What a peculiar day it was for CBS at TCA. The Aug. 10 lineup led off with entertainment president Glenn Geller getting flat-out grilled on diversity issues, with television critics in the Beverly Hilton ballroom dissatisfied with the network’s efforts to better represent our diverse populace on its primetime air.
“We need to do better,” Geller said repeatedly. He pointed out numerous cast additions involving people of color, but the critics were not mollified. The network’s messaging people could only shake their collective heads andhope the exec session would end soon.
Jump ahead eight hours, and CBS’ closing panel was dedicated to Star Trek: Discovery, which debuts on All Access in January. While the show has not yet been cast, creator Bryan Fuller promised abundant diversity among the performers, including a female lead and a gay character. He offered up a heartfelt detail from his time working on Star Trek: Voyager, when he saved hate mail from viewers who believed Jeri Ryan’s character Seven of Nine to be gay, and vowed to include a gay character on Star Trek if he was ever in a position to do so.
The critics shouted over one another to get in a question about the new Trek. The show will feature robots and time travel and a good number of aliens, and won’t be subject to the same decency standards as CBS. “There’s a reason we call [the series)] STD,” Fuller quipped.
Geller’s and Fuller’s appearances both stirred up great energy among the critics. It was kind of a nightmare for Geller, but Fuller left them wanting more.
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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.