TCA CBS Executive Session: “We Need to do Better” on Diversity

TCA CBS Executive Panel Francis Specker/CBS
Glenn Geller, President, CBS Entertainment, tries to address the network's lack of on-camera diversity. After the session, about 50 reporters comtinues the questioning on who the network can't commit to finding starring vehicles for diverse talent.

This morning, the President of CBS Entertainment Glenn Geller, set up the network’s fall offerings and took heat the network’s continuing history of casting and hiring white, heterosexual men as series stars.

With 6 weeks to go before fall season, CBS is excited about their fall offerings, and brags that it is the most watched network in viewers, tops amongst viewers 18-49.

Says the network had a strong upfront presentation, and advertisers are willing to pay lots of $$ for the opportunity to reach CBS viewers.

Kevin James, Matt LeBlanc and Joel McHale lead this fall’s new sitcoms, but notes they are reshooting the pilot for the comedy, Superior Donuts, starring Jermaine Fowler.

Geller also presented a sneak peek at the CBS’ three-night event, The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey which reunites original investigators on the case, with new experts and technology to take a fresh look at the 20 year-old case. He mentions that the series built a full-scale model of the Ramsay home.

Other announcements before Geller opened up the floor to questions:
New 2 year pick up for Big Brother 2017 & 2018. A digital version of the series will also available on CBS all Access.
Zoo will be picked up for a 3rd season
New reality series Hunted for broadcast next season.
CBS will broadcast the ACM Honors on Sept 9; hosted by Lady Antebellum.
CBS all access will premiere a Star Trek spin-off
James Corden’s bit, Carpool Karaoke will spin off a version for Apple Music.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert will broadcast three live shows following Presidential and Vice Presidential debates on

Questions and Dodgy Answers
Glenn was asked about the lack of diversity in lead roles on CBS programming. The network as plenty of diverse actors in supporting roles, but leads are still white, hetero men.
“We need to do better, and we know it.” It was also pointed out to Glenn that all showrunners of new series are white men. Yesterday, FX announced a commitment to creating diversity in episodic directors by actually hiring directors who were women and minorities. “Why can’t CBS make that commitment?” Glenn points to Training Day and revamp of Jermaine Fowler’s show as areas of future diversity.

Geller was slammed for his shrugging sentiment, “This is what the pilot system gave us.” Says 11 of 16 new roles added to existing shows are “diverse.” And defends, “We are not trying to make up for something.” But they kinda are … by announcing the following additions to CBS series.

New supporting roles added to existing CBS series:

Wilmer Valderrama
Jennifer Esposito
Duane Henry

Vanessa Ferlito

Adam Rodriguez
Aisha Tyler

Boris Kodjoe
Jillian Murray
Rob Lowe

Hunter King

Justin Hires
Sandrine Holt
Tristin Mays

Sebastian Arcelus

Nelsan Ellis

Christina Vidal

Geller is a homosexual man and has said he’s trying to get more LGBT representation on CBS series. Says Bull, Code Black, The Great Indoors, NCIS New Orleans all have gay characters/storylines. Also points to role of Laverne Cox in Doubt as “historic.”

Geller also was asked about the status of MacGyver, which was ordered to series despite not having a usable pilot. He says the network loves series star Lucas Till, is excited to have George Eads return to CBS, and was excited to work with the same man who made Hawaii Five-0 a worldwide phenomenon, so pick up the series without a pilot. The original pilot stunk, so they’re reshooting it. But we haven’t seen anything other than a sizzle reel. Geller says “It’s the perfect fit for the network’s Friday nights.”

Geller was asked about CBS comedies, which the writer called “hilarious.” This evoked groans form the other writers, because the three new comedies on CBS are remarkably unfunny. Broad, dull and sure to be hits by people who don’t know any better.