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The Television Critics Association’ summer press tour took a break from panels Saturday with elections and the 33rd TCA Awards, renamed The Chenoweth Awards after show-stealing host Kristin Chenoweth.
On Sunday, it was back to business in the Beverly Hilton ballroom, with ABC bringing some familiar TV stars in their new digs, a Marvel show with Imax ties and a panel for the ninth and final season of The Middle.
Some highlights and lowlights…
The uncontrollable Roseanne
When ABC announced it was reviving Roseanne, the network boasted about the opportunity to bring back Roseanne Barr’s unique perspective on the world. Of course, anybody who follows Roseanne on Twitter already has her unique perspective on the world, which includes at least some conspiracy-mongering and RTing of highly questionably information and accounts. Since the Roseanne pickup, there have already been multiple instances of her tweets that caused pundits to wonder if they might be enough to scuttle the show. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey insisted the network wasn’t worried. “She actually publicly announced a few weeks ago that her son is going to be taking over her Twitter feed for the near future. So that’s kind of that and that was all by her. We did not ask her to do that, but she did make that decision. What we’ve heard from Roseanne is she is very excited about the show and wants to be very focused on the show. The writers room has just gotten started, and she’s going to be an active contributor to that.” Even if her son is the one tweeting, an ABC star’s name is being associated with the sentiments. “I try to just worry about the things that I can control,” Dungey said. Me, I’d argue that “ordering a new show from Roseanne” counts as a thing one can control. [Our full Dungey executive session report.]
It’s only Inhumans after all
Marvel TV guru Jeph Loeb came to the TCA press tour prepared to use the promotional platform to entice people to the Imax premiere of The Inhumans, but not to answer a fairly basic question regarding whether viewers would be paying full price or a reduced rate to watch a not-especially-good pilot — ABC emphasizes the version we saw is not complete and although improved effects couldn’t hurt, they won’t help the existing writing or confusing characterizations — airing on a very large screen basically as a commercial to get viewers to tune in to a free TV show. It’s either asking viewers to pay a huge amount for a commercial or a moderate amount, and that seems relevant to me. “Here’s what I can tell you, is that at Imax on Sept. 1, there will be a 75-minute version of the first two episodes,” Loeb said in response to my pricing question. “And then when the show premieres on ABC on Sept. 29, it will be the first two episodes in their full length, which is 84 minutes. So there will be footage that you can see on ABC that you won’t see in Imax, and there will be things in Imax that you’ll see that are shot on the Imax cameras that are simply extraordinary and should be seen on that screen.” If you’re going to say that something “should” be seen in a high-price format, ticket prices aren’t irrelevant.
Stars compare past and current shows
Freddie Highmore and Kyra Sedgwick are making TV returns after long and acclaimed runs on cable shows. I feel like they went to a similar training course when it comes to comparing characters. On his transition from Bates Motel to The Good Doctor, Highmore said, “It’s nice to save people after years of killing them.” Ha ha. And of her move from The Closer to Ten Days in the Valley, Sedgwick said, “I was interested in doing a show where I’m not solving a mystery. I am a mystery.” Ha ha. Sadly, when Kevin (Probably) Saves the World star Jason Ritter was asked about what he’d learned since Joan of Arcadia, he didn’t have anything nearly as quippy prepared.
Electing to join The Mayor
Yvette Nicole Brown is probably a TCA favorite (not to speak for the room). She’s smart, thoughtful, recognizes reporters from past interviews and, given the opportunity, fights for shy people with microphones to get their questions in. On The Mayor, she plays the single mom to Brandon Micheal Hall’s rapper-turned-politician Courtney Rose. What drew her to the comedy? “The reason I’m on the show is this man,” she said pointing to creator Jeremy Bronson, “because he said to me about Dina Rose, he said, ‘I know what I don’t know, and I’ve never been a black woman. So when it comes to writing this show, I’m going to populate our writers room with people that look like the people I’m writing for.’ So I love that. And he’s very open to if I go, ‘Well, wait a minute. A black woman is now, wait now,’ he’ll listen and go, ‘OK. Well, let me hear what you have to say,’ and then he adjusts, which is very rare, I’ve found, in Hollywood. So we’re going to deal with him, but it’s going to be a respectful way that we do it.” [Our full The Mayor panel report.]
I didn’t dislike the pilot for The Good Doctor, but I thought it spent a lot of time declaring and explaining its premise, so I asked series adaptor David Shore how long it would take before the show stopped being a show about people debating an atypical doctor and what he can and can’t do and just became a show about an atypical doctor. Shore said, “I think almost right away we’re going to go there. There’s going to be people who think he doesn’t belong there for a while, and he’s going to have to prove himself. But I don’t think that is what the show is ultimately about, so I don’t want to tread water with that. I want to honestly debate that and pursue that, but he is an atypical doctor, but in a way, they’re all atypical doctors. That’s what I really want to get into is he’s a catalyst for change within the other doctors, and he has a different way of looking at the world that I think will inspire them.” [Our full The Good Doctor panel report.]
Overlooked, but OK
The Middle is a show that I’ve never watched regularly. I’ve watched it enough to know that it’s better than a lot of shows that I do watch regularly, including several recent seasons of an ABC comedy with a ton of Emmys under its belt. The Middle hasn’t really been an Emmy player, but as it enters its final season, the creators are admirably philosophical. “Honestly, we joke around about it, but, you know, if you did that I guess we take the Sue Heck attitude, which is the positive, optimistic attitude, which is, look, I mean, we’ve been on the air,” said co-creator Deann Heline. “We’ve seen so many shows on Wednesday nights after us that have gone away, and here we are nine years later. We are still on. Our fans love us. All of you guys, the critics, have been lovely and wonderful to us. So for us to sit there and worry about, ‘Oh, no. We should have gotten more Emmys,’ eh, that’s fine.”
Other Middle farewell panel highlights
Patricia Heaton never really watched Scrubs, so she thought Neil Flynn’s Janitor never spoke. The finale will likely be an hourlong (or maybe two halves). The writers feel like they’re ending on their own terms, with Heline admitting, “The truth is we could write this family for 10 more years.” Charlie McDermott didn’t open his mouth for most of the panel before shrugging, “Well, no one asked me a question.” Atticus Shaffer made everybody a bit sniffly by saying he’s going to miss his “crew family” and synthesizing the show’s appeal with “no matter what slant the country tends to go politically, our show is about family values and morals and us being together as a family and how do you navigate the craziness of life as a family.” And what will Eden Sher miss most? “I’m going to miss being able to have a job where I can just come in and fart wherever I want,” she said.
A binding promise
Discussing American Idol and ABC’s plans to put its own stamp on the former Fox franchise, Dungey promised, “There’s going to be a lot more to talk about in terms of Idol when I sit with you in January, but rest assured, I feel like we are going to be delivering something that’s creatively solid.” So it’s good that after a few networks shied from exec sessions earlier this year, ABC will bring back the January exec season in 2018. Thanks!
Monday is a day of studio visits, so highlights and lowlights will be back Wednesday (unless there are enough cool things to report from various sets) …
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