With all the division and emphasis on negativity in the country these days, The Neighborhood executive producer Jim Reynolds told TV critics at TCA on Wednesday he’s trying to “put forth a dialogue and have a cultural conversation with kindness which was always the intention of the show.”
After one TV critic described the comedy series as being written from the “black perspective,” Reynolds reminded it was originally based on his own experience moving into a predominantly African American neighborhood. Bringing in Cedric the Entertainer as a star and EP “shifted” the series “to a more two-handed point of view.”
The show’s writers room is “one of the most inclusive” in TV sitcom-dom, Reynolds said; seven of its 11 writers are “people of color or female.”
“We rely on that heavily; we want that authenticity,” Reynolds explained. “There are times when we want to have that safe and honest conversation in that writers room to discuss and figure where is the line.”
Cedric described his character Calvin Butler as the patriarch of the neighborhood, who is now “seeing this change start to happen” and finds it disturbing. “Most of the time…when the Whole Foods comes, you’ve just got to accept it”; not so much with Calvin.
Asked about the impact of the #MeToo movement on CBS, The Neighborhood cast member Beth Behrs said she and 2 Broke Girls colleague Kat Dennings were “very lucky” in that they “always felt safe with the people we worked with.”
“But I will always stand with survivors of sexual assault and we still have a lot of work to do,” she added.
The Neighborhood participated in the company-wide seminars and, Cedric said, “we try to make sure that we operate in a very respectful set…We can call it sexual harassment but in most cases it’s about one person being more powerful. We try to make sure that is never the case.”
“All of the executives have shown that degree of professionalism and especially in the aftermath of last year,” he added.
“I really believe in what we are doing and what we are saying,” Reynolds said. “I believe the world wants to have these conversations in a safe space and comedy helps disarm some of those defenses. If you win hearts, you can change minds,” he said.
CBS last October handed the multi-cam comedy a back order for more episodes. The gentrification comedy series, starring Cedric and Max Greenfield, has done a respectable job as a new Monday 8 PM anchor.