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CBS’ new comedy The Neighborhood will tackle some potentially fraught material as it tells the story of a white family moving into an African-American neighborhood.
It will do so, however, with a writing staff that should ensure multiple points of view get heard.
“I always thought going into this that this can’t be just another middle-aged white guy’s point of view,” creator Jim Reynolds said Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. (The Neighborhood is loosely based on his own experience.) “We need real, authentic voices. This show is supposed to be a dialogue, and that needs to be reflected in the writers room.”
Reynolds, a Big Bang Theory veteran, said half of the new show’s writers are African-American, and it includes “more women on staff than is typical.” There’s an age range of twentysomethings to fittysomethings in the room.
The show centers on two families: longtime residents the Butlers, whose patriarch Calvin (Cedric the Entertainer) likes things the way they are, and the Johnsons, with dad Dave (Max Greenfield) exercising an extreme brand of neighborliness that rubs Calvin the wrong way.
Cedric is also an executive producer of the series, and said he and Reynolds discussed the show’s point of view extensively.
“The show was developed and created by Jim, and he had the concept loosely based on his own experiences,” he said. “Early on, when I started to get involved, I thought the thing that was missing was the actual point of view of the black guy. You had the point of view of how it felt moving into a black neighborhood, but you don’t really have that true counter side. … If you get that point of view, you start to get more into the human side, the relationship side of what it takes to live in harmony with someone next door to you, white, black or otherwise. That’s when we started to figure out we actually have a show we can have fun with.”
Asked whether he’s worried some viewers might see Calvin as bigoted, Cedric said he’s not worried.
“That’s one of the things I told Jim — you can’t be afraid of it,” he said. “People do have biases, these strong opinions. The other thing we deal with is it’s a younger family moving in, so it’s a generational thing you see with my character. [Calvin is] from a generation where the black man has to be a lot more callous toward racial communication … and thinking white people are always out to get us. Then you have a generation of younger people who have hung out, they’ve gone to school with each other. They just don’t see it the same way.”
The Neighborhood premieres Monday, Oct. 1, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
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