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CBS Programming Reflected America in 2020, Says Kahl

The Equalizer
(Image credit: CBS)

Kelly Kahl, CBS Entertainment president, stressed how the network’s programming successfully addressed the giant societal issues of 2020. “We had many shows that were able to tackle issues raised by Black Lives Matter and COVID head on,” said Kahl in CBS’s virtual TCA presentation. 

He mentioned “extremely powerful episodes” on CBS in the past year. “We’re incredibly proud of these shows and what they’ve accomplished,” he added. 

Kahl spoke of the “enormous hurdles” of putting out a TV season amidst the pandemic. “What an unprecedented, strange year and season this has been,” he said.  

CBS brass has learned “that maybe we don’t need to be in the office every day,” said Kahl, who added that he also misses those days. 

Thom Sherman, senior executive VP, programming, said 2021 will be a “huge” year for CBS. Things of course start with the Super Bowl Feb. 7, and the Queen Latifah drama The Equalizer premieres after the game. The Equalizer comes from Andrew W. Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller.

“It’s tailor-mode to appeal to CBS fans,” he said, adding that Queen Latifah is “stunning.”

Drama Clarice, he added, is a “moody, suspenseful psychological thriller” with “a decidedly unique premium tone and perspective.”

Rebecca Breeds stars in the Silence of the Lambs spinoff, which premieres Feb. 11. 

Sherman said CBS will strongly consider going straight to series on other projects, as it did with Clarice and The Equalizer. 

Competition series Tough As Nails is “a real showcase to the heart and drive within the everyday workers” that keep America going, said Sherman. Phil Keoghan hosts the show, which kicks off Feb. 10. 

Chuck Lorre comedy United States of Al, about a war veteran connecting with his interpreter from Afghanistan, is both funny and topical, said Sherman. “It’s about so much more than just laughs,” he said, describing it as “grounded in authentic issues and the challenges everyday people face.”

United States of Al premieres April 1. 

Sherman mentioned “broadening the aperture on what CBS shows can be” in the new year. 

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.