Small screen: CBS addresses lack of diversity; “We need to do better”

While the Rio Olympics television ratings notched consistently below 2012’s London ratings, there are definitely some silver (and gold) linings. Michael Phelps ended his Olympic career this week with 23 gold medals, far more than any other Olympian in history. Even if ratings weren’t as high as NBC expected, an average of 27.9 million viewers tuned in to watch Simone Biles and Aly Raisman take home gold and silver in the women’s individual all-around gymnastics event, while swimmers like Ryan Lochte, Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel take home their fair share of medals as well.

Still, the Olympics soared over its competitors, and NBC is at least better off than CBS this week. The network had to address questions about its lack of diversity in the upcoming television season, even if it’ll make history for a certain demographic. Elsewhere, previews for the upcoming fall television season are starting to pop up, and Hulu announced a potentially game-changing update to its business plan. For these stories and more, read on:

Network: Back in May, CBS’s broadcast series pickups for the 2016-17 season garnered criticism for having virtually no non-white male leads. CBS president Glenn Geller himself admitted the problem at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour this week, after it was the first question asked. “I’m glad this is the first question,” he told reporters. “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 we were last year.” He did note that the ensemble casts on the eight new shows included more diversity than last year’s, saying the network’s commitment to diversity is ongoing. 

Still, there is one CBS show that will take one huge step forward this year. Laverne Cox will play the first full-time transgender woman on a broadcast television series in the upcoming law drama Doubt. “Growing up, I did not see people like me on television,” the actress told reporters shortly after Geller’s comments. Cox is playing an Ivy League educated attorney who happens to be transgender, starring alongside Katherine Heigl. The show will premier midseason. Cox rose to fame for her role on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, and continues to be a prominent face in the transgender civil rights movement in America.

The Good Wife alum Archie Panjabi will appear on season two of NBC’s hit drama Blindspot. She’ll play the head of an NSA division that’s been secretly tracking Jamie Alexander’s Jane Doe. She can be glimpsed in the new TV spot for the second season, which will air September 14.

Cable: Well, that didn’t take long. Shortly after his contract for Saturday Night Live wasn’t renewed for the next season, Jay Pharaoh landed the lead role on Showtime’s pilot White Famous, produced by Jamie Foxx. The half-hour show will follow Pharaoh’s Floyd Mooney, a rising star trying to maintain credibility as he reaches levels of “white famous.” Foxx will also appear on the show if Showtimes picks it up. Pharaoh is making the jump to Showtime with fellow ousted SNL star Taran Killam, who landed the lead role in Mating, a show about a recently divorced man adapting to the modern day dating scene.

It’s also show time for Patrick Sabongui and Hill Harper, who will join the cable network’s drama Homeland. Sabongui previously appeared on CW’s The Flash and will play a law professor and Muslim American advocate in the drama’s sixth season. Harper, known for his work on CSI: NY, will play the Chief of Staff to a presidential candidate. The season will air in January 2017.

Donald Glover (perhaps better known as his rapper alter ego Childish Gambino) is moving south. The Community veteran will lead the FX dramedy Atlanta as Earnest “Earn” Marks, who is trying to ride on the growing success of his cousin Paperboy the rapper (played by Brian Tyree Henry of Vice Principals). The show also stars Keith Stanfield (Straight Outta Compton) and Zazie Beatz (Applesauce). The show will premier September 6.

Princess Elena can continue her magical reign. Disney Channel renewed Elena of Avalor, starring its first ever Latina princess, for a second season. The cartoon follows 16-year-old Elena Castillo Flores as she rules over a magical kingdom, and includes the voices of Aimee Carerro (The Young & Hungry) and Jenny Ortega (Jane the Virgin).  

Online: Hulu, which started out in 2007 offering free network content to viewers, is officially no longer free. Starting soon, subscribers will have to pay $7.99/month for ad-supportive streaming, or $11.99 for commercial free viewing. Hulu, which was recently valued at $5.8 billion after an investment from Time Warner, will follow Netflix and Amazon’s footsteps and make a bigger push for originally produced content.

Fans of Netflix’s breakout horror film The Babadook last year should start getting excited. The streaming service will carry Under the Shadow, a breakout horror film from this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Iranian-born Babak Anvari, the film takes place in a war-ravaged 1980s Tehran. A mother and her daughter (Narges Rashidi and Avin Manshadi respectively) are left alone during the war, when a missile crashes through their roof, bringing a supernatural and terrifying presence with it. Netflix obtained rights after its Sundance showing, before it could be shown at other festivals. The film will see brief limited release in October before Netflix streams it. 

TelevisionLogan Krum