All Rise is a fairly generic CBS legal procedural save for one thing: It’s one of the few shows on television to feature a Black female lead. It was created, however, by a white guy, Greg Spottiswood. The series is loosely based on a 2005 nonfiction book, “Courtroom 302,” which is about a white male judge, but CBS cast Simone Missick in the role to add some diversity to the network’s lineup. Cool, cool. No problem. The network even paired Spottiswood with a co-showrunner, Sunil Nayar, an Indian-American television writer, and they brought in a diverse writers’ room, as well. What could go wrong?
Apparently, Greg Spottiswood is what could go wrong. Last August, after All Rise was picked up for a second season, five of the original seven staff writers mutinied over the actions of Greg Spottishood, including the three highest-ranking writers of color. The co-showrunner, Sunil Nayar, was among those who left, complaining that he was given little to do other than to make public appearances. Nayer left, saying that it was “clear” to him that he was “only there because I’m the brown guy.” Some of the other writers, meanwhile, left because there was so much work involved in doing “so much behind the scenes to keep these scripts from being racist and offensive.”
(Spottiswood is the white guy pictured above on the right, and I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that everyone else’s body language has them leaning away from him.)
Now, if five of your seven writers leave, including your three highest-ranking writers of color and your showrunner, you’d think that the network might do the math and say, “Hmmm. Is it really in our best interests to protect the white guy?” Well, let me tell you, friends: That’s exactly what they decided to do. They kind of threw Nayar under the bus, and they kept Spottiswood and hired a Black woman to be his “corporate coach.”
I don’t know a lot how about the television writing industry works, but if you have to hire a Black woman to teach a white man how to behave around people of color, you might have a problem. And sure enough, all these months later, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that CBS is cutting ties with Spottiswood after he engaged in “unprofessional conduct in the series’ writers’ room, including the use of offensive language that triggered accusations of racism.” (Maybe he pulled a Becky from The Real World who insisted to Kevin last week that she was not a racist because if she was a racist she would have called Kevin an angry Black man but since she didn’t call him that, she’s totally woke.)
Warner Bros. Television, the producer behind All Rise, released a statement confirming Spottiswood’s departure, while adding that “we remain committed, at all times, to providing a safe and inclusive working environment on our productions and for all employees.” And by “all times,” they mean, “All times not including the months between August of 2020 and March of 2021 when we decided to protect the white guy.”
Spottiswood, meanwhile, has also been dropped by his agency. I guess that “unprofessional conduct” was really bad, otherwise, they’d have hired two corporate coaches to hide Spottiswood’s behavior behind.
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