PBS wrapped up its two-day stint at the Television Critics Association press tour Monday with a day of space-dominated panels, concluding with a musical performance from Jonathan Groff.
Over the course of the day, Martin Sheen talked about The West Wing, Jenna Coleman talked about Doctor Who and some people also talked about PBS things!
Some highlights and lowlights:
Let Martin Sheen be Martin Sheen. A couple days ago it was Joanne Froggatt gamely evading questions about Downton Abbey revivals. Monday, it was Martin Sheen facing a first question about whether in today’s environment The West Wing could come back with Aaron Sorkin, a question ignoring both that Sorkin left The West Wing long before its end and that the series concluded with Sheen’s character no longer operating out of the, well, West Wing. “Well, in fact, The West Wing never really left. It’s having a great revival as we speak on Netflix…,” Sheen said. “[A]s far as my involvement, I’m afraid I’m far too old now. But I could certainly see room for it, of course, yeah.” Sheen, who was promoting Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars also dodged a question asking for his thoughts about our current president.
House of Several Gables. Just as Martin Sheen was graceful in not dwelling too much on past projects and politics, the PBS Anne of Green Gables team was graceful in not comparing their brighter take on the Prince Edward Island classic to Netflix’s darker Anne With an E. Ella Ballentine, who plays PBS’ Anne, gamely said, “I’m definitely very curious. I’ve been watching online. Megan Follows’ version. And when I was younger, I saw the animated series. And recently, I saw one in the early 1900s, and it’s black and white and I really like that version a lot. So I’m definitely very curious to see another version. I haven’t yet. I haven’t had access to it, but I’m definitely really interested. And one of my friends from school’s actually in it as well. So it’s definitely really cool to see that this story is resonating with so many people, that we can tell it again. And it’s definitely a very different version, so I’ve heard. And I hear that it’s also a lot darker, so different audience for sure. But this is for any age group, and it’s very family friendly.”
May you live in interesting times. The removal of Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director probably wasn’t well timed for Scaramucci, but it was terrifically timed for the TCA, since we were just minutes away from a panel for Washington Week with Robert Costa. “I mean, you guys think you’re the only ones covering drama, right?” Costa cracked, taking the stage. For all of the Trumpian chaos in recent weeks, Costa actually made a courageous prediction on the next shoe to drop: None. Kinda. Maybe. “I think the next shoe to drop, there may be some stability, because I’ve known Kelly. I’ve covered General Kelly. He’s someone who doesn’t really align with the Jared Kushner wing of the White House, the more moderate wing. And he doesn’t have a close link to [Steve] Bannon and the populists, nationalists in the administration, the hardcore Trump group. So he may be able to balance,” Costa suggested. “But as we saw today, the president’s still tweeting, so he hasn’t gotten control of the Twitter yet. So we’ll see how effective he can be.”
Another apocalypse averted. Nova paneled the ominous-sounding special Black Hole Apocalypse, but several panelists made it clear that the apocalypse was not, in this case, immediately around the corner. Janna Levin, host and Barnard College professor of physics and astronomy, hedged, “Well, we are technically falling into the super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy, but that’s going to take a way long time.” She added, “I’d be more worried about Congress.” Priyamvada Natarajan, professor of astronomy of physics, at Yale University, made many in the room happy with both reassurance and a manga reference saying, “That’s been part of the long fascination with black holes, right? I mean, my favorite manga series, Inuyasha there is Miroku, who has a black hole in his hand. It’s a wind tunnel. So it’s been very effectively used because of the kind of scary and, sort of, metaphor that it has. So I think the only black hole that I’m scared of is the one on Wall Street, possibly, that seems to be becoming ultra massive.”
The Good Doctor. Somehow, we didn’t think to ask former companion Jenna Coleman her thoughts on Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who ascension and we waited for Masterpiece’s Rebecca Eaton to ask her Victoria star the big question. Not surprisingly, Coleman, appearing via satellite, was pleased. “Oh, I love it. I think it’s genius. I think she is brilliant and lovely, and I can’t wait to hear her speak. I want to her the voice. I think it’s very exciting times,” Coleman said.
In space, no one can hear you smell. Captain Scott Kelly is back on Earth after his year in space, which explains why his PBS special is called Beyond a Year in Space. While he was all afloat, he binge-watched Game of Thrones twice, missed his family and looked down on Earth a lot. He also became unfazed by the smell. “People focus on the smell of the space station. I describe it as a combination of antiseptic cleaner smell and garbage, sometimes body odor, but not entirely unpleasant, but definitely a unique smell of the antiseptic smell, which I think could be strictly from off-gassing of materials on the space station,” Kelly explained. “On Earth if you have something and it off-gasses, that smell is either going to rise or fall based on its weight compared to the weight of air. But on the space station, it just floats around for a while until it gets sucked into a filter, so smells generally linger.”
How Jonathan Groff found his voice. Jonathan Groff capped off PBS’ two press tour days with a musical set for an appreciative group of reporters, who were especially enthusiastic with the Tony nominee’s Hamilton/Beyonce mashup. Groff, there to help tease Sutton Foster’s Live From Lincoln Center installment, also did a full Q&A in which he frequently and entertainingly went blue, such as his explanation of being unable to find his personal take on King George and then watching Barbra Streisand’s rendition of “When the Sun Comes Out” from My Name Is Barbra. He explained, “[I]t’s black and white, and it’s one take, and she comes down, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, once again, Barbra Streisand!’ And she comes down the center of the thing, and she stands at the edge of the stage, and it’s like she’s fucking herself with her own voice. And she’s, like, so powerful in the way that she’s standing and the way that she’s feeling herself, and I was like, ‘That’s what I’m going to do as the king. I’m going to fuck myself with my own voice.'”
Check back tomorrow for CBS highlights…