One critic noted that “until this year…the balance of racial and gender casting” was the biggest question at every CBS TCA executive Q&A.
In addition to shows in which the “ethnicity is obvious.” the critic gave CBS credit for casting on two series, Happy Together and God Friended Me, with minority leads. “But gender is still way out of line” with preponderance of male leads, he said, while noting Dick Wolf’s new FBI has a female lead.
“I sat up here last year and told you we were going to do a better job; I believe we have,” Kahl responded. “I’m very proud of what we have done. We have [CBS] record levels of diverse actors on our show” adding that it’s same for directors and writers.
“I’m very proud of that fact,” he added.
“We’re not done; I’m not patting myself on the back,” the long-time CBS exec continued.. “We have a lot of work to do but we’ve made great strides.”
Casting diversity makes good business sense for a broadcast network trying appeal to “that broad audience,” Kahl said, mirroring remarks made at other broadcast networks.
One journalist in the room wanted Kahl to give the group, and the scorching they gave him last year, credit for the network’s recent diversity gains.
“To be honest with you, we’re happy to discuss with you, but plans were in place before we sat down here,” Kahl said, bursting that critics’ bubble.
“I welcome the opportunity to broaden our audience. We aat and talked with you, and said we would do a better job. And I think we have done a better job.”
CBS has four new series with African American/Latino leads, though its primetime slate remains heavily male lead-focused with most pilots featuring female leads not making it this past series pick-up season.
At last year’s contentious exec panel, Kahl insisted “change is happening at CBS,” noting the network had two shows with “diverse leads” that were not on previous season’s schedule and touting that the gay character leading a CBS mid-season show, saying “We are absolutely moving in the right direction.”