CBS Plans to ‘Do Better’ At Diversifying Their White Male Lineup

Because everything is better with color.
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During this year’s Upfronts, I and many others noticed something strange yet so very typical about CBS’s fall lineup—all five of their new shows featured white male leads. This isn’t a particularly groundbreaking revelation but it’s exhausting after having such an open conversation about diversity.

It seems CBS is finally listening to the exasperated voices saying, “Really? This again?” and has pledged to “do better” at diversifying their lineup. The topic came up during the network’s presentation at The Critics Association’s summer press tour, with CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller laying out their plans for the future to Deadline.

 “We’ve said to the creative community, to agencies and to studios, ‘we want more diversity: bring us more diverse clients, we want to hear more diverse stories’. And they have responded,” Geller said. “We’ve already bought a number of projects that have diversity that is more integral to the story as opposed to just casting diversity. You can tackle diversity in many different ways but you can’t leave it all just to casting in January.”

He’s right. This isn’t about putting more skin tones in front of the screen and calling it a day. It goes beyond that. According to a 2016 diversity report from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, minorities are underrepresented 5 to 1 in scripted broadcast TV and 2 to 1 in cable. The numbers are even direr behind the scenes with minority show creators underrepresented at 11 to 1 for broadcast shows and 5 to 1 in cable. POC writers are outnumbered 4 to 1 in both broadcast and cable television.

So I ask, how can one expect to see substantial stories about people of different backgrounds if they’re being told from just one (white male) point of view? For Geller, the answer lies in seeking out different voices. “I think it’s about finding diversity where it is organically baked into the concept,” he added. “But it has to come from the creator’s vision, and we have to hear more diverse pitches.”

These words sound promising but I’m going to need to see more action before I become a full-on believe. Last season, Geller admitted they “had a number of projects that were diverse or had specific leads in a workplace that were diverse,” but none of those projects ever made it to television. Why do you suppose that was? Were they “too ethnic” or just not strong enough? I mean, judging from Kevin Can Wait, the bar was set pretty low for new TV.

Still, it looks like the network is actually making an effort. According to Deadline, they’re currently developing a drama about a “multi-generational Latino family of cops” living in Los Angeles. They’re also reshooting a comedy called Superior Donuts from comedian Jermaine Folwer which may pop up on the network during midseason. Bryan Fuller also dropped the news that the lead for the new Star Trek series will probably be a woman of color. These are small steps but something is better than nothing, I suppose.

And I know people are tired of hearing the word “diversity” being thrown around but imagine how frustrating it is to have to constantly scream for some kind of acknowledgement that people like you exist outside of stereotypes, and that you can function independently rather than in service of a white savior. We’re not asking to get rid of everyone who isn’t a minority, just make some extra room at the dinner table.

Simple enough, right?

(via Deadline, image via CBS)

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Keisha is a geeky writer with an acute affinity for alliteration and Deadpool cosplayers. She never let go of Boy Meets World, and Thranduil’s flowy mane in The Hobbit gives her lacefront envy. Don’t be shy; say hi to her on Twitter.

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