Stephen Colbert, 'The X-Files' and TCA's Other Winners and Losers
From Colbert's "dry-Trumping" to fresh faces like CW star Rachel Bloom to Amazon's awkward presentation, these names cut through the clutter of 18 days and more than 200 panels.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
After 18 days and just as many cracks about its duration, summer's grueling gathering of the Television Critics Association finally wrapped up Aug. 13 in Beverly Hills. Not exactly the most newsworthy iteration of the biannual event, it nonetheless set the tone for the upcoming fall season — one that FX CEO John Landgraf was quick to point out is more bloated with original scripted programming than ever before (his words: "There is simply too much television"). The volume of panels (nearly 200) is commensurate with that spike in original series, so it can be hard to break through all the noise. Still, a handful of shows, executives and talent managed to do just that — by turns both impressive and unfortunate. So before the book is (finally!) closed on Summer TCA 2015, get a load of the names that still have people talking.
Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah
Both assuaging reservations and instilling confidence in their late-night forays, the new Late Show (CBS) and Daily Show (Comedy Central) hosts laid out plans for their September debuts with the humor their jobs demand. Colbert slayed when he mentioned his nightly prayers that Donald Trump stay in the race (in the meantime, he's "dry-Trumping") and called out a reporter on Twitter for being "rude" in the middle of his panel.
ABC continues to expertly manage its upcoming Bill Prady-led vehicle for Jim Henson's beloved characters, drawing laughter from the perennially cold TCA crowd and, even better, making some actual news. The faux story of Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog's latest "breakup" made international headlines with potentially more pickup than any other 2015 panel — which bodes well for the anthropomorphic animals' Sept. 22 series launch.
John Landgraf and Bob Greenblatt
FX CEO Landgraf didn't take the stage until more than halfway into TCA, but his stat-supported declaration that TV might be OD'ing on scripted series set the tone for subsequent programmers. NBC Entertainment's Greenblatt, the last topper to speak, also impressed with candid and funny responses to the network's Donald Trump divorce, comedy woes and being "whores for Emmy nominations."
Leading the small group of actors to win over the Beverly Hilton ballroom, the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star deftly handled questions about her musical CW comedy with charm and confidence, finding new fans much like then-unknown Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) did last summer. Other standouts include John Stamos (Grandfathered), Rob Lowe (The Grinder), Joshua Jackson (The Affair) and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Ballers).
Boasting some of the biggest star power of any panel — Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), Kerry Washington (Scandal) and Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy) — ABC's celebration of all things Shonda Rhimes was derailed by the reticent actresses' unwillingness to reveal news about their series and the showrunner's equally taciturn response to praise for elevating ratings and diversity. Her inability to take a compliment almost came off as combative.
Fox did not need to trot out the first full clip of the 2015 limited series — and probably shouldn't have. The scene, featuring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprising the roles of agents Mulder and Scully for the first time since a 2008 film, featured dialogue so stilted that the Twitter peanut gallery (and some Fox execs) briefly mistook it for self-parody. Expectations for Chris Carter's franchise revival now are (unnecessarily) much lower.
Proving that a series does not need to be present to generate bad headlines, HBO programming president Michael Lombardo's defense of True Detective season two further frustrated critics when his sentiment that "the show ends with as satisfying an end as any I've seen" was not shared by, well, anyone. Further damning to Nic Pizzolatto's anthology was its punching-bag status at the annual TCA Awards, just one year after winning best miniseries.
Before The New York Times ran a scathing exposé of its working environment, Amazon surfed into the TCA on a wave of goodwill. And while 11-time Emmy nominee Transparent made a triumphant appearance, things quickly went south with an awkward executive session. Facing questions about Woody Allen, the controversial Top Gear cast and ratings, Roy Price was unclear when he wasn't downright evasive — offering only refusals to comment.