TCA 17: New CBS Heads Kahl, Sherman Defend Diversity Stance

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 2, 2017

Both Kahl and Sherman said CBS had "every intention of having a diverse and inclusive" programming slate.

In June, actors Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park exited "Hawaii Five-O". "We made very lucrative offers to those actors", he said, declining to comment on the size of the offers and how they compare to the salaries of O'Loughlin and Caan. That was heightened recently by the departure of two popular longtime Asian-American actors on "Hawaii Five-O". "We have two shows with diverse leads on the show that we didn't have on the schedule a year ago, we have a midseason show where the lead character is gay. We had six pilots with female leads, and the way things turned out, those pilots were not felt to be as good as some of the other pilots and series that were picked up", he said. "In my mind it was purely a business decision".

One reporter at the panel brought up the topic of strong female leads, noting that CBS has failed to put one in a new series for two seasons running. "We didn't want it to happen but it's happened on 'CSI, ' it's happened on 'Grey's Anatomy, ' it's happened on 'Law and Order: SVU'".

When pressed further, Sherman - who has a solid track record in diverse development with shows like Lost, Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - noted that CBS had six pilots with female leads a year ago and that the decision to pass on all of them had nothing to do with the fact that they had female leads.

Critics also noted that CBS' casting departments are staffed by all-white employees on both coasts, to which Kahl responded, "I personally don't think that has anything to do with it".

But both Kahl and Sherman were quick to point out that more changes are afoot at CBS, and that the network is looking at "expanding their palette".

"If nothing else, we've lasted longer than the Mooch, right?", CBS' new entertainment president Kelly Kahl quipped while he and EVP Thom Sherman were taking their seats on stage for their first TCA executive session weeks into their jobs as new leaders of CBS, succeeding Glenn Geller. Sherman added that the casting department has "been together for a long time". That's the department as its been. "We are cognizant of the issue. We hear you, and we will be looking to expand the casting department".

As his predecessors have, Kahl defended CBS' diversity record and promised it would continue to improve. Both CBS execs pushed forward the narrative that change is coming to the most-watched broadcast network, even if it hasn't happened yet. "Every single drama on our air has at least one diverse regular character".

He added, "We said in the past that we're going to do better, and we are doing better".

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