Great Indoors and Kevin Can Wait count zero females and no non-white actors among their leads.
Geller previously deflected the topic at the May Upfronts by noting that CBS’ returning series offer a better balance, starring actresses such as Tea Leoni, Allison Janney, Anna Faris, Beth Behrs and Kat Dennings, while NCIS: LA and Hawaii Five-0 feature racially diverse ensembles. NCIS, NCIS: New Orleans and Criminal Minds, meanwhile, have respectively added Wilmer Valderrama, Duane Henry, Vanessa Ferlito, Adam Rodriguez and Aisha Tyler as series regulars.
With ensemble casting “we actually were more diverse this year than last year,” Geller maintained on Wednesday at TCA. “Eleven [of 16 series regulars added to fall shows] are diverse, and that is our commitment to diversity. Those aren’t just words, that is real action.
“I understand the inclination to just look at leads,” he continued, “but I do think we also have to look behind the camera,” with writers and directors, “and there we are doing very well.”
Geller also noted that the midseason drama Training Day, for example, features a black co-lead in Justin Cornwell, while Doubt costars transgender actress Laverne Cox as a transgender character, in what he called “historic” casting.