You don't need a crystal ball to see that times are tough for "The Big Three" networks (ABC/CBS/NBC): with cable and streaming services like HBO, Netflix and Amazon around, they're seen as "your grandfather's network" that have been losing viewers and creative talents for years now. The Television Critics Association's (TCA's) press junkets give the the networks the opportunity to prop-up their upcoming programming slate and address reporters on how they're changing the ways they do things to meet the ever-growing competition from other media sources.
So when CBS senior executive vice president Thom Sherman and and CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl announced at their TCA's that six pilots with female leads were given a thumbs-down for the fall, the issue of diversity and lack of representation both on-screen and behind the camera was going to come-up for debate.
When you're Academy Award nominated actress Jessica Chastain (The Martian, Zero Dark Thirty), you're going to take to social media to call-out CBS and move the conversation to the much larger Twitter audience:
"I'll just Netflix and chill. Or some HBO greatness. Or anything by Ryan Murphy. There's so many incredible options that don't include CBS."
While her tweet comes in direct response to CBS' announcement at the TCA's, Chastain has long been an advocate for more prominent female roles within the film industry, on both sides of the camera as well as in boardrooms. Just months earlier, Chastain served as a member of the jury for this year's Cannes Film Festival and spoke openly to reporters about the lack of quality female representation in the films in competition.
"The one thing I really took away from this experience is how the world views women from the female characters that I saw represented and it was quite disturbing to me, to be honest."
Chastain's social media call-out is only a recent example of the push-back CBS has gotten since their TCA presentation. Reporters at the event also grilled Sherman and Kahl about CBS' all-white casting department staff and if that could be a major problem for the network moving forward.
Kahl defended the department: "I personally don't think that has anything to do with it. They're fantastic at what they do;" with Sherman noting that's one area they're looking at to improve upon: "They've been together for a long time. That's the department as its been. But we are cognizant of the issue. We hear you, and we will be looking to expand the casting department."
Before their TCA presentation ended, Kahl defended CBS' record on diversity and promised it would continue to improve: "We can debate the pace of the change, but there is change happening at CBS. Every single drama on our air has at least one diverse regular character. We said in the past that we're going to do better, and we are doing better."