For two weeks, members of the Television Critics Association gathered for the Semi-Annual Press Tour in Beverly Hills. With over 140 panels broadcast, cable and streaming networks answered questions about new and returning programming as well as the state of television.
Full disclosure we were not invited by ABC to attend their press day therefore they have been excluded from this story.
Reboots, Retreads, and Revivals
At first glance of the new fall television, one could assume Hollywood has run out of any new ideas. I guess we can say welcome to the new normal.
There’s a new crop of show based on movies Fox has Lethal Weapon, The Exorcist and The CW opted to go with Frequency. Fox is also reviving past series Prison Break and 24 for another go, whereas CBS opted to go with a reboot of MacGyver. Fox Television Group Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Dana Walden admitted, “the network recognizes that a familiar name is not enough to attach viewers.”
This looks to be a trend that is not going to end anytime soon, on the horizon for spring there is NBC’s version of Taken and the much anticipated Cruel Intentions series.
A Warmer Place
Edgy no more! Among the new series there is an underlining theme — positivity! Whether it’s the inspirational, like Fox’s Pitch that centers on the first female major league player. Mark Consuelos who plays San Diego Padres general manager Oscar Arguella (an ex-baseball player) on the show, said he took the role to inspire his daughter. “I think it’s the message about empowerment. I’m a father of a 15-year old daughter, and I think it’s super important that she understands that she can do whatever she wants to do.”
NBC is going for heartwarming with This Is Us, a dramedy about a group of interconnected people, which has over 70 million views for the trailer alone.
“Maybe it’s the right place, right time for a show that has a little bit of hope and optimism and can make you, make you feel, but also make you feel good,” said creator Dan Fogelman.
Even The CW is getting into the mix with its offbeat romantic comedy No Tomorrow, a series that follows a woman who becomes involved with a free-spirited guy who inspires her to make an “apocalyptic bucket list” before the world ends, which he claims will be in eight months. Executive Producer Corinne Brinkerhoff felt they could make an apocaluypticjoy show. “I think we all fundamentally know on a gut level the clock is ticking and there’s no guarantee of anytime. What if you embrace the end in a way that felt joyful and spontaneous as opposed to doom and gloom?”
Laugh Out Loud
Amidst the land of reboots and dramas, comedies are back as the main staple for many of the networks (anyone remember when NBC ruled Thursday nights?). Seven new series are vying to make our funny bones laugh. Based on the screening and conversations at the TCA’s, there’s only a couple that really stood out. There is NBC’s The Good Place, a series about a woman who dies, and due to clerical error, accidentally winds up in the Good Place (when she obviously deserves to be somewhere else). The upcoming series, starring power houses Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, promises each episode will be filled with big events and cliffhangers.
Fox, always the risk taker, is stepping outside of the box with Son of Zorn. The comedy that mixes live-action and animated elements. Zorn a warrior from a Faraway Island in the Pacific Ocean- where everything and everyone is animated- returns to Orange County, CA to win back his live-action ex-wife and teenage son. Executive Producer Sally Bradford McKenna realized, “in concept, it sounds like a complicated idea.” But with comedy heavy weights Cheryl Hines, Tim Mellows and Zorn voiced by Jason Sudeikis, the show has a fighting chance.
One More Time with Feeling
No matter the network, or the series, there was one question that journalist wanted answered: What about diversity? The award for worst offender goes to CBS.
CBS has few leads of color this year compared to previous years. CBS Entertainment President Glenn Gellar stated there are more diverse supporting/ensemble cast members this year than before. 16 new roles were added to the lineup this year. Gellar went on to add, “Those 16 roles were added because the show runners were adding roles. I think the fact that 11 of them were cast diversely shows our commitment.”
“We need to do better” was the drinking game term of that panel, if they were giving out shots for every time it was said, no one would have left that panel sober.
Fox does a great job with Pitch and Lethal Weapon; NBC got the memo with freshman series This Is Us, The Good Place and the time traveling series Timeless. Timeless executive producer Erik Kripke highlighted the fact the trio is made up of a female and an African-American male. The show will delve into racism and sexism throughout different decades. “So much of history as we know it is the history of rich white dudes, and yet there’s so many untold history from a minority perspective, from a female perspective,” Kripke explained.
It’s important that not only members of the media, but also the consumers at home watching the series, demand more. After a while, the lip service of “We need to do better” starts to ring hollow.
The Good, the Bad, and the Juicy
There were many laughs and OMG moments from the Summer TCA that a book could be written, but I’m going to share a few of my personal highlights:Mariah Carey wanted everyone to be in a festive mood, so she had chocolates and two bottles of champagne delivered to each table before making a grand entrance with a bevy of shirtless men. NBC distanced itself from Donald Trump, basically saying “we didn’t create the monster, don’t blame us.” There were gasps galore when Supergirl and The Flash creator Greg Berlanti announced a musical crossover between the two shows would happen in the spring, look for it around episode 14 and 15. The biggest OMG moment occurred during NBC’s panel for The Blindspot when a journalist asked star Archie Panjabi, “Would you set the record straight about the green screen in your final episode of ‘The Good Wife’ and whether there was any reasoning behind the amount of time you and Julianna Margulies did not share a scene together?”, to which the classy Ms. Panjabi simply answered, “In terms of anything that happened on ‘The Good Wife,’ I think it’s only respectful for it to stay on ‘The Good Wife.’ My favorite moment was when I was Mariah Carey’s last question during E!’s Mariah’s World panel. I asked, “So we mentioned Vegas, and we mentioned your music. Would you ever be open to a B side concert; you know the songs that your fans love that may not be known mainstream?”
She replied, “That is a dream that I have thank you for the question because my real fans are the ones that I really feel like I owe everything to, and there are some songs that are my favorites, and they happen to typically be the fan favorites, so they may not be known by the average person or someone that, ‘Oh, I like her. She’s okay. I have one or two albums.’ These are I do want to do something like that. I do want to do a concert where it’s just for the fans and I’m not worried about, ‘Well, this wasn’t a No. 1 record, so I can’t sing it.’ You know what I mean? So soon, let’s hope. I would like to do it. We can work on the set list together.’
Hey, Mariah it’s in writing! Let’s get started on that set list.
Overall I really enjoyed my first TCA Press Tour; I must thank CBS, FOX, NBC, CW, and HULU for giving us access. Stay tuned for the fall.