CBS’ Instinct seems like a pretty standard procedural on the network famous for pretty standard procedurals, but when you look underneath the show, you’ll find it’s a pretty big departure from what you’re used to from the home of multi-flavored NCISes and CSIs.
The series is based on James Patterson’s novel Murder Games and stars Alan Cumming as Dr. Dylan Reinhart, a criminal behavior professor who ends up consulting with the NYPD on homicide cases and teaming up with a mismatched detective partner named Lizzie Needham (Bojana Novakovic). Nothing too crazy there, yet.
But Dylan is gay and happily married to a gay man, which is unusual to see on a network that has faced issues of diversity in the past. How unusual? Shockingly, Instinct is the first hourlong broadcast series on any broadcast network with a gay lead.
Alan Cumming, Bojana Nojakovic; Instinct” data-image-credit=”Jeff Neumann/CBS” data-image-alt-text=”Alan Cumming, Bojana Nojakovic; Instinct” data-image-credit-url=”” data-image-target-url=”” data-image-title=”Alan Cumming, Bojana Nojakovic; Instinct” data-image-filename=”180106-instinct.jpg” data-image-date-created=”2018/01/06″ data-image-crop=”” data-image-crop-gravity=”” data-image-aspect-ratio=”” data-image-height=”1380″ data-image-width=”2070″ data-image-do-not-crop=”” data-image-do-not-resize=”” data-image-watermark=”” data-lightbox=””>
“It’s the first ever [network] drama on American television to have a gay character as a lead, which I think is an incredible thing but also a terrible thing at the same time,” Cumming told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour Saturday. “It’s another layer to the character that makes it interesting to play, but socially and politically, especially in the timing we find ourselves in America, where gay people are being persecuted again, their rights are being removed, and the president is actively condoning by his silence the violence and persecution of those in the LGBTQ community, I think it’s all the more important that we should have a character with a healthy successful same-sex marriage on network. I applaud everyone on CBS for having the courage to put that on right now in a climate where that may not be the best time to do that. But I think it’s the perfect time to do that.”
Instinct seems to be part of CBS’ promise at last summer’s TCA of “expanding their palette” when faced with criticism of a schedule that was largely full of straight, white males.
Check out more TCA coverage here
“CBS has been so successful with broad-appeal shows, and we are going to continue down that path,” Thom Sherman, senior executive vice president of programming at CBS, said at the time. “But Leslie [Moonves], [CBS president] Kelly [Kahl] and I have spoken about expanding the palette of what we do, and we’re going to do that. Last week we [went out] to talent agencies for some old fashioned meet and greets and we told them, ‘Please tell your clients don’t censor yourselves. Don’t assume you know what a CBS show is.”
“I think it’s a big reason why [CBS] bought the pitch,” Instinct creator Michael Rauch told TV Guide after the Instinct panel, regarding the show’s gay male lead. But he’s careful to point out that it’s not just about that. “My thing from the beginning, and I talked about it with Alan before we both signed on, is that even though this is a gay male lead, the show is not about that. That’s like number five or six about what makes this guy who he is. It’s not a show about gay marriage, it’s not a show about being a gay detective, we don’t really deal with the obstacles much in Season 1. It’s more a piece of the show rather than this is what the show is about.”
Despite being a procedural on America’s most-watched network that makes its living on procedurals, Instinct creator Michael Rauch describes it as “a little show.” He looks at the other shows on the schedule and recognizes that Instinct might be a hard sell to CBS’ audience. In other words, there’s no Shemar Moore or David Boreanaz or glitzy title like S.W.A.T., as Rauch says.
“We’re also a little show because we have a gay male lead, which I think is very non-mainstream,” Rauch tells TV Guide. “So I think there are a lot of things, not against the show, but don’t necessarily make it easy to promote. It’s a light, hopefully funny procedural, again, that’s the type of thing on CBS that there aren’t a lot of.”
He continued, “We don’t have people driving Hummers and mowing down people, nothing wrong with any of that, it’s all good. But all the things that I think [are] traditionally CBS procedurals, meat and potatoes, this has a lot of kind of more peculiar things going for it.”
Instinct premieres Sunday, Mar. 11 at 8/7c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)
Other Links From TVGuide.com InstinctAlan Cumming