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The CW has made a solid recent tradition of doing a strong half-day of panels at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour on Golden Globes Sunday, followed by a tailgate lunch with playoff football, followed by a pair of Globes victories for Gina Rodriguez and Rachel Bloom.
Unfortunately, neither Bloom nor Rodriguez won at the Globes this year, but otherwise the network’s run of good fortune continued with a TCA day that started with a round of applause from clapping-averse critics directed at The CW president Mark Pedowitz, who ignored network peer pressure and held an executive press conference.
In addition to Pedowitz’s turn at the podium, Sunday morning featured a heated discussion of complex Archie mythology and the new drama Riverdale, talk of brain-tasting from the iZombie gang and an in-depth explanation of some of the special effects that drive the network’s DC shows.
*** Before the applause, but after an announcement of renewals for seven dramas, including a season 13 pick-up for Supernatural, Pedowitz joked about one of the most regular TCA queries by asking, “Are there any Supernatural questions?”
Of course there were, specifically wondering whether anything short of the two stars leaving could kill the series.
“I was hoping for a bar mitzvah this year for a 13th season,” the exec cracked. “I think it was a way to honor it, 300 episodes, 13th season. You can never tell. Look, I said this ad infinitum. I’m sure you can quote me. As long as it’s performing and the boys want to do it and I’m sitting in this chair, this show has a long life.”
[THR‘s full CW executive session panel coverage.]
*** You will get no better picture of the Hollywood creative process than Archie Comics chief creative officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s explanation for how Riverdale came to be in its current form on The CW, starting with a pitch for a coming-of-age Archie movie that then became a pitch for Warner Bros. executives as a TV show.
“So we go to the kickoff meeting, and [one of the vice presidents at Warner Bros.] said, ‘I’ve been thinking about this, and I think you guys kind of need to do something a little more high concept, a little bigger than just a coming-of-age show,'” Aguirre-Sacasa recalled. “And I said, ‘Great. We’re open to that.’ He’s like, ‘I want you to think about time travel.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He’s like, ‘Archie traveling through time.’ And I said, ‘Okay.'”
Now admit it. You’re at least partially intrigued.
Continued Aguirre-Sacasa: “And he’s like, ‘It seems like you don’t like the time-travel thing. I got another thing. Portals.’ And I’m like, ‘Portals?’ ‘Portals are huge. This is a portal to another dimension.’ And we’re just sitting there, like, gobsmacked. And this was the greatest one, which I think is actually a funny idea. He’s like, ‘What if Louis C.K. is Archie?’ And it was like an episode out of Entourage.”
It was Greg Berlanti who told Aguirre-Sacasa that they were going to need a dead body.
“And that’s when the show really crystallized artistically,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “It went from just being a coming-of-age show to a loss of innocence show, and it really kind of framed every story we would tell, which would be kind of a more traditional Archie coming-of-age story, but something that was also a little bit darker, a little bit moodier, a little bit more noir. And that sort of became how the show evolved.”
Riverdale is interesting in its own way, but now I’ll forever lament the Louis C.K. time-traveling Archie we never got.
[Our full Riverdale panel coverage.]
*** In other news, Luke Perry is a good sport. The Beverly Hills, 90210 icon, who plays Archie’s dad on Riverdale, followed Aguirre-Sacasa’s answer by beginning his own first answer with, “Well, when they said, ‘We need a dead body,’ I think I was the one they were talking about.”
Then the actor smiled amiably when his onscreen son KJ Apa listened to a question about seeing 90210 in New Zealand and responded, “I didn’t, but my mom definitely did.”
In other news, Perry and Mädchen Amick are parents on a CW show, as if you needed new reasons to feel old.
*** The gimmick of iZombie is that every week offers Rose McIver the chance to play her character, Liv, through a different prism as she takes on the attributes of whichever brain she eats. It’s given McIver one of TV’s most amusing acting challenges, but it turns out that the actress has at least limited veto power when it comes to her alter ego.
“It’s the reason that I love my job so much is I get to play the variety and do a little of everything,” she said. “But I’m genuinely terrified knowing what brains I might not have a clue how to perform. And I remember, this season, I went into the writers’ room before we started, and they said, ‘Okay. We’ve got a list of, like, 35 brains. You are allowed to veto one.’ And they were just everything that you could imagine and terrifying all sorts of adventurous, scary things. And a couple of them came up. What did I veto?”
Series executive producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright reminded McIver that a cat lady brain was the one she vetoed. Given what she’s played on the show, why was that where the actress drew the line?
“I’m a dog person. I’ll say that,” McIver half-explained. “And they found out that it would be a great prank to play on me to pretend that there was this brain that I would have to eat where I was interacting with, like, seven cats in a bedroom. Anyway, that was the one that I was, like, ‘Absolutely not. Let’s get rid of that.'”
*** The effects on the DC shows may be newfangled, but it takes some old-fangled acting to help sell the digital magic.
“[W]e’re very blessed across all of the shows that we have so many actors whose background is in theater, where I think there’s a greater reliance on imagination,” said Andrew Kreisberg, who has written and produced on several of the DC shows. “So, when you’ve got Victor Garber and Jesse Martin and Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist, you know, they’re able to draw on that theatrical background. And I think it helps them fill in the blanks when they are fighting nothing but air or a tennis ball hanging from a ceiling.”
Asked what the most difficult effect is to create even in 2017, the consensus response: hair.
*** OK, fine. One last Riverdale quote.
There are plenty of things for old-school Archie purists to get outraged by, but nothing upset this summer-camp Archie hoarder quite so much as the decision to somehow turn “Sugar” into a song originated by Josie and the Pussycats.
I asked if this means that nothing is sacred.
Explained Aguirre-Sacasa: “[W]e really, really wanted to have Josie and the Pussycats, and we really wanted them to be Riverdale’s answer to Destiny’s Child or the Dreamgirls. And regarding ‘Sugar, Sugar,’ I really wanted to use it in the pilot and we couldn’t get it into the pilot. So, when we were doing a big pep rally, I was, like, it’s going to be with cheerleaders; it’s going to be at the pep rally. But by that point Archie hadn’t yet formed his band. And I was like, screw it, the Pussycats are going to do it. And we found a really, really great version of it. And you’re right, it’s sacred territory that we’re treading on with that.”
Stay tuned for CBS and Showtime quotes on Tuesday.
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