10:33am PT by Daniel Fienberg
Ryan Murphy Teases, John Landgraf Presentation Among Press Tour Highlights (and Lowlights) From Day 16
It's all over!
After 16-plus days of panels and presentations and parties, the Television Critics Association's summer press tour is finished.
This year's marathon/sprint wrapped on Wednesday with a morning of FX panels from Beverly Hills and then an afternoon on the Fox lot with a pair of brief set tours that we can't talk about yet, plus introductory panels for the next installments of Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story and American Horror Story.
Wednesday's highlights and lowlights…
There's no point in attempting to distill FX Networks CEO John Landgraf's biannual presentation into a single quote or two. Just know that it's an important enough part of the TCA landscape that Netflix not-so-coincidentally announced its new series with the Coen brothers during Landgraf's talk as a not-so-subtle attempt at cockblocking. Binge-blocking? Anyway … just read our full panel coverage. Oh, and credit Linda Holmes of NPR with the portmanteau "Landgrafia," referring basically to a media world run according to Landgraf's instincts. [Our full John Landgraf panel coverage.]
Crime panel pays
The last panel of the summer 2017 TCA press tour was for a show that won't premiere until early 2018, but the session for The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story did its job. It took me from disappointed that Murphy and company had postponed a Hurricane Katrina installment to concentrate on something seemingly more sensationalistic to curious at the People v. O.J. Simpson follow-up's approach. "[W]e’re not just doing sort of a crime," Murphy explained. "We’re trying to sort of talk about a crime within a social idea. And this was always interesting to us because the idea was I think that Versace, who was [serial killer Andrew Cunanan's] last victim, you know, really did not have to die. Part of the thing that we talk about in the show is one of the reasons Andrew Cunanan was able to make his way across the country and pick off these victims, many of whom were gay, was because of homophobia at the time. Homophobia, particularly within the various police organizations that refused in Miami to put up “wanted” posters, even though they knew that Andrew Cunanan had probably committed many of these murders and was probably headed that way, all of which we deal with in the show. So I thought that that was a really interesting thing to examine, to look at again, particularly with the president we have and the world that we live in." Over the course of the panel, Murphy and his team did a good job of noting how Gianni Versace would be more expansive than the anthology's first installment in terms of both geography and possibly visual flourishes, while the opening scene showed for reporters was tense and opulent and intriguing. Before, I was skeptical. Now I'm curious. Mission accomplished. [Our full The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story panel coverage.]
Not American Horror Story: Trump
I'm not so sure the panel for American Horror Story: Cult did its job, if only because its job was both simpler and harder. It was simpler in the sense that people are going to watch the next American Horror Story installment regardless of how the women of American Horror Story (the panel's focus) sell it, but harder in the sense that even with Sarah Paulson, Alison Pill, Billie Lourd and more there to talk, nobody could really say anything. Paulson lamented Murphy's absence on this panel with, "Sometimes we get this thing that’s like this directive which is, 'You must say nothing.' And then he comes out here, and he spills the entire bag of beans, and you are, like, 'Oh, my God. I thought I was going to be killed if I…' so, if he were here, I would feel much easier about it." One thing we did get was a confirmation that no matter what may have been initially said, Cult isn't actually about the 2016 election. At least not literally. "[W]hen Ryan had made the announcement originally that the season was going to deal with Trump, I think it’s more about what’s going on in our world around us. And we talk about the streak of paranoia, that I think that there’s a lot of idea that launches from that point," said executive producer Alexis Martin Woodall. So there's that.
Murphy's best work
FX also staged a great panel celebrating the effectiveness of Murphy's Half Initiative, featuring female directors including Gwyneth Horder Payton, Steph Green, Alexis Ostrander, Maggie Kiley and more. Rachel Goldberg explained the program's efforts: "I would watch my male counterparts get opportunities that I wasn’t getting," she said of early attempts to get her first TV directing gig. "And I don’t move through space like that. I’m like, 'Just do the work. That’s all that matters.' But at some point you’re like, 'Something’s not right here.' And the Half Foundation, like Ryan, is incredible. When I met with him, he was, like, 'You know, 50-year-old white men make change. I am now a 50-year-old white man, and I can make change. I promise you I’m going to give you an episode.' And he did, and he’s changed my life. But what’s incredible is that he hasn’t just changed my life. By giving me an opportunity and Maggie an opportunity and Alexis an opportunity, he’s shown, 'You can give these women opportunities. They won’t fuck it up. They will do a great job for you, and it’s OK to take the risk.'" Damn straight.
An offered hug
The first season of FX's Better Things was, as the title suggests, one of TV's better things. Through the three episodes I watched, it looks like the second season is on track toward becoming one of TV's best things. But boy, oh boy, the men in Sam Fox's (Pamela Adlon) sphere on the show are more immature and awful than ever before. When I asked if she thought there was a general societal increase in "male shittiness and insecurity" or if it was just increasing around Sam, Adlon offered me a hug and said, "I think there’s an increase societally in male shittiness, but I also think there’s a decrease, you know, because you are asking me that question." And Louis C.K. agrees, "The market is up. That’s right. It’s doing great. It’s a great year for male shittiness."
Maybe we're the worst
Part of why critics like the You're The Worst gang is because the core quartet is terrific and the show itself remains a tart, boundary-pushing treat, but we also like them because they've been to the press tour enough times to know the game. I'm just appreciative of any panel that begins with a "last day of TCA" round of applause and includes Aya Cash asking for a sign of approval of Chris Geere's beard in the fourth season premiere followed by, "Show of hands? Just kidding. I know you can't interact." The hourlong premiere, by the way, follows from Jimmy's (Geere) abandoning of Gretchen (Cash) in the third-season finale, and it does a lot of new things for the show and does them in funny, biting ways.
We'll be back at the press tour in January!