CBS adding three gay characters to shows

Move follows second failing diversity grade from GLAAD

CBS is adding a trio of gay characters to the network's shows next season following a recent GLAAD report that gave the network a failing diversity grade for a second year in a row.

Addressing reporters at the semi-annual Television Critics Assn. press tour, entertainment president Nina Tassler said a gay character will be added to new comedy "$#*! My Dad Says," returning half-hour "Rules of Engagement" and legal drama "The Good Wife."

"We're disappointed in our track record so far," Tassler said. "We're going to do it. We're not happy with ourselves."

During the press session, Tassler also addressed ABC entertainment chief Steve McPherson exiting ABC and defended casting Julie Chen in yet another program.

"My first thought: 'Dammit, he got out of doing press tour,'" Tassler said about her rival's departure, drawing laughs.

Then she added: "He's a great guy, a good friend and I wish him the best."

After the panel, Tassler said she'd be willing to buy a show from McPherson, should he pursue a producing career.

Critics also challenged Tassler about casting Chen on the network's upcoming "The View"-style daytime talk show -- whose title was she revealed is "The Talk." The panel chat show from a mom perspective has Chen as one of six panelists. Chen, the wife of CBS chief Leslie Moonves, already hosts "Big Brother" and co-hosts "The Early Show."

"It was Sara's idea," Tassler said of "The Talk" executive producer and panelist Sara Gilbert. "We talked about people who had a profile. Julie has a terrific reputation. The executive producer of the show said, 'What about Julie, do you think she'd be interested?' I made the decision; I don't think Leslie is unhappy with the decision."

Later, Gilbert confirmed she first brought up casting Chen and also defended the network's press release announcing the show, which drew headlines for neglecting to mention Gilbert's lesbian partner while noting the spouses of the other straight panelists.

"I've been acting my whole life, and I've never discussed my personal life," Gilbert said, "and the first place I wanted to do it wasn't in a CBS press release."

Asked about the network's expectation for moving "Big Bang" to Thursday nights, Tassler said "we don't expect the show to do the numbers it did on Monday just yet." Later, she said she has told her marketing team that she expects premiere date promotion that's so extensive, "I want a cheetah in Kenya to know when 'Big Bang' airs this fall."

"Big Bang" co-creator Chuck Lorre shrugged off the move.

"That's not my job," he said. "One assumes they've given it a lot of thought and it's a good thing for the show. Given where we are now after three seasons, I'd be crazy to argue with the choices CBS has made along the way."

Tassler noted that CBS' upcoming new sitcom "$#*! My Dad Says" was inspired by a Twitter feed and that freshman legal drama "The Defenders" started as a reality show pitch, emphasizing that the network is developing from a more diverse variety of sources than ever before.

"You never know where your next hit is going to come from," she said. "It was a terrific year for us, but we are restless, motivated and paranoid (about finding new hits)."

Before the session, CBS announced that the upcoming edition of "Survivor" will feature old vs. young castaways, which raised eyebrows among some critics since the youngest contender on the "old" group was only 40.

Also, the network announced four companies participating in the second season of breakout hit "Undercover Boss" -- NASCAR (Steve Phelps, senior vpt and CMO), DirecTV (Mike White, chairman, president and CEO), Chiquita Brands International Inc. (Fernando Aguirre, chairman and CEO) and Great Wolf Resorts (Kimberly K. Schaefer, CEO).
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