10:30am PT by Daniel Fienberg
'X-Files' Diversity, 'Orville' Confusion Among Press Tour Highlights (and Lowlights) From Day 15
The penultimate day of the Television Critics Association's summer press tour brought Fox to Beverly Hills and included news about the upcoming Empire/Star crossover and offered Marvel TV chief Jeph Loeb the chance for TCA redemption after a rough panel over the weekend for ABC's Inhumans.
Fox's day also featured details on the network's musical take on A Christmas Story and an update on the gender makeup of the writing and directing credits for The X-Files.
Some highlights and lowlights...
The thin line between excuse and explanation
Fox's Dana Walden had progress to report, insofar as she was able to announce that in the upcoming season of The X-Files, two of 10 episodes will be written by women, two will be directed by women and half of the directors will be "diverse." This is a big step for a show that had only two female helmers in its first 207 episodes. But then... "I think [series creator] Chris [Carter] is making moves in the right direction," Walden said. "And I don’t want to make any excuses for anyone. I want to just explain that after 200-plus episodes of a show that has a very deep and specific mythology — where the fan base has a very high expectation that the episodes are going to deliver on those Easter eggs and they are going to be consistent with those original episodes — the tendency is to want to rely on the people that helped you on the original when you are just doing 10 episodes. And the crew that was with Chris for a very long time happened to be a group of male writers." This is a fine explanation, but it's also the excuse that many shows, including several run by X-Files veterans who came up from the same group of male writers, have used over the years for why their staffs have been so homogenous. Either somebody breaks the cycle or they don't. It's better to do it at this late date than not at all. Relatively. [More from the Fox executive session.]
X marks the spot
Fox's The Gifted, a new Marvel-based drama, isn't being officially called an X-Men series, but the show's official logo does have a cute little "X" dotting the "i" in its title and creator Matt Nix, and characters on the show, make very casual references to X-Men, so how X-Men-adjacent is it? Nix explained, "[L]et me put it this way: In this world, there’s a thing called the X-Men team, right? There’s a group of people that sometimes wear uniforms and sometimes don’t wear uniforms and are led by a bald guy in a wheelchair, right? And that’s a thing, OK? But as a fan of the X-Men writ large, like, that universe, there are tons of characters, some of which are sitting on this stage, right? So to anybody who is saying, like, 'Oh, it’s 'X-Men'-adjacent,” I give you Polaris, queen of magnetism, right? She is not a minor character. She is a major character. Blink is a major character. Jace, not really a major character." Added Loeb, who looked like he was having a better time in this TCA visit than on his tense panel for ABC's Inhumans: "It is a very large spread, huge number of characters that are mutants and live within that world. And that 'X' is a shorthand for mutants. And we’ll meet not only these characters, but more characters as time goes by that all fit into that world."
Fans of Homicide
The comic persona Andre Braugher has been exhibiting on Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine was initially surprising for many fans of his Emmy-winning dramatic work. It's become more comfortable for him, though. Case in point, a question asking the actor what he's had to do on Brooklyn that he never dreamed of being asked to do on television. "It’s too shameful to mention in public. I’ve debased myself in so many horrible ways," Braugher replied without skipping a beat. Series co-creator Dan Goor quickly agreed: "I was just watching an episode of Homicide, and actually, you really have debased yourself." After Goor and Andy Samberg sang the praises of Homicide, Samberg concluded that landmark show is "so good. Way better than ours."
The baby of Midnight Run and Stranger Things
The original pilot for Fox's Ghosted is a relative disappointment, given the tremendous potential of leads Craig Robinson and Adam Scott, but not only have some changes been made to the cast and supporting characters, but in explaining how his work on Big Little Lies helped inform the relationships in Ghosted, Scott made a lot of the right references for the new show's potential. "[W]e really wanted the relationship between Max [Scott] and Leroy [Robinson] to feel real. Midnight Run was a real touchstone for all of us when we were putting the whole thing together, and that relationship in that movie was hilarious to be sure, but it was also, it had its moments of out-and-out drama or even moments where it was really moving, and so we wanted, it was important to us to have those moments in the pilot for Ghosted, as well, where they actually really butt heads. And so going off and doing something like Big Little Lies was … a great way to recharge batteries to come and make sure that we had those moments in here, so that the comedy and the sci-fi and everything would hopefully work even better. From the beginning, we were all kind of hoping that Ghosted, at its best, ideally, would be the baby of something like Midnight Run and Stranger Things." Now, that show I'd watch. [More from the Ghosted panel.]
Is The Orville fish or fowl?
TV critics take a lot of bullets for the audience. We watch a lot of awful shows that most viewers never have to know exist. We also express confusion sometimes so that viewers don't need to be confused. Seth MacFarlane's The Orville confused a lot of the reporters in the room, because Fox is advertising it as a straight-forward comedy with the MacFarlane comedic sensibility and viewers wouldn't be wrong to expect, based on that, a half-hour Star Trek parody. It's not that. It's an hourlong extended Star Trek homage that's only sometimes funny. "I’m not a marketing guy, so I don’t know shit about that stuff," MacFarlane admitted. He said that "the show is seeking to break a little bit of new ground tonally. It’s not something that’s really been done, I think, in recent years on TV, at least not in the hourlong format." MacFarlane explained several times that he's looking to return sci-fi to the more optimistic side of its roots, rather than just dark dystopia. "Because we’re an hourlong show, the story kind of has to come first. And it can’t just be gag, gag, gag, gag, gag. There has to be some reality to where the comedy comes from. And if you kind of break down how the, where the jokes come and how they kind of lay out, you’ll notice that there really isn’t anything that exists in the Spaceballs or Family Guy realm. It’s all things that come out of who the characters are or that adhere to the reality of a science-fiction world. Nothing ever goes into that Mel Brooks realm, and that’s by design." Adjust expectations accordingly. [Our full The Orville panel report.]
Sticking your tongue to frozen metal isn't funny and shouldn't be laughed at
Fox's next live musical event is going to a production of the musical based on A Christmas Story, a film beloved by people who have never gotten their tongues stuck to a frozen bar before. Marc Platt, the musical's producer, explained how the show will work. "The musical is constructed somewhat like the film in that many of the numbers become the fantasies in this wild imagination of this kid," he said. "So how one gets transported from a living room of a house to magically appear in a completely fantastical setting right before your eyes is a part of the fun of the experience of watching live television. It is not done, unlike on a stage, where the lights come down and the scenery flies and you’re going to move to a different environment and have no idea how you got there or how the world changed in front of your eyes. And sometimes we’ll pull back and show you the trick, which is the fun of the live event, but you will feel in every act of this musical that there’s some magic created by the live-ness of it. You’ll never feel for one moment that you’re in a theater, watching a musical. You will be living the life of Ralphie. You’ll be experiencing his fantasies. You’ll be living the life of this community, this town. Like I said, there’s lights. There’s snow. There are, if you know the movie, there are dogs which appear, I think, offstage in the show. It’s live TV. There will be live animals all over the place. So it’s going to be, you can’t ask for more: tap dancing kids, live dogs, snow and Christmas all in one night. Everybody’s coming."
On Thursday, FX's highlights and lowlights, as this thing finally comes to an end...