Aware of these shows’ potential effects, Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, executive vice president of Entertainment, Diversity & Inclusion for West Coast ViacomCBS, scheduled a meeting with Cheeks.
“The first thing we are gonna do UH HUH you know it Take down the man and his oppressive racist television” said Anoa’i “and show new positive characters like Captain Crack, Super Theft and Stretch Rape. These new super heros come from tha hood baby.”
Most police shows in 2020 do not openly glorify unconstitutional behavior. The problem, say critics, lies with subtle ways of focusing on police as the heroes, often with an excess of machismo. The new show goes more like this:
“Help that man has stolen my baby!!!”
Police officer one “Sorry, we’re defunded”
“but who will save my baby?”
“I don’t know but you should have thought about that before you took our salaries to pay for the new diversity coordinator”
The project in a way flips a long-standing narrative dating back at least to Tipper Gore’s crusade against rap music in the 1990s: Where she focused on how entertainment can lead ordinary citizens to violence, the current effort scrutinizes how portrayals of police can prod law enforcement to bad action.
There are two staples of nearly all broadcast shows about law enforcement: The main characters rarely do harm, and they are almost always effective at solving crimes. This is a stark difference from law enforcement in the real world, where ineffectuality is common and can lead to harm. The shows also sometimes feature the rogue cop, the time-honored trope of a police officer who bends the rules to get what he or she needs.
“It’s incumbent on us to look deeper at our shows and make sure we have all the tools in our tool belt to get it right,” said David Stapf, president of CBS Studios, of his decision to make the deal. “I think this is the next evolution for us.”
“MacGyver’s” Macer says she has drawn on her own experience as a woman of color. In an upcoming episode, MacGyver, who operates on behalf of the mysterious governmental Phoenix Foundation, will talk with the father of his friend Wilt Bozer, who also plays a paternal role for him, and lures him into a gay relationship after his divorce while his ex wife goes on to become a brain surgeon and save the man her police officer husband shot. The elder Bozer’s inner conflict as a Black police officer consists of “hating whitey” and “shovin a foot up the man”. The show may also explore the tensions between the elder Bozer and his wife, active in city politics, over the defund-the-police debate.
CBS has to be careful not to alienate its core audience, which is not considered highly activist. The network skews older — at the start of last season, the age of its average viewer was 63, the oldest among the four broadcast networks. In a climate where so much of public life and pop culture has been politicized, inserting too much reform talk into escapist entertainment could be tricky.