11:21am PT by Daniel Fienberg
TCA Winter Press Tour Day 3 Quotes: 'Handmaid's' Fidelity, Pivot's Demise and 'National Treasure' Confusion
The first day of the 2017 Television Critics Association's winter press tour was Thursday afternoon with DirecTV and AT&T's Audience Network, featuring appearances by Ricky Schroder, Vince Vaughn and Joe Buck and the scruffy gentlemen of Kingdom.
Friday's second day of the press tour was set visits, including terrific gatherings with the stars of The Carmichael Show, The Good Place, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a reception for This Is Us.
There were plenty of fine quotes from those panels, but Saturday marked the first full TCA day in the Langham ballroom in Pasadena, so it's the first day of my regular TCA Quotes of the Day column, with Hulu taking a full day to discuss ongoing shows like Casual and The Path, the upcoming prestige drama The Handmaid's Tale and the new 18th century prostitution dramedy Harlots. Hulu has done partial TCA days before, but this was the streaming service's inaugural full day and it was filled well.
Highlights include a celebration of Georgian bawdry, a terse answer to a reasonable question about title duplication, breaking the death of Pivot, the growth (or lack thereof) of dark comedy characters and more.
*** In addition to its message of empowerment set in a moment of English history in which one in five women was apparently employed in prostitution, Harlots has a dirty, dirty mind, but because of the vernacular of 1763 London, even the naughtiest of sex talk comes across as charming and cultured.
"It’s an absolute joy," said co-creator Moira Buffini, who explained that a lot of the saltiest language in Harlots came from Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies, which Buffini describes as a "London guide to whoring" from the period.
Producer Alison Owen called it "a marvelous way to get round the censorship as well, of course, because nobody knows that the words you’re talking about are so old. So you can talk about people swiving or whatever, and they’re not on your list of banned words."
There are, by the way, a surprisingly large number of editions of Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies available for digital purpose on Amazon.
*** Few things are sadder than a star having to break the demise of a marginal cable network to a critic who was unaware that said marginal cable network is no more. Case in point, the reporter asking Josh Thomas if Please Like Me would still be airing on Pivot in addition to Hulu.
"OK. I've got some sad news," he said, mournfully. "Pivot died."
(Sniffle.) Thomas actually had a lot to say about the late Pivot, including remembering his first TCA panel, which was also Pivot's first TCA panel.
"I get quite nervous at TCAs because the first TCA I went to was the Pivot launch and you guys were, like, mean. Right?" he recalled. "You guys basically, like, someone would put up their hand, and they’d go, 'F— you.' And then Evan Shapiro would be, like, 'Well, I’m not sure if that’s the situation.' That was a very difficult half hour. It was me, two gang members, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Meghan McCain. And you guys were all just explaining why Pivot is a bad idea, which, congratulations, I guess. At the time, I thought you were mean, and now I am sort of like, 'Well, maybe we should listen to what these people have to say.'"
*** If you watch Hulu's Casual, you know that the core family is prone to ... bad decisions. The family is almost entirely self-destructive to the point at which doing healthy things would be more surprising than the opposite. I was curious if there was any room for personal growth, or if that would make Casual something it would never want to be.
"I think they always have to learn or else you end up with the same stories over and over," acknowledged Casual creator Zander Lehmann. "So whether they have a new awareness in later seasons, I think they have to take something away from their experience. But if they change too much, then we forget about who these characters are, and the tone changes and the voice changes, so I think, like all of us, they sort of learn piece by piece, bit by bit, but they don’t necessarily change. I think they learn things and then make the same mistakes, and hopefully as we move forward, they can make new mistakes and maybe learn new things."
*** There were many takeaways from Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale panel, starting with the quality of the pilot, which is among the spring's best. We learned that everybody loves Elisabeth Moss and wants to be her best friend; that everybody's role on the show is like a dream role; that Joseph Fiennes, who once played William Shakespeare, thinks Handmaid's Tale is like Shakespeare in its timelessness; and that Reed Morano, the show's exceptional pilot director, has a tremendous sense of color.
We also learned that showrunner Bruce Miller won't be making changes to Margaret Atwood's venerated novel just to keep fans of the book surprised.
"I think more than tweak, I think we’re just adapting it for a television for it to be in the form a television series. Not only is this a book that people have read and studied for years, it’s been a movie, it’s been a ballet, it’s been an opera, it’s been a play a couple of times," Miller explained. "So, there’s certainly a lot of other adaptations out there. But I think we’re certainly loyal to the book. We think the book’s pretty good. We think the book’s excellent. So, any changes we make are mindful of the fact that we’re connected to the original material. But I also think that, you know, when you do a television show and you’re telling a continuing story, you make lots of changes just because the story is continuing. It’s just a basic kind of structure thing. But I don’t think anybody is looking to surprise, or, you know, I don’t think we’re playing those kind of games with the audience. I mean, I’m a huge fan of the book, and I kind of like the show, and I like Sense and Sensibility, and I knew what was going to happen then, too. So, I think we’re just trying to tell this story well."
*** Hulu has an upcoming drama titled National Treasure, focusing on a famous British TV comedian facing rape accusations amidst echoes of the real-life Operation Yewtree. It has absolutely nothing to do with Nicolas Cage, historical documents or wealth-related conspiracy theories, but a goodly number of TCA tweets about the show focused on the movie franchise. So, it was asked, are there any concerns about people getting confused that one might be related to the other or at least that Nic Cage might be involved in both?
"No, is the answer to that," replied executive producer Marc Munden, who was probably speaking honestly but probably should have at least some concern. After a brief wave of nervous laughter, nobody on the panel wanted to add anything, so we moved on to the next question.
Stay tuned on Monday for quotes from Sunday's panels with The CW.