CBS Boss Defends Lack of Diversity, Women in New Shows

New entertainment president Glenn Geller tells reporters his network is "more diverse" despite a wave of criticism following his pass on a reboot of Nancy Drew starring Sarah Shahi.
Courtesy of CBS
"Man With a Plan," left, "Kevin Can Wait" and "Bull"

New CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller defended his network's diversity and gender balance Wednesday during his time in front of the press at a pre-upfronts news conference.

Pressed by reporters about the network's seeming lack of diversity and female-driven fare among the eight new series picked up for the 2016-17 broadcast season, Geller stressed CBS had a "great balance."

"We are the network that has Madam Secretary, 2 Broke Girls and Mom — we have lots of female leads, we have a great balance," Geller said. "Actually, our new series are more diverse this year than last year."

The executive stressed that his new offerings were more diverse. Those offerings include Katherine Heigl midseason drama Doubt, which co-stars primetime's first broadcast series featuring a transgender regular played by a trans actress (Laverne Cox).

"I think that's phenomenal," he said. "We are definitely moving in the right direction.

Of CBS' eight new series, only one is female-driven (Doubt) and only one features a black lead (Training Day with newcomer Justin Cornwell starring opposite Bill Paxton).

The gender balance issue was sparked over the weekend when CBS opted to pass on its Nancy Drew reboot. Described as a contemporary take on the character from the iconic Nancy Drew book series, CBS' drama pilot focused on Nancy (Person of Interest's Sarah Shahi), now in her 30s and a detective for the NYPD where she investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, all while navigating the complexities of life in a modern world. Geller told THR in January that the network's Nancy Drew would be diverse. Shahi, a Persian actress, was cast a month and a half later following a months-long courting process by Geller.

Pressed on why he opted to pass on Drew, Geller said that he had a number of pilots to choose from and the network "chose the best pilot."

Sources say Drew, which co-starred Anthony Edwards and Vanessa Ferlito, did not come in as strong as the network would have hoped. Multiple industry observers noted that it was a tossup between similarly themed legal drama Doubt and Drew for the remaining drama slot at CBS. (Both series were produced in-house by CBS Television Studios and hailed from the same producers.)

Meanwhile, CBS' six other newly ordered series are all toplined by white stars: Kevin James (Kevin Can Wait), Michael Weatherly (Bull), MacGyver (Lucas Till), Pure Genius (Dermot Mulroney), The Great Indoors (Joel McHale) and Man With a Plan (Matt LeBlanc). Diverse offerings Training Day and Doubt, meanwhile, are being held for midseason.

A THR survey of the 42 newly ordered series found that only 13 shows feature diverse lead actors, while 29 feature white leads.

Keep up with all the renewals, cancellations and new series pickups with THR's handy scorecard and follow the pilot crop status here. For full upfronts 2016 coverage, go to THR.com/upfronts.

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