TCA Kick Off: Burning Questions for TV's Top Executives

Game_Of_Thrones_Casey Bloys_Comp - Photofest - H 2016
Courtesy of Photofest; Getty Images

Game_Of_Thrones_Casey Bloys_Comp - Photofest - H 2016

The Television Critics Association's semi-annual press tour kicks off Wednesday and, over the next two weeks, will see broadcast networks, cable outlets and streaming services trot out scores of new and returning series. Yes, Peak TV will be on full display between now and the so-called Death March With Cocktails' last dying breath gasp on Aug. 11.

Here, The Hollywood Reporter breaks down the burning questions facing many of the networks that will be in attendance for the biannual meet-up.

The Broadcast Nets

ABC: Welcome, Channing Dungey, to your first TCA as ABC entertainment president. You've inherited a fourth-place network that's down 18 percent in the demo. How do you plan to right the ship? Sure, Designated Survivor seems like a slam dunk, but you're starting the fall without TGIT (and Scandal) and you've parted ways with sturdy veterans Castle and Nashville. Speaking of the latter pairing, we're hoping you'll take another stab at telling us what exactly happened there. (ABC Studios' Patrick Moran seemed just as baffled as we were.) Paul Lee promised more diversity in the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, but viewers continue to get more of the same. When will ABC's push for diversity in unscripted catch up with the rest of the network?

CBS: It's your second trip to the TCA stage, Glenn Geller, and you should expect to face criticism for the network's very white and very male dominated slate. Yes, we've kept count: seven of your eight new series are fronted by white men. (Sure, you get diversity points for Laverne Cox's historic role in midseason drama Doubt, but that's not enough — nor did it even make your fall schedule.) We have others: What's the future of The Big Bang Theory? Will the new round of contract discussions with the stars of TV's top comedy impact production again? How about MacGyver? Why jam it on the fall schedule with so much retooling left to be done? And we know you used the pages of THR to shoot down rumors about a James Corden/Stephen Colbert time slot swap, but we'll probably ask again anyway.

The CWCongratulations, Mark Pedowitz, critics love Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and the early buzz about fall dramedy No Tomorrow has been good. But how do you plan to get viewers to watch any of them — especially as those comedy actress Emmy nominations remain elusive. What else? Supergirl — is Calista Flockhart really going to remain a regular now that the series is shooting in Vancouver? How are you feeling about Legends of Tomorrow because, as you know, many in the Beverly Hilton ballroom weren't huge fans? Plus what is the future of The Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals after the flagship series signs off this season

NBC: Bob Greenblatt, we know your network is hoping to re-establish its comedy brand on Thursdays with sophomore sitcom Superstore and Mike Schur's The Good Place, and we wish you the best of luckBut you came dangerously close to entering the season without your best reviewed half-hour, The Carmichael Show, after negotiations with 20th TV went down to the wire. So, what really happened there? And how do you plan to build on a comedy brand with only two returning half-hours? Let's see, we have others: Why aren't you launching any series out of the Olympics? Plus, when will you put Aquarius out of its misery? Oh, and we have to talk about ownership, as nearly half of all your new series pickups are produced by outside studios. Will you be more inclined to buy from within with your former head of drama Pearlena Igbokwe running the studio now? (And yeah, we'll probably ask you about Bela Bajaria's axing as well.)

Fox: For a network that hasn't had the best of luck with reboots (exhibit A: Minority Report), you're investing an awful lot in more of the same (Prison Break, 24: Legacy, The Exorcist and Lethal Weapon). Any concerns? The Sleepy Hollow finale left the show with a black eye and it's getting a reboot for this season. Is this the final season or will the briefly adored drama return if the reboot works? Last year's renewed newcomers, Lucifer and Rosewood, weren't exactly hits — so why are they back? And, more pressingly, how do you expect them to improve? And congrats on Grease: Live and those 10 Emmy nominations. What's the latest on a follow-up?

Cable and Streamers

HBO: Welcome to the hot seat, new programming president Casey Bloys. We have a lot of questions for you. Game of Thrones is really going to sit out the 2017 Emmys? And is the yet-to-be-announced eighth season of Thrones really it? How will you try to hang onto that franchise? Westworld looks great, but can it deliver after repeated script tinkering and multiple projection delays? Your predecessor, Michael Lombardo, signed True Detective's Nic Pizzolatto to an overall deal. What's the future of that franchise — and, that relationship? We'd love to hear more about your comedy and drama tastes. And what's going on with Jon Stewart? Oh, and that bold decision to step in and pull the plug on Vinyl — walk us through that, please. And while you're at it, you know you have your fair share of programming challenges to tackle, largely on the drama side. What went wrong?

AMC: We know, we know, we know. You won't bother with an exec session, but that won't stop us from having questions. Your long-in-the-works comic book adaptation Preacher is far from the breakout hit you were expecting it to be, and Feed the Beast has been both a critical and ratings dud. What's going on with your originals? And you may have the biggest show on TV with The Walking Dead, but you'll still have to field questions about the zombie drama's season six missteps and that divisive cliffhanger

Turner: Kevin Reilly, you're back for another tour as head of TNT and TBS and this time you'll come armed with how your rebranding of both networks is coming along. You have a few shows that critics like (Angie Tribeca) but the viewership isn't nearly the same as it is for bread-and-butter dramas like Rizzoli & Isles. So critical favorites over ratings? How does Jeff Bewkes and his Wall Street brethren feel about that?

Showtime: Memo to David Nevins: We still want to know when we'll get to see Twin Peaks. Plus, Roadies is … not a hit. Is there time to salvage Cameron Crowe's small-screen foray?

StarzCongrats, Chris Albrecht, your Sunday move for originals is off to a strong start. Now how will you build on that? How much more original programming do you want? Can you open up a second night? Viewers love Outlander but the Emmys sure didn't. How will you raise critical awareness for the period drama? And let's talk about Bryan Fuller. Are you concerned with his time management on your American Gods given his showrunning status with CBS All Access' Star Trek revival? 

Freeform: Welcome back, Tom Ascheim, let's hear how that big rebranding of ABC Family Freeform has been going for you? Can you please stop using the term "becomers"? Sorry about those Dead of Summer reviews. Oh, and can you do us all a favor and confirm the end of Pretty Little Liars already?

A+E Networks: The end of Bates Motel is firmly in sight but after four straight failed attempts to find a scripted series to pair with it, what's the future of scripted at A&E? As for Lifetime, critical hit UnREAL is suffering from a sophomore slump both critically and in overall viewership. How will you respond to criticism for your handling of the drama's Black Lives Matter storyline? And how frustrating are those ratings?

USA Network: Mr. Robot is down year-over-year despite critical raves and a few big Emmy nominations. How do you plan to get people to that show? And will there ever be a right time to air the twice-delayed Shooter given our current climate?  

MTV: Welcome, Sean Atkins. You're ending your longest-running drama, Teen Wolf, next year and doubling down on music. But what's the future of originals there? How is all of the corporate drama at Viacom impacting you? And can you please tell us what this "MTV Classic" thing is all about?

Netflix: When are you delivering Gilmore Girls? We can think of several TCA members who won't let you leave the Beverly Hilton until you confirm a premiere date. And is the plan for that to be rolled out slowly vs. your traditional binge model? One of these days, we really do hope you talk about those top-secret ratings, by the way. Enough third parties are. What does it take to get a show canceled there, anyway? You're in the midst of a $5 billion spending spree on originals — but do you think your originals are cannibalizing each other for awards (ahem, Orange Is the New Black's shutout)? Stranger Things has dominated the watercooler conversation. Surely you'll deliver renewal news, yes? And don't think we forgot about Chelsea Handler. Despite her talker airing three times a week, it is a cultural afterthought — and in an election year! What are you doing to change that?