Six New CBS Series, Six White Male Leads. With Prime-Time Diversity Growing, How Did the Network Fall Behind?

Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2016

When CBS presents its fall programs at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour this week, its lineup will include three new comedies built around TV veterans Kevin James, Matt LeBlanc and Joel McHale; a tech-infused medical drama with Dermot Mulroney, a legal drama with Michael Weatherly and a reboot of “MacGyver” starring Lucas Till. Six new shows that all star white men.

For CBS, that’s not exactly new. Few of its fall programs in the past decade have featured a minority actor in a starring role. In its current lineup, the network has the lowest number of minority leads among broadcast networks–three–and is the only broadcast network to not have a series built around a family of color.

In contrast, ABC, NBC and Fox are each launching at least one series this fall with a person of color as the lead, further expanding their already more diverse gallery of stars.

Acknowledging CBS’ shortfall of nonwhite leads in the new shows that will kick off its fall season, CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller maintained that diversity has been and remains a priority.

“Look, we need to do better and we know it,” Geller said last week in an interview. “In terms of year to year, looking at the leads, we are less diverse than last year.”

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While CBS boasts hits such as “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mom,” “Blue Bloods” and its “NCIS” and “Criminal Minds” procedural franchises, the network has repeatedly been criticized by viewers and advocacy groups for its formula of casting mostly white actors in leading roles while nonwhites are largely relegated to supporting characters. They charge that CBS, which promotes itself as “America’s Most Watched Network,” does not accurately reflect the look of America.

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