Rob Lowe's Beliefs, 'Outlander' Balance Among TCA Highlights (and Lowlights) From Day 4

Outlander Still Episode 301 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Starz

Day four of the Television Critics Association's summer press tour brought another eclectic cable assortment to Beverly Hills. Wildly eclectic. 

The morning, featuring shows from across the A&E Networks family, was an aggressive whiplash as Rob Lowe's silly (not necessarily in a bad way) family reality show The Lowe Files and James Van Der Beek's silly (I haven't watched yet) What Would Diplo Do? were sandwiched around a pair of Elizabeth Smart projects and the Lifetime movie Flint, both decidedly unsilly. And then the afternoon was Starz and a steady march toward the attractive women and men of Outlander.

Friday's highlights and lowlights...

Things are never slow when you're with Rob Lowe. The Parks & Recreation alum's new unscripted series with sons Matthew and John Owen is described as "Anthony Bourdain in a blender with Scooby Doo" by no less than Lowe himself. But take his word with a grain of salt, because Lowe believes in some wacky things, including the presence of underwater tunnels beneath Los Angeles navigated by nuclear submarines. Of course, he also says that his old buddy Charlie Sheen believes the moon is hollow, so I guess all things are relative. As Lowe puts it, "It's just more fun to believe."

Smart and strong. On a joint panel for the telefilm I Am Elizabeth Smart and the doc Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography, most of the questions went to Smart herself, whose ability to talk willingly and introspectively about her nine-month abduction nightmare is pretty unfathomable to me. "It’s funny because, when I got home, I think I swore up and down that I was never going to write a book, I was never going to do a movie. I wanted it all to disappear," she recalled. "I wanted it all to go away, and honestly, I think that’s a pretty natural response. And for years, I felt that way, but little by little, I started to become more involved in advocacy. And I started meeting more survivors and meeting other people who had gone through similar things. And as I got older and I became more involved until eventually it’s kind of my world now, I realized that I have an opportunity. I have a unique opportunity to share my story because there are so many other survivors out there who struggle every day because they feel like they are alone. They feel like nobody possibly understands what they are going through. Nobody else understands how they feel. And how can they continue?" Smart ended the panel by urging people to turn on Amber Alert notifications on their phones. 

Love that dirty water. Press tour swag usually includes flash drives or books or the occasional vibrating pillow, but Flint, Mich., resident and activist Melissa Mays (played by Marin Ireland in Flint) brought something special. "I filled this up at my tap yesterday, before I got on the plane, and it looks pretty okay. It looks clear. But in case anybody wanted to take a risk ...," said Mays, holding up a bottle of water that she admitted looked clear but had "floaties" in it. She noted that the government had ruled that the water was now OK, but added, "You can just take a smell. Our state government says it’s fine, so feel free to come on up and catch a whiff." Sitting next to her, Flint's Betsy Brandt added, "It did clear my sinuses, so it is beneficial in that way."

Diplo blow. Proving nothing is sacred, Van Der Beek was talking about discovering Diplo's unique cadences and took a question that began with "This is the most unique thing I've ever heard at TCA before" with the crack, "It's not dirty water, for sure!" Followed by nervous laughter, Van Der Beek added, "Too soon?" This isn't to say that Van Der Beek was making a genuine joke about Flint or Flint, but yeah ... too soon. 

Maybe TV isn't a movie and movies aren't TV? This whole "Treating television like it's a movie" thing has gone too far and the breaking point may be the upcoming second season of The Girlfriend Experience, which has effectively been divided into two chunks, one written and directed by Lodge Kerrigan and one by Amy Seimetz. "We felt like the new way forward would be giving the way that TV is moving forward, and you have airing dates, and you compare them together, and you can curate these two things that Lodge and I both had conversations about, schematic elements that we wanted to see, and we wanted to have that conversation with audiences," Seimetz explained. "You compare them, but once they drop, you can also have the experience of watching a three-and-a-half-hour movie that is written and directed by myself, and then a three-and-a-half-hour movie that Lodge has written and directed himself. But when I pair them together, it’s a conversation between Lodge and I and sort of in that format of presenting television." I dunno — sounds to me like it's seven episodes of television that Seimetz directed herself and seven episodes of television that Kerrigan directed himself. No movies about it.

Strong enough for a man, but pH-balanced for a woman. Outlander is returning for its third season, and we're still asking why/how the show is able to appeal to both men and women alike. Fortunately, Caitriona Balfe has answered such questions before. "One thing I think we’ve always said about our show is that the female character of Claire is sort of at the center, but it’s not just her," said the actress, who plays Claire. "It’s the fully formed characters of Jamie and Frank as well and Black Jack, and I think what that gives you — whereas, some shows, maybe you have this central male character and then surrounding him are more two dimensional versions of women — we’ve made all of our characters fully formed, and they all have great depth. So what you get is a great balanced look at relationships. And I think that that’s why so many people relate to it and like to connect to it, because it’s giving you a realized version of people." [Our full Outlander panel report.]

Check back Sunday for Saturday's highlights and lowlights from AMC/Sundance and more...