Diversity became a focal point of CBS’ TCA presentation today as the network is heading into next season with five new series, all featuring white male leads. “We need to do better,” CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller admitted during the network’s executive session.
Following the session, Geller sat down with Deadline to outline the plan the network has put in place to change things around next year. It won’t start with pilot casting in January but long before that, during pitch season — which is just getting underway — when the network buys ideas for series targeted for the 2017-18 season.
“We’ve said to the creative community, to agencies and to studios, ‘we want more diversity: bring us more diverse clients, we want to hear more diverse stories’. And they have responded,” Geller said. “We’ve already bought a number of projects that have diversity that is more integral to the story as opposed to just casting diversity. You can tackle diversity in many different ways but you can’t leave it all just to casting in January.”
One of the projects that CBS is actively developing for next season is a drama about a multi-general Latino family of cops in Los Angeles, from Blue Bloods executive producer Leonard Goldberg. The drama, known as Protect & Serve, was a late buy last season with writer Elizabeth Davis Beall. The network ended up rolling the project, which is now being redeveloped with Blue Blood executive producer Siobhan Byrne O’Connor joining as a writer.
“I think it’s about finding diversity where it is organically baked into the concept,” Geller said. “But it has to come from the creator’s vision, and we have to hear more diverse pitches.“
Geler noted that CBS last development season “had a number of projects that were diverse or had specific leads in a workplace that were diverse.” None of them made the cut to series though workplace comedy pilot Superior Donuts, toplined by African American comedian Jermaine Folwer, is being reshot and is likely to get a series order for midseason.
“I think we need to buy probably more from that as well as continuing to do a better job in casting in general,” Geller concluded.