CBS made history earlier this month when it picked up Doubt. The Katherine Heigl vehicle also stars Laverne Cox, making it the first network series to feature a transgender performer in a transgender role. And while that may be a huge moment for representation on TV, the trailers released yesterday for the network's new shows tell a much different story.
All of them feature white dudes in lead roles. Three of the shows are about white, male savants. One, in fact, is even called Pure Genius. It follows a Silicon Valley billionaire who creates a state-of-the-art hospital. There's also a MacGyver reboot, about a white man who gets out of jams thanks to clever inventions, and Bull, about a white guy who has an uncanny ability to read juries.
Then there are three comedies all starring white male actors who have previously been on successful sitcoms. There's Kevin Can Wait with Kevin James, Man With A Plan with Matt LeBlanc, and The Great Outdoors with Joel McHale. Both the trailers for Kevin Can Wait and Man With A Plan feature jokes about young women becoming strippers. Charming.
The one outlier is Training Day, an adaptation of the 2001 film. Like in the movie, the drama features two cops, one Black and one white. Bill Paxton, however, takes over for Denzel Washington as the corrupt veteran. Justin Cornwell has the Ethan Hawke part. (Worth noting: Hawke was nominated in the supporting category at the Oscars; Washington won as a lead.)
CBS has a reputation as a network for "old people," and, this year, it seems like it's not trying to alter that. Supergirl is moving to The CW. The network did not pick up Drew, a Nancy Drew series starring Sarah Shahi, an actress of Iranian and Spanish descent. (Deadline reported that the show "skewed too female for CBS' schedule," which Geller refuted according to BuzzFeed.)
According to reports, CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller argued that the network has a "great balance" during its upfront presentation yesterday. Geller cited female-led shows on their schedule like Madam Secretary, Two Broke Girls, Mom, and the upcoming Doubt. "We are definitely moving in the right direction," Geller said. Really? Defending homogeneity by saying, Well, we already have shows about — mostly white — women, is not particularly progressive. One landmark moment like Cox's role in Doubt does not make up for endorsing overwhelming whiteness and maleness.
You can watch the rest of the trailers over at CBS' YouTube page — that is, if you wish to be blinded.