When CBS ordered six new shows last week, fans on Twitter pointed out the one thing they all had in common: The top-billed actor in each was white and male.
Soon observers began to accuse the broadcaster of not doing enough to cast women and actors of color at a time when the rest of the industry was making strides in that direction.
On Wednesday, CBS unveiled its fall schedule to reporters and network executives were asked about the network’s “male-centered” lineup.
“We are the network that has Madam Secretary and Two Broke Girls and Mom — we have lots of female leads, we have a great balance,” said CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller. “Actually our new series are more diverse this year than last year. When Doubt premieres, I’m happy to say it’s the first broadcast series to feature a transgender series regular played by a transgender actor. I think that’s phenomenal. We are definitely moving in the right direction.”
Geller is referring to the network’s midseason legal drama with Katherine Heigl, that features transgender actress and rights advocate Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black) in a costarring role.
Another midseason drama, Training Day, features actor Justin Cornwell, who is black, as a co-lead. Veteran actor Bill Paxton costars in that series, filling the role Denzel Washington had in the original film.
The network was also developing a reboot of Nancy Drew that starred Iranian-Spanish actress Sarah Shahi, but CBS elected not to give the project a series order. CBS also had Rush Hour this season, a comedy-drama starring two non-white actors, Justin Hires and Jon Foo, but canceled the series last week due to low ratings.
Yet it’s undeniably true the network’s new fall lineup is rather heavily focused on white males. New legal drama Bull stars Michael Weatherly in the title role (white guy); a reboot of 1980s action-hour MacGyver features Lucas Till and George Eads (white guys); medical drama Pure Genius stars Augustus Prew as a billionaire genius and Dermot Mulroney as a maverick surgeon (white guys); comedy The Great Indoors stars Joel McHale (white guy) as an adventure reporter; Man with a Plan stars Matt LeBlanc (white guy) in family comedy; and Kevin Can Wait stars Kevin James as a retired cop (white guy).
The network’s executives unveiled their fall lineup to reporters in New York ahead of their upfront presentation to advertisers. CBS is closing the season in first place among both total viewers and adults 18-49. See CBS’ new schedule here.