TCA Winter Press Tour Day 14 Quotes: 'Powerless' Leeway, Dick Wolf's 'Chicago' Crack and More

Also, acting advice from John Lithgow and personal scheduling wisdom from Jennifer Lopez.
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia of 'This Is Us'
It may feel like it lasts forever, but the Television Critics Association winter press tour is finally over!
 
The two-week, non-stop onslaught of press conferences and presentations to the nation's TV reporters concluded Wednesday with NBC.
 
The network kicked things off with a formal announcement of the return of Will & Grace and then made news with a two-season renewal for This Is Us.
 
The day also featured discussion of yet another Chicago spinoff, yet another TV adaptation of a popular movie franchise and a rare attempt to find laughs in the DC Universe.
 
 
Some highlight quotes from a busy NBC TCA day ...
 
*** Personally, I stopped watching NBC's Chicago shows because it became too much work to keep up with the various intersecting pieces in the expanding universe of Windy City professionalism.
 
Let's just say that producer Dick Wolf also has mixed feelings about the intersection or integration between the shows.
 
"[T]he crossovers are a pain in the ass," Wolf said pointedly. "Everybody hates doing them. The results have been manifest now for the last four seasons. I don’t have an exact number, but usually, the highs for many of the shows have been during crossovers. ... Unfortunately, it’s like ratings crack, and it’s a bad addiction because you don’t want to overuse it. But the premiere on March 1 has never been done before. It is Fire and the PD and the Justice with the cast of Med scattered through all three of the hours. It’s really amazing. It’s incredibly gratifying. It’s incredibly hard to pull off, but when it works to be able to do something after, whatever it is, 75 years of commercial television that has literally never been done before, it really is exciting, and it gives the actors, as they stumble out in 13-degree weather at 6:30 in the morning, a reason to get out there."
 
*** NBC's Taken takes place before the events of the Liam Neeson Taken films — but don't take that to mean that Taken is a prequel, even if that sure sounds like the definition of prequel.
 
"[R]eally, we were never talking about a prequel," insisted EP Alex Cary. "We were talking about a modern origin story, so set in modern-day times, and I think the immediate question that arose is what is this television show to the movie? And I think what we wanted to do was to bring the franchise or the unique selling point of Taken to the TV screens, but to do our own story and really create this character sort of from the ground up, which is what attracted me to it and the opportunity really to all of us."
 
Ah. Hope you're takin' notes.
 
Explained Clive Standen, who steps into Neeson's shoes and his particular set of skills, "I’d love to have this TV [series] that we can watch a character every week and build with him and watch him learn from his mistakes, because I’ve got no interest in playing Liam Neeson’s character in the film. He’s the finished product. He’s this man with a particular set of skills. This is about how we acquires them, and I think it’s going to be a roller coaster of a ride with lots of ebbs and flows and twists and turns."
 
*** This Is Us probably has been the breakout success of the 2016-17 network TV season. Creator Dan Fogelman is, of course, appreciative of the response and the excitement the show has delivered.
 
"It’s really rewarding to be in the zeitgeist in that way. We all have done this for a very long time and worked very hard on a lot of stuff," he said. "It’s very rare that something just lands with people in a way that has people talking the next day. It’s increasingly rare in our environment where there’s so much on. So we have a plan. I remember when we first started coming out, some people were writing, 'They’re front-loading too much.' We know where the series is going and how we’re going to keep people on their toes. I feel really confident."
 
It's good that he knows where the show is going, what with that two-season renewal and all.
 
[More from Dan Fogelman about the possibility of a This Is Us spinoff.] 
 
 
*** The part of the Trial & Error panel that excited me most was director Jeffrey Blitz saying he thought [still unofficially] that the third season of Review would be premiering in May.
 
My second-favorite part of the panel was Nick D'Agosto giving a long, long, long answer about his family's history with the Arby's fast food empire. 
 
The third-best part of the panel was John Lithgow interrupting his own answer to single out co-star Steven Boyer's work on Broadway in Hand to God.
 
But for a quote, I guess I'll just leave you with Lithgow's wisdom, "The only really difficult acting is bad writing."
 
[Our full Trial & Error panel coverage.] 
 
*** If you haven't seen Ron Funches since Undateable, the dude has become almost shockingly svelte. 
 
Of his 130-pound weight loss, Funches observed, "Life-wise, I just have more energy, and I just feel better. I am sweating less on set; so that’s good. Then I just think it’s helpful role-wise as far as people are seeing me more as, like, the full actor instead of just like a fat best friend type of thing, and also, I have sex more. So that’s good."
 
Wise words. 
 
*** Funches is one of the stars of NBC's Powerless, which is being described as DC Comics' first TV comedy. 
 
Given how humorless the recent DC feature films have been, what can Powerless get away with joking about when it comes to this world?
 
"I think they are very protective for their characters and for a good reason, I think," said Justin Halpern, co-showrunner on Powerless with Patrick Schumacker. "You know, a lot of people invest a lot in these characters. I think, for us, it’s a little bit of, we ask for as much as we can get, and then we kind of see where we can find a happy medium. I’ve been pretty happy with what we’ve been able to get away with it. I think, like anything, they wanted to make sure that they didn’t think the show was terrible before they started letting us use stuff. So as they started to get cuts in and see things, I think they allowed us to have a little more freedom."
 
Halpern explained that part of the problem is how many DC properties currently are being represented in film or TV. 
 
"Everything seems to be in the Berlanti-verse," Halpern joked, referring to prolific Flash/Supergirl/Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow producer Greg Berlanti. "Maybe the TCAs are also in the Berlanti-verse. And so when you ask for something that’s in the Berlanti-verse, there’s a lot of red tape because it’s on another network. So those are a lot of the challenges we have, if something is on another network, being used by another show. That’s when it gets really tough and it can be a little frustrating, but I think we’ve been pretty happy with what we’ve been able to do."
 
[Our full Powerless panel coverage.] 
 
 
*** One of the revelations of NBC's Great News is that co-star Nicole Richie is genuinely funny and not just in the real-world way she's been funny on her reality show in the past.
 
"I’ve been a fan of Nicole since she was basically a little kid on The Simple Life, and I was still 40," cracked executive producer Tina Fey. "But I think she’s a really funny person. She has an instant likability. I think the kind of instincts that she has, you cannot teach them. People have it or they don’t. She has a very easy, good comedy instinct in terms of timing, in terms of scale of performance. It’s never pushing, you know. It’s really good. So yeah, I was, we were all into it, but we were thrilled when she said that she would come in and read with everybody because this lady is, like, a business lady. She doesn’t have time for this."
 
*** Jennifer Lopez plans long-term, like REALLY long-term. Shades of Blue, which returns for a second season this spring, formally was announced more than 18 months before it actually premiered in 2016. She signed on for NBC's next live musical more than a year before its launch as well. She's just busy.
 
"I don’t think about what I did five years ago or what I might do five years from now," said J-Lo of her scheduling. "I just go what I feel right now. I feel very creatively motivated to do a lot of things. This year, we’re producing a lot and doing World of Dance with NBC as well, my dance show, and executive producing and judging of that and then we’re going to be going into Shades and I’ll be doing my stint in Vegas all year. Then we’re going to do Bye Bye Birdie at the end of the year with the NBC as well. It’s a full year, but it’s creatively fulfilling for me as an actor, as a singer, as a performer, as a dancer, and I couldn’t be more excited about tackling each one of those projects. How I’m going to feel in a year from now? I don’t know. Maybe I'll want to take a year off."
 
We'll believe it when we see it.
 
And that's it for January TCA press tour coverage from me ...
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