11:48am PT by Daniel Fienberg
TCA Winter Press Tour Day 7 Quotes: '24' Differences, 'Bones' Farewell and 'Star' Lee-berties
Wednesday marked the first time in my Television Critics Association's press tour-attending tenure that Fox had a winter session without an American Idol panel and without American Idol dominating the spring TV contention.
So that was different.
Of course, just because Fox is moving forward without Idol doesn't mean that the network's TCA day on Wednesday wasn't very resolutely in the past. We had panels for new versions of 24 and Prison Break, plus another for the end of Bones.
Panel highlights include an explanation for how the new 24 hero is different, Lee Daniels weighing in on my awful pun and an answer to relieve any nervousness you have about child endangerment on The Mick.
*** Although Fox initially joined several other networks in eschewing executive sessions, we were pleased that Gary Newman and David Madden joined us to answer questions, even if they couldn't be more definitive about the future of poor Pitch, which struggled with ratings in its first season.
"We were very proud of Pitch. ,' said Newman. "We think Dan [Fogelman] and his team did a great job. Kylie Bunbury, Mark-Paul Gosselaar were terrific in it, as were the rest of the cast. We would have loved seeing a bigger audience. There was a lot of delayed viewing. We had a loyal core. We liked that the show was about something. It was specific. And it’s very much on our minds. I don’t think the performance level enabled us to make an early decision about it. But as we get to May, we’re certainly going to consider it. And one of the things we think about is, do we have a place for it in our schedule where we can grow it. Because, if we’re going to go forward with it, we certainly want to believe that we’re going to grow the show. So all those things will become far clearer once we have a sense of what our lineup’s going to be next year."
That's not reassuring ... but it also isn't damning.
[More from the Fox executive session.]
*** Much of the panel for Fox's 24: Legacy was dedicated to differentiating between Corey Hawkins' Eric Carter and Kiefer Sutherland's departed Jack Bauer.
Me, I liked exec producer Manny Coto's explanation for how, at least initially, the Eric Carter character thinks he has to play by certain rules which, for Jack Bauer, almost never applied.
"That’s one of the things about having this character, is he comes from the battlefield where there are orders — there’s the enemy. That’s my order. That’s who the bad guy is. That’s who I take out," Coto explained. "When he gets plunged into this world, he’s learning and coming to grips with the fact that the enemy may be one of us. The enemy may not be who you think it is. There are allegiances that aren’t played out as they are on the battlefield where you have your comrades and everybody’s in it. So the more he’s plunged into this world, the more he realizes that the choices he made and was used to making on the battlefield don’t apply in this environment."
Oh, and since I inquired ... 24: Legacy is set in "the perpetual present," so don't try calculating all of the years that have passed since Jack Bauer first tried to save Senator Palmer's life back in 2001.
[Our full 24: Legacy panel coverage.]
*** One of the problems with being inherently punny (not to be confused with funny) is that when you ask Lee Daniels about the liberties that the success of Empire let him have on his new Fox drama Star, you accidentally workshop calling them "Lee-berties" in front of a room of reporters.
Apologies to all.
Fortunately, Daniels was amused.
"Lee-berties. I like Lee-berties," he mused. "I didn’t think Empire was going to get picked up. Really, I come in with very low expectations of everything that I do. I’m an artist. I don’t really think I’m blessed to have I didn’t know that Empire was getting picked up, let alone for a season and then become the juggernaut that it was. And certainly I have no expectations for anything. So do I come with liberties? I think, no, because each show is different. You think you know it. You think you got it down. Each experience, you know, you experience, you think it’s like, each film is going to be the same, and you feel like each television show experience is going to be the same. But each one is a flower, and it’s a different type of experience. Yes, I’ve had the success of Empire. I could guess that would mean that the studio trusts me a little more. But I trust myself a little more. I’ve learned a little bit more."
Star also isn't Lee Daniels Unchained. As he puts it, "I’m not one to be chained in anything that I’ve ever done in my entire life. I have to be me. And I will be criticized for being me because many people aren’t me, you know?"
[Our full Star panel coverage.]
*** Asked who the stars and producers of Bones listed as among their favorite guest stars during a long group brainstorm, the responses included: Stephen Fry, Billy Gibbons, David Alan Grier, Cyndi Lauper, Linda Lavin, Betty White, Hal Holbrook, June Squibb, Eric Stonestreet, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, Michael B. Jordan, Indira Varma, Ryan O'Neal and more. David Boreanaz also gave a shout-out to the late Heavy D.
"All of them. All of them are our favorites," Emily Deschanel finally decided.
"More than once, I’d suggest somebody and our wonderful casting, Rick Millikan, would say, 'We’ve already had that person on the show,'" lamented series creator Hart Hanson.
[Our full coverage of the Bones finale panel.]
*** Bones will end a run of unlikely longevity this spring. A show that has been bounced around Fox's schedule like a ping-pong ball and been on the bubble almost every year has lasted 12 seasons and aired over 240 episodes.
"The first thing I remember is being picked up for a back-nine and being astounded that we got our the second part of our first season," Hanson reflected. "Then, we were on the bubble all the time. I felt like I was angry all the time. I was calling the network and asking for more promos all the time. I was furious at the Friday announcement. I felt like it was just telling you guys that we were done. And I had huge fights with [former Fox head of scheduling] Preston Beckman, who is not someone you want to fight with, by the way. He is tough. And then, we started having these being switched around the schedule, and this amazing thing happened, which is that our fans, who are loud and passionate and very opinionated, would follow us. And I’m pretty sure the reason we’re on for 12 years is that the network moved us around and proved to themselves that Bones [was] bulletproof, although I never saw it that way. Every time we moved, I thought this time it will fail, but it didn’t they followed us around. So in a way, all those fights I had with — I mean, we’ve had four network presidents in that time. Twenty time slots or more. So we started to feel kind of like, 'Go ahead, try to kill us.'"
Hanson concluded, "We were last with everything. We were the last pilot picked up. We were the last pilot ordered. We were the last everything. And it just made us kind of tough, the cockroaches of Fox."
*** Prison Break is returning for nine episodes this spring, which meant it was a good time for us to ask creator Paul T. Scheuring if our current age of small-batch and limited TV might have meant a different shape for the show if it had premiered today.
"I remember saying, 'Look, there’s a great many characters in the show, and I know where it all goes, and I can tell you the final frame,' because that, to me, I think is critical for any writer, is to know their final frames," Scheuring said. "And so often is the case in television, a lot of people just write a big pilot, and they go, 'Hey, wouldn’t it be great if the blimp crashes into the building at the end?' And they don’t know where it’s going. But for me, I knew every single aspect of the original series, and they said, 'It has to be 22 episodes.' And I said, 'Okay. Well, we’ll do one season.' And that’s not what a network wanted to hear in 2004. And I said, 'All right. I’ll tell you what. I can accordion it. I can stretch it ...,' because the initial idea was to escape halfway through that 22-episode run and then wrap it all up at the end of 22. But I said, 'I can double that. I can have them escape at the end of season one and wrap it up at the end of season two.' In the current climate, would it have been 44 episodes? No. Probably half, I would guess. But in a lot of ways, we got to meet the characters and let them in and that’s one of the wonderful things about having good actors, is that you actually can have these asides and actually learn a bit more about the characters, as long as it’s dynamic and compelling. So I think it would have been shorter, but I wouldn’t have changed anything for the first two years."
*** If you've been watching The Mick, have you been concerned about all of the extreme things that have been happening to poor little Ben? Have you been worried about what the production has been doing to star Jack Stanton as well? Worry not!
"I think we go to great lengths to protect Jack, the actor," promised co-creator John Chernin. "If there’s something we are worried about saying in front of him at a table read, we’ll put noise canceling headphones on him, which is both effective and adorable. So it’s kind of a win-win. But, look, Jack is the greatest little kid. His parents are amazing, and the last thing we would ever want to do is put him in an uncomfortable situation or make his parents uncomfortable. So it’s an ongoing dialogue, but at the end of the day, we care most about Jack, the actor, as opposed to Ben, the character."
Coming tomorrow, all the FX quotes that are fit to print!