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CBS arrived at the Television Critics Association press tour on Wednesday (August 10) morning prepared to eat a little crow for a day of panels featuring six new shows, all featuring white leads. Things got heated in the executive session with Glenn Geller, and a generational war nearly broke out during the panel for The Great Indoors, followed by a distinct lack of energy from the team behind the largely re-shot Man With a Plan.
It was the afternoon before there was any real recovery, with Bryan Fuller pitching his CBS All Access Star Trek Discovery.
Check out some highlight quotes from Wednesday’s CBS TCA day:
*** Sorry, CBS’ Glenn Geller, but this is how not to answer a question about inclusivity behind the camera: “Sometimes our showrunners are diverse. Sometimes they’re not diverse. These are the shows we picked up. We pick up the best shows from the pilots we make.”
Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid noting that sometimes CBS also picks up MacGyver in its second or third redevelopment, ditches the original pilot and most of the supporting cast and starts over, so sometimes when something is important to CBS, the “best shows from the pilots we make” clause isn’t as crucial.
*** After a long run on a cult-y single-cam comedy on NBC, Joel McHale is likely to draw the biggest audience of his career on CBS’ The Great Indoors, regardless of whether the multi-cam attracts a similar cult following. But what brought him to CBS? Well, various things.
“I wanted to do a sitcom, and I’ve always wanted to do a four-camera sitcom,” McHale said. “And you always hear the criticism about them, but I believe they are funny and will be. And, obviously, CBS is very good at making them. When I saw Mike’s script, other than the horrible grammar, misspellings and it was almost all handwritten, actually so I thought this is a world that can go and I also like workplace comedies. So this is a world that it’s a big sandbox. And that’s how I felt about Community when I first read it. I was like, ‘Oh, this can go anywhere.’ So that all wonderfully came together. And I bought a new house, and I need to pay it off.”
*** Many people are comparing CBS’ still-pilotless Friday drama MacGyver to, well, MacGyver, but can you still do a straight-forward and earnest MacGyver in a post-MacGruber age? Peter Lenkov, the project’s latest showrunner, feels you can.
“I look at it, if you are spoofed on Saturday Night Live or MAD Magazine, then you’ve made it,” Lenkov said. “I look at MacGruber as the same thing. This is such a strong franchise. I don’t think that is, in any way, going to affect us. In fact, it’s like when I was a kid and read MAD Magazine, I still would watch my favorite show even though it was spoofed in the magazine. It only made me realize that I was watching something that other people were watching as well. So I don’t think so. In fact, I think, we talk about MacGruber all the time because we are all fans of it.”
Added co-star George Eads, “We try to keep it light and acknowledge that right away because, when I first read the pilot, the first 10 pages, seriously, I was kind of laughing because I was imagining it being MacGruber, really, not MacGyver, you know. But I like to laugh.”
*** Kevin James’ new sitcom Kevin Can Wait promises to offer fans what they like from the King of Queens star, but James insists there will be at least some maturation of his comic persona.
“I don’t want it just to be all big guy slipping and falling down and all of the nonsense, although there’s parts of that that’s fun, but I want it to be a little bit more closer to real life and some events,” James said. “Being a police officer automatically is going to invite different situations and things we can play off of, not that we are going to get so serious. It’s a sitcom. We have got to remember what we are doing, but there can be moments.”
But don’t expect anything as serious as CBS’ Emmy-winning Mom.
“Not that serious, no,” James said. “Yeah, we don’t want to get too deep. I look at this is a release. It’s a fun time for everybody to get together and kind of forget your problems, in a way, and just kind of enjoy, see other people being funny and this and that.”
*** Asked about how Star Trek Discovery might take advantage of the looser boundaries of CBS All Access to deliver a more mature experience for fans, creator Bryan Fuller got … gross. And also thoughtful.
“Well, there’s a reason we call it STD. It’s not a nebula you’re flying through. It’s cloudy discharge,” Fuller cracked. “We’re going to have a broader spectrum to explore those issues, but it is still Star Trek. And we are not subject to broadcast standards and practices, but neither you know, Hannibal was, and we got away with murder. So there will probably be slightly more graphic content. And we discuss every day about language and what’s appropriate and how far should we go and is it appropriate to see a bridge blow up and have somebody say, ‘Oh, shit’ or stronger than that. So it’s something that we’re weighing as we’re going on, and we have to feel our way through it. I imagine we’re going to shoot scenes a couple of ways and figure out what feels authentic when we’re in the editing room.”
*** Laverne Cox definitely had the most erudite answer on the panel for CBS’ midseason drama Doubt, referring to Jose Esteban Munoz’s writings on disidentification, while Dule Hill may have gotten the most regular laughs with jokes about Steven Pasquale’s hair, but Dreama Walker probably provided the biggest shock with the revelation that she’s not actually a wide-eyed Midwesterner just arriving in the big city.
“I’m a part Puerto Rican girl from Florida, for goodness sake! I don’t know why this keeps happening to me,” the Don’t Trust the B star lamented.
“You *are* from Tampa,” Cox shot back.
“But, like, what does that mean?” Walker mused. “There aren’t that many cows. I don’t know what it is. People always think I’m from the Midwest, and I’m part Hispanic and part Italian. I don’t know. If you could tell me, if any of you could tell me! I don’t know what it is, but everyone thinks I have a Midwestern accent. I don’t know what it is.”
*** Me, I don’t understand why the Dr. Phil proxy in CBS’ Bull has three PhDs in psychology according to the Bull pilot. That prompted this conversation between creator Paul Attanasio and me. This is the verbatim official transcript (including the parentheticals):
Question: For the producers, Dr. Phil was just mentioning his credentials. I’m curious why Dr. Bull has three PhDs in psychology and what exactly that means as a credential.
Paul Attanasio: Well, he does. He has three different expertises, [and] Dr. Phil in real life has three different expertises that he completed in his psychology training, so …
Question: But he doesn’t have three PhDs. He has a PhD in three disciplines.
Paul Attanasio: OK. You win.
Question: No, I’m just curious why that’s a lily that you wanted to gild regarding a man’s credentials. I mean, he’s obviously qualified, but …
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