This morning at CBS’ part of the Television Critics Association press tour, CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller said “we need to do better” seven different times. It’s eight if you count the one time he said “we have to do better.”
He was referring to the network’s lack of diversity this fall: six new shows, all with white men as their stars. Geller tried to preempt this criticism by highlighting the casting of some non-white-male supporting cast members on various CBS shows, but the fact remains that he ordered six shows starring six white, straight men.
And Geller is aware of that: “We need to do better and we know it. That’s really it. We need to do better. In terms of leads, we are definitely less diverse this year than last year, and like I said, we need to do better.”
Yes, CBS needs to do better, but they are not.
Compare Geller’s “we need to do better”s to what FX CEO John Landraf said yesterday at TCA.
First, a little background: Late last year, Variety TV critic Mo Ryan reported on the lack of diversity among people who direct episodes of scripted shows, and that FX was the worst. At TCA, Landraf told critics, “the state of affairs described by Mo represented a failure of leadership on my part as well as on our part as an industry. I immediately set out to correct that error. I wrote a letter to all of the FX Networks showrunners—those who actually make the hiring decisions for episodic television directors, asking for their help.”
Since November, the network has hired 149 people to direct episodes, and 51 percent of those are not white men. Compare that to the previous TV season, when 88 percent of FX episodes were directed by white men.
That’s how quickly something changes when there’s leadership and will.
Big Brother: a ‘social experiment’ that’s ‘great’
So what does this have to do with Big Brother?
Geller, who said in January that Big Brother and Survivor “are appointment TV for me and my husband,” was asked about season 18’s casting, and whether it was to blame for the “racism and sexism in the house.”
Did Geller step up and say this was a failure of his leadership? Did he even say that “we have to do better”?
Nope. He just said a version of what CBS always says when there’s a bigotry eruption:
“It is a social experiment and they do the best they can to look into people’s backgrounds and see who these people really are. But what’s great about the show, is when you put people together, they become who they are regardless of the cameras, regardless of what’s going on. And, yes, there’s always going to be some tension and some issues, and this year, certainly, they worked themselves out in the house themselves. But that’s what the show is about. It’s an entertainment show. And it really is, again, a social experiment, and I think we see that every summer.”
And apparently we will keep seeing it, at least for the next two summers, at least until there’s a leader at CBS who actually wants to change Big Brother by raising the casting bar at least a little bit higher than the deep hole it has sunk into. It’s too bad that such a fan of the show can’t see how consistently bad casting—of overly young people, of people who don’t even know what the game is, of people who brag about not even watching a season they were given during casting, of people who behave in reprehensible ways, of people who bore the live feed watchers—hurts Big Brother.
This year, the challenges have improved and some twists have been interesting (or at least worth trying), but they ultimately don’t matter because a bad cast will sink a season every time.