CBS is touting a more diverse prime-time lineup for the upcoming fall TV season, following years of criticism.
The network’s entertainment chief, Kelly Kahl, sat down with TV journalists and critics at a Television Critic Association Q&A on Sunday to discuss CBS’s new slate of shows, even though most of the questions focused on the sexual harassment allegations against his company’s CEO and president, Les Moonves, Deadline reports.
But Kahl tried to circle the conversation back to the network’s new programs. CBS has been continually criticized by viewers and advocacy groups for its formula of casting mostly White actors in lead roles, while actors of color are relegated to supporting characters.
“I sat up here last year and told you we were going to do a better job; I believe we have,” he said. “I’m very proud of what [CBS has] done. We have record levels of diverse actors on our show[s].”
Indeed this year, CBS has four new fall shows with a protagonist of color, a far cry from the single one the network had last year. The new programs include Happy Together, a comedy series led by Damon Wayans, Jr.; God Friended Me, a show that explores faith with Brandon Michael Hall as the lead; a Magnum PI reboot with Latino actor Jay Hernandez; and The Neighborhood starring Cedric the Entertainer.
Kahl added that the network had stepped up its diversity game with directors and writers as well.
In response to the criticism, the CBS launched a major casting initiative in 2016 designed to discover new performers and increase the pool of diverse talent for its current dramas and upcoming pilots. But CBS still lags far behind other networks.
“We’re not done; I’m not patting myself on the back,” Kahl said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve made great strides.”