CBS boss defends lack of women in new fall slate


CBS may be home to more female viewers, but its new 2017-18 programming features a disconcerting lack of women in leading roles.

Ahead of its upfront presentation to ad buyers Wednesday, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves met with reporters and was asked to defend his network's very male-leaning new programming.

"We do a number of pilots, a lot of them have women in starring roles. There are a lot of women in the schedule, in this new schedule," Moonves told reporters Wednesday. "The best pilots went at the end of the day and we think our track record is OK."

Read more: CBS Fall Schedule: 'Big Bang' and 'Young Sheldon' Paired Together After Thursday NFL

This season, CBS picked up seven new comedies and dramas: By the Book, starring Jay R. Ferguson; Instinct with Alan Cumming; Me, Myself and I with lead Bobby Moynihan;
9JKL with Mark Feuerstein; SEAL Team with David Boreanaz; SWAT starring Shemar Moore and Jay Harrington; Wisdom of the Crowdwith Jeremy Piven; and Big Bang Theory prequel Young Sheldon, starring youngster Iain Armitage as the younger version of Jim Parsons' Sheldon and Zoe Perry.

See photos from some upcoming CBS shows:

13 PHOTOS
New CBS shows for Fall 2017
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New CBS shows for Fall 2017
LOS ANGELES - MAY 17: YOUNG SHELDON is a new half-hour, single-camera comedy created by Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro, that introduces 'The Big Bang Theory's' Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage), a 9-year-old genius living with his family in East Texas and going to high school. YOUNG SHELDON will have a special Monday launch behind the season premiere of THE BIG BANG THEORY on Sept. 25 (8:30-9:00 PM, ET/PT). On Nov. 2, YOUNG SHELDON will move to its regular time period, Thursdays (8:30-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - MAY 17: SEAL TEAM stars David Boreanaz (left), as Jason Hayes, in a military drama that follows the professional and personal lives of the most elite unit of Navy SEALs as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous, high stakes missions our country can ask of them. His tight-knit SEAL team includes Ray (Neil Brown Jr., center), and Clay Spenser (Max Thieriot, right). This fall, SEAL TEAM will be broadcast Wednesdays (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Skip Bolen/CBS via Getty Images)
PURE GENIUS -- 'Lift Me Up' Episode 113 -- Pictured: (l-r) Augustus Prew as James Bell, Dermot Mulroney as Dr. Walter Wallace, Reshma Shetty as Dr. Talaikha Channarayapatra -- (Photo by: Sonja Flemming/CBS/Universal Television/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 17: S.W.A.T., a new drama inspired by the television series and the feature film, stars Shemar Moore (second from right) as a locally born and raised S.W.A.T. sergeant newly tasked to run a specialized tactical unit that is the last stop in law enforcement in Los Angeles. His elite unit includes Christina 'Chris' Alonso (Lina Esco, far left), David 'Deacon' Kay (Jay Harrington, second from left), Dominique Luca (Kenny Johnson, center) and Victor Tan (David Lim, far right). This fall, S.W.A.T. will be broadcast Thursdays (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) beginning Nov. 2, after football concludes, on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Michael Yarish/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 17: 9JKL stars Mark Feuerstein (in bed) in a family comedy inspired by his real life. Josh Roberts (Feuerstein) is a new divorc�and actor between projects who moves home to New York to regroup, living in an apartment sandwiched between his doting, meddlesome parents (Elliott Gould and Linda Lavin, pictured) on one side and his competitive brother, sister-in-law and their new baby on the other. (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 17: 9JKL stars Mark Feuerstein (front) in a family comedy inspired by his real life. Josh Roberts (Feuerstein) is a new divorc�and actor between projects who moves home to New York to regroup, living in an apartment sandwiched between his doting, meddlesome parents (Elliott Gould, far left, and Linda Lavin, second from left) on one side and his competitive brother (David Walton), sister-in-law (Liza Lapira) and their new baby on the other. (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 17: YOUNG SHELDON is a new half-hour, single-camera comedy created by Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro, that introduces 'The Big Bang Theory's' Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage), a 9-year-old genius living with his mother (Zoe Perry), father and two siblings in East Texas and going to high school. YOUNG SHELDON will have a special Monday launch behind the season premiere of THE BIG BANG THEORY on Sept. 25 (8:30-9:00 PM, ET/PT). On Nov. 2, YOUNG SHELDON will move to its regular time period, Thursdays (8:30-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 17: S.W.A.T., a new drama inspired by the television series and the feature film, stars Shemar Moore (pictured) as a locally born and raised S.W.A.T. sergeant newly tasked to run a specialized tactical unit that is the last stop in law enforcement in Los Angeles. This fall, S.W.A.T. will be broadcast Thursdays (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) beginning Nov. 2, after football concludes, on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Michael Yarish/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 17: ME, MYSELF & I stars Bobby Moynihan (left) in a comedy about the defining moments in one man's life over three distinct periods -- as 14-year-old Alex in 1991, Alex at age 40 in present day (Moynihan) and Alex at age 65 in 2042. Jaleel White (right) plays Alex's best friend and business partner, Darryl, in present day. This fall, ME, MYSELF & I will be broadcast Mondays (9:30-10:00 PM, ET/PT). After football ends, as of Oct. 30 ME, MYSELF & I will shift to (9:00-9:30 PM, ET/PT), on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Neil Jacobs/CBS via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER - MAY 17: WISDOM OF THE CROWD stars Jeremy Piven (far right) as Jeffrey Tanner, a visionary tech innovator who creates a cutting-edge crowdsourcing app to solve his daughter's murder, and revolutionize crime solving in the process. Working with him is Sara Morton (Natalia Tena), a brilliant engineer whose relationship with Tanner goes beyond professional; Josh Novak (Blake Lee, second from left), a talented, nerdy-cool head programmer; and Tariq Bakari (Jake Matthews, far left), a tech genius and expert hacker with issues adhering to the rules. This fall, WISDOM OF THE CROWD will be broadcast Sundays (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Diyah Pera/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 17: YOUNG SHELDON is a new half-hour, single-camera comedy created by Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro, that introduces 'The Big Bang Theory's' Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage), a 9-year-old genius living with his family in East Texas and going to high school. YOUNG SHELDON will have a special Monday launch behind the season premiere of THE BIG BANG THEORY on Sept. 25 (8:30-9:00 PM, ET/PT). On Nov. 2, YOUNG SHELDON will move to its regular time period, Thursdays (8:30-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - MAY 17: SEAL TEAM stars David Boreanaz (center), as Jason Hayes, in a military drama that follows the professional and personal lives of the most elite unit of Navy SEALs as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous, high stakes missions our country can ask of them. His tight-knit SEAL team includes Sonny (A.J. Buckley, left), Clay Spenser (Max Thieriot, right) and Ray (Neil Brown Jr., behind Boreanaz). This fall, SEAL TEAM will be broadcast Wednesdays (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Skip Bolen/CBS via Getty Images)
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"More women watch CBS percentage-wise than any other network so our shows have a lot of female appeal," Moonves said, singing out Tea Leoni vehicle Madam Secretary and Elementary, co-starring Lucy Liu. "I don't think we've ever had to apologize for having Madam Secretary and Lucy Liu and [CBS All Access digital series] The Good Fight and [the since-canceled] The Good Wife and I think we do fine in that area."

Read more: Les Moonves Lays Out CBS' Top Priority; Talks 'Idol' Offer and That Trump Comment

The executive — pinch-hitting for network president Glenn Geller who suffered a heart attack and has been on medical leave recuperating ("he's doing better," Moonves said) — noted CBS' marching orders remain the same: pick up the best pilots to series. On the development side, CBS passed on eight pilots — with six of those starring or featuring women as the co-lead (Amy Brenneman in The Get; Poppy Montgomery in Missoni Control; Kristin Chenoweth in Perfect Citizen; Sharon Leal in the untitled Jenny Lumet; Alice Eve in Hannah Royce's Questionable Choices; and Rebecca Rittenhouse in Real Life).

Overall, Moonves said, viewers (and critics) should look at the entirety of CBS Corp. "When I look at the totality of who CBS is, I look at news, I look at daytime, I look at sports, I look at Showtime, I look at The CW — they're all part of our family — and when you look at the totality of that, I think we're fine in terms of the amount of women who are behind the camera [and] in front of the camera. I think we're doing a very good job and I don't think we're looking in the wrong direction. On the contrary."

Read more: TV Pilots 2017: The Complete Guide to What Lives, Dies and Still Has a Pulse

The issue comes a year after CBS was criticized for its lack of inclusion — and women — on-screen with this season's schedule — which included shows starring Matt LeBlanc, Kevin James, Michael Weatherly and a cadre of other white stars. Geller, in defending his network, pointed to Madam Secretary, Mom and the since-canceled 2 Broke Girls when asked about the gender disparity while stressing the network's then-new series "are more diverse this year than last year. ... We are definitely moving in the right direction."

CBS renewed five freshman shows from its 2016-17 lineup. All five feature male leads, four of whom are white.


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