Exclusive: “NCIS: New Orleans” showrunner Brad Kern, subject of #MeToo complaints, is out | Spanlish

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Exclusive: “NCIS: New Orleans” showrunner Brad Kern, subject of #MeToo complaints, is out

Getty/Frederick M. Brown

Getty/Frederick M. Brown

Murmurs of career second acts for high profile abusers exposed by #MeToo reporting — men like Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Mario Batali and Louis C.K. — have been circulating of late. Such is the way of the entertainment industry, a business that loves a comeback story especially if there’s money to be made on it.

We hear about these men because they are household names, thereby making it all but impossible for any career moves they make to go unnoticed. Responses to any purported attempts to direct a second wind into their sails run from vehement disgust to fatigued eye-rolling. But as much as advocates for the #MeToo movement may take heart in knowing these felled stars remain benched, well-positioned men behind the scenes continue to do damage.

One such example is Brad Kern, who has been the showrunner on the CBS hit “NCIS: New Orleans” since January 2016.

Kern provides a case study in the limitations of Time’s Up and #MeToo, and one of the few to survive a damning and deeply sourced Variety report on his abusive behavior published in December 2017.

Kern was the subject of two separate HR investigations at CBS within a year of him taking the reins on “NCIS: NOLA.” Included in the allegations are reports that Kern sexually harassed and discriminated against his female employees, targeting working mothers in particular, in addition to making racist comments.

Jump forward to May 2018, as CBS touts its status of being the most-watched network for the 10th season in a row, and for 15 out of the past 16. “NCIS: New Orleans” remains one of its most popular dramas. And Brad Kern was able to finish the 2017-2018 season as its showrunner, even after the report emerged.

But according to a source within CBS, Kern’s tenure as the “NCIS”-offshoot’s showrunner has come to an end. “Brad no longer showrunning,” a message obtained by Salon reads.

Taking over as showrunner for the 2018-2019 season, according to an industry source with close knowledge of his work who asked not to be named, is executive producer Chris Silber.

“It's gratifying to hear that [Kern] will no longer be a showrunner at ‘NCIS: NOLA,” one industry veteran who worked with Kern years ago as a low level writer told Salon after hearing the news. “The writers, cast, and crew deserve better.”

The veteran continues, “As someone who has sold pilots to CBS before, I'd like to believe that moving forward they will foster working environments that are inclusive, supportive, and safe for women.  This is a small step in the right direction.  Their next order of business should be working with more female creators and showrunners.  Unfortunately, at CBS, women are still woefully underrepresented.”

That said, the CBS source adds, Kern will “still be involved with the show.” In what capacity remains unknown at the time of this writing. That’s an important factor to know.

If Kern is kept on as a “consulting producer,” the industry veteran explains, he could be “stashed away in post (editing, etc) until he rides out his overall deal with CBS. “They might want to put him to work,” the source notes, “but not in the room.”

If he maintains his executive producer credit, this gives Kern the ability to remain much more involved in the day-to-day production.

When asked for official confirmation and clarification about this report on Wednesday, CBS TV Studios could not be reached for comment.

All of the sources Salon interviewed for this story still work within the industry, and asked for anonymity in order to protect their careers and preserve their future employability.

Former “Charmed” co-executive producer Nell Scovell, who declined to be interviewed for this story, put a finer point on this in a tweet posted on Wednesday:

But the fact that Kern remained involved with the series at all following the Variety report, particularly in light of the negative press generated by outgoing “NCIS” star Pauley Perrette’s series of tweets alleging “multiple physical assaults,” is puzzling in itself.

To be utterly clear, “NCIS,” or as insiders call it, “the mothership,” is a completely separate production from “NCIS: New Orleans,” run by a different staff and contending with a disparate set of concerns.  It’s also the tentpole of the strongest drama brand on television, not only in the U.S. but worldwide.

Its spinoff “NCIS: New Orleans” was a successful series before Kern joined the staff, and will likely continue to be under Silber.

Silber has been with “NCIS: New Orleans” since 2015, and has worked on various series at the network since 2005, when he began is TV writing career at “NCIS.” He recently signed a two-year overall deal with CBS TV Studios.

Kern, meanwhile, has served as a showrunner for series such as “Charmed,” “New York Undercover” and “Human Target,” but has never created a show that went to series. As another source who previously worked as support staff under Kern for a past show describes him, “He’s not a guy that invented a franchise. He’s the guy you bring in to keep the franchise running.”

As several sources noted to Salon, Kern’s time with “NCIS: NOLA” was never meant to extend past this season, which coincides with the end of his contract.

Again, this leads a person to wonder why CBS would keep him at the network despite a number of deeply troubling accounts revealed in Variety’s story.

One particularly disturbing account reported in the article and backed up by numerous sources, cites a female employee and a recent mother who had to leave the writers’ room to pump breast milk on a regular basis:

Once, while she was gone, Kern told the rest of her colleagues that she should pump her breast milk in the room, in front of everyone, because “cows in the field” are sometimes milked out in the open. He then began miming the motions of milking a cow.

When she returned to the room, multiple sources say Kern questioned her at length about why she did not pump in front of her colleagues, and whether the process hurt. He then made the hand motions again.

In a statement to Variety in December, CBS representatives confirmed that CBS was aware of the allegations and took them seriously. “Both complaints were acted upon immediately with investigations and subsequent disciplinary action," the statement reads. "While we were not able to corroborate all of the allegations, we took this action to address behavior and management style, and have received no further complaints since this was implemented.”

In both cases CBS concluded there was no evidence of retaliation, harassment, discrimination or gender bias but told staffers that Kern had received sensitivity training.

This was enough to keep him in a position of power. And the article notes that in less than two months after the second investigation ended, the writer who was pumping breast milk — the worker who brought that complaint to HR — was fired by Kern.

What grants cover to people like Kern is that he straddles the line between a public and a private persona. The average person wouldn’t recognize him on the street.

That means it’s up to corporate entities such as CBS to protect subordinates from further abuses by removing people from positions that allow them to derail the careers of the people who work under him.

That said, there is hope that Silber’s tenure will create a better atmosphere in the writers’ room going forward. “Chris WILL be an improvement,” a former staffer on one of Kern’s shows told Salon. “He treats people better than Brad and he's ready to be a showrunner.”

As for the news that Kern will still be involved with “NCIS: NOLA,” the former staffer said, “what we know now going into next season is that the person who made those statements is still on the show where he made those statements [reported in the Variety story] with many of the same people who were in the room when those statements were made.

“And if he's still in the position of maybe not the ultimate authority, but he is still an authority figure on that staff . . . it feels like publicly the best face hasn't been put on this,” this former staffer added, “ to send a message to people who may one day have to weigh if they're going to come forward with that kind of allegation . . . I don't know if I can trust that coming forward will help me or hurt me, because I don’t see any consequence of that in front of me.”



Source: Exclusive: “NCIS: New Orleans” showrunner Brad Kern, subject of #MeToo complaints, is out

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