'Timeless' Credit and Steve Harvey Regret Among Press Tour Highlights (and Lowlights) From Day 10

Timeless Still Abigail Spencer - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

NBC dropped by the Television Critics Association press tour on Thursday (August 3).

They brought Will & Grace reboot hilarity, a vaguely memo-shy Steve Harvey, another Law & Order brand expansion and more talk about which military types can get away with being scruffy.

Some highlights and lowlights...

Timeless whisper. In May, a lot was made of the resurrection, after a brief cancelation, of NBC's Timeless, with many publications celebrating it as a fan-based decision by the network, and at least one publication taking full credit based on a user poll. NBC's Bob Greenblatt was less eager to say that fans have control over renewal decisions. "Don’t write this, but they don’t," Greenblatt said. He added, "What I say to the fans when they come out in droves when you cancel a show is, 'Where were you when we had the show on the air and helping us building this into a huge ratings success?'” The outcry from fans, I don’t know how many there really were, but like all things in social media, it’s a lot smaller than you think." If Greenblatt was the bad cop, entertainment president Jennifer Salke played more generous cop. Salke observed, "There was a bunch of us who really loved the show. Some of them are sitting right here. But there were some financial challenges with the show. There were ratings challenges with the show. To be able to have a fan base that’s so engaged in the show coming and making it just kept bombarding us with feelings that we had about the show. So I like to say it was a collaborative sort of passion swell that kind of made us open it up and look at it again and think, 'Could we figure out a way to make this make sense?' I’m so glad that we did. Genre fans get very excited and noisy about things, and I love that. That’s why we love to program for them."

Thinking outside of the box, or ballroom. In addition to its regular panels in the TCA ballroom, NBC did a couple of what we like to call "informals," or panels in smaller rooms of interest to specialized corners of the reportorial crowd. Informal panels for several comedy showrunners and dealing with the veterans issues on The Night Shift (but not its original motorcycle-heavy key art) were well and enthusiastically attended. Networks should be encouraged to do such things more frequently. Critics like more than just new shows!

Some people like Toby. We covered most of the highlights from the This Is Us panel in our full write-up. My own highlight was asking Chris Sullivan what he makes of the fact that his character, Toby, is perhaps the most polarizing on the show. "Really? Shit," was his initial reaction, followed by an almost minutelong pantomime of disappointment and sadness. "Well now this is going to make me cry." After "regaining his composure," Sullivan gave a loose defense of the character and his introduction before concluding, "I like him!" Chrissy Metz went a step further and said, "I love him." I, myself, do not. But that's not Chris Sullivan's fault!

Relaxed Grooming, Take II. On The CW's day, Matt Barr defended his character's scruffiness with an explanation about "relaxed grooming" and on Thursday, The Brave tech advisor Mikal Vega seemed to confirm that story, when discussing Mike Vogel's scruffiness on his NBC drama. "That was a very specific thing that we enjoyed while we were down range, to blend in with the local populace a lot of times. And depending on the cultural background of the area of operations, a lot of times they won’t even speak to you if you don’t have facial hair and you’re a man. Also, with the type of operations that our team’s going under, being able to blend with — not look like military members is key to a mission’s success," Vega said. So maybe it's actually true?

Will & Grace is coming back. I know some people are excited about this. I'm not, but I'm happy for people who are. Apparently they're going to pretend that the show's finale never happened. I'm not sure I watched the finale, so I won't necessarily be bothered. You may. Some other highlights: They're hoping Will & Grace will get a streaming platform for original episodes. Max Mutchnick is happy that Bob Greenblatt's NBC is different from Jeff Zucker's NBC. Many of your favorite guest stars will return, but not immediately since NBC has already ordered a second reboot season. And more!

Chung Chung [Or "Thunk Thunk."]. Is it confusing the Law & Order brand if a franchise that traditionally rips stories from headlines and then fictionalizes them just rips a story factually from the headlines? Dick Wolf doesn't think that will be a problem on Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. The goal in using the brand is, not surprisingly, to get people in the door. "Look, in this universe that has come to be the new normal with 450 scripted projects on television last year, if I thought it would help, you know, I’d run naked through the streets, which nobody would want to see. And to turn away from Law & Order when we could literally change the name to Law & Order True Crime, the same way SVU is sort of schizophrenic, as was referred to by most people as SVU. It’s listed as Law & Order, maybe sometimes SVU, and most it is part of the television landscape, in a positive way. So, yes, I would use anything I can to get an audience that does not lower the level of the brand."

Take a memo. Steve Harvey was ready for questions about his now notorious memo to staff and he was ready with a straight answer and later follow-up jokes, all of which stopped short of "Man, I'm sorry for treating employees that way." What he actually said was, "That email I learned two things from that email. Number one, I can’t write, and I should never write. I just did it I just it was something I wrote a year ago. And somebody didn’t get a job coming to L.A. and they got pissed, and they sent it to Feder in Chicago. And I was OK until I saw it on CNN. And that’s when I knew I was in a lot of trouble. So the email was out there. You know, it wasn’t that big a deal to me. I’m not really a mean-spirited guy at all. I’m really a congenial guy, you know, people who know me, but it’s kind of like if you go home every day and all your kids is in the kitchen waiting on you and start hammering you, you just need a moment. That’s all it was. It’s really not that big a deal. I thought it was cute. You all didn’t, but …"  

A Steve by any other name. Steve Harvey thought it was vaguely ridiculous when I asked about the choice to name his new daytime show Steve, before acknowledging, "But at the end of the day, you’re absolutely right. We threw around a bunch of stuff, Steve Goes Hollywood, Steve Makes It to L.A., Steve and at the end of the day, no need to at the end of the day. Look, man, I don’t care what you call it. If people don’t tune in, you out of work. So just keep it simple, Steve. I already had The Steve Harvey Show, so just to show a difference they made a new logo for me. It’s just all I am if you look at the logo, I’m just a head and a mustache. I ain’t even got eyes or mouth or nothing. They just made me a head and a damn mustache. So and it’s just Steve. They’ve taken everything."

More TCA highlights to come!