Incoming CBS Entertainment execs Kelly Kahl and Thom Sherman did not have an especially easy time during their first executive session in their new positions during the network's day at the Television Critics Association's 2017 summer press tour.
Speaking with reporters, the execs were immediately on the defense as the line of questions regarding the network's handling of the recent Hawaii Five-0 casting shake-up, as well as the overall programming slate's diversity challenges, grew more contentious. On the topic of Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park's exits from the long-running procedural after contract renegotiations failed to deliver salary parity with their Caucasian counterparts, Kahl and Sherman both reiterated that the network tried as hard as they possibly could to keep the stars on the series.
"Not going to talk specifics of the deal or negotiation. We love both those actors and did not want to lose them," Kahl said. "We made very, very strong attempts to keep them and offered them a lot of money to stick around. We wanted them to stick around. It's an unfortunate byproduct of having a long running series…we didn't want it to happen, we tried our darndest to keep them."
When asked if there were other factors at play, Kahl demurred. I can't speak to that," he said. "In my mind, it was purely a business transaction."
When asked why the network failed to add a single show with a female lead to its line-up for the second season in a row, Sherman argued that the network had put female-led pilots into consideration, but the reason they didn't get the green light had nothing to do with the female leads. "CBS did develop female lead shows last year," he said. "The way things turned out, those pilots were not felt to be as good as some of the other pilots that were picked up. But that had nothing to do with the female leads…that's just the cycle of business and how it happens sometimes."
Kahl added that change is coming to CBS, however incrementally. "We have two shows that we didn't have last year," he argued. We have a mid-season show with the lead character who is gay…look at the diverse series regulars up 60 percent...We are absolutely moving in the right direction…we are making progress."
What do you think about the diversity criticism CBS continues to face? Sound off in the comments below!