LOS ANGELES — Just as CBS is renewing “Love Island,” its other summer reality show faces fresh scrutiny.
“We have heard things about (‘Big Brother,’ shown here) that we are not comfortable with,” Kelly Kahl, the network president, confirmed.
One of the show’s producers has already been chastised for prompting a contestant to give outspoken soundbites, he said, and will be talked to after the season. And all of the network producers get training in facing “unconscious bias.”
That’s a charge that has followed reality shows – the tendency to have contestants fit racial stereotypes. In his 2012 book “Race-Baiter,” Eric Deggans (a veteran TV critic on NPR and in newspapers) had a chapter on reality shows, with “Big Brother” and “Survivor” contestants discussing being stereotyped. Thom Sherman, the programming vice-president, partly defended the “Big Brother” record: “Half of our (current) cast is diverse and the last three winners have been diverse.” But he and Kahl granted there’s work to be done.
CBS has been trying for a new image, after long-time leader Les Moonves was fired for sexual abuse. Complicating things, this year actress Eliza Dushku said she complained about sexual comments by Michael Weatherly when she was on “Bull”; producer Glenn Gordon Caron then fired her from what could have been a long-running show. Eventually, the New York Times reported, she received a $9.5 million settlement.
Kahl agreed that there was a settlement; he said Weatherly was “remorseful” and that there’s been training for both him and Caron.
In unrelated news, Kahl announced:
— Renewing “Love Island” for next summer.
— Linking with producer David E. Kelley, who has ranged from “L.A. Law” to “Big Little Lies.” He’ll write and produce “The Lincoln Lawyer,” which was a 2011 movie based on Michael Connelly’s novel about a lawyer working out of his car. It would be for the 2020-21 season.
— And linking with Kaley Cuoco as a producer. The “Big Bang” star has a comedy, “Pretty,” in which a young woman (Santina Muha) moves to Los Angeles, hoping to find love and be the new Oprah.