TCA Press Tour, Day 12: The CW

Well, as I mentioned a few posts ago, I wasn’t around for any of The CW’s panels after their “90210” presentation…which, as it happens, was their very first panel. Fortunately, however, the beauty of being a member of the TCA is that I can still provide you with highlights from the panels I missed. God bless transcripts, that’s what I say…

Even before we offer up the “90210” coverage, however, let’s take a gander the info that emerged from the executive session hosted by the President of Entertainment at The CW, Ms. Dawn Ostroff.

* Like last year, The CW brought us details of a new reality show. This time, however, it’s not as underwhelming a pitch as “Crowned” or “Farmer Wants A Wife.” Not that I didn’t end up watching those shows, but “13 – Fear is Real” is one that I actually want to watch, since it’s executive-produced by Sam Raimi and Jay Bienstock. “The best way to describe this show is ‘The Blair Witch Project’ as a reality show,” said Ostroff. “It’s a competition show, but there’s certainly a lot of tension, a lot of fear, and it’s different. There’s an environment that they created in the bayou of Louisiana where, of course, they know it’s a reality show, but the intensity of the situation that they’re living in and the kinds of challenges that they’re faced with really feel real to them while they’re in it. This is hot off of the editing bay…this week, as a matter of fact…and it was shocking to see how invested these contestants were. I mean, they really felt the horror.”

* There wasn’t much “Reaper” news, unfortunately, except that it definitely has a place on the schedule in mid-season. “It’s a great show for us to have in our arsenal,” said Ostroff. “It’s a show that we believe in, which is why we picked it up.” Yeah, but let’s call a spade a spade: they only believed in it enough to pick it up as a mid-season replacement, not for a full season. We can only hope that, come mid-season, the show’s fanbase has built up enough steam to keep it rolling for a third year.

* There is currently no plan for another season of “Beauty and the Geek.” There is also no formal word of cancellation, however.

* And I’ve saved this bit for last because, frankly, I don’t want to believe it, but…ugh…Ostroff claims to have been happy with the time-jump on “One Tree Hill.” “Our expectations were we would do something different that felt, certainly, in line with the show, because the actors had gotten older,” Ostroff said, “and they were excited about the idea of playing characters closer to their real age. We know that when characters often go into college years on a show, it’s sort of hard to keep them together, and the storylines aren’t quite as relatable, so the idea of jumping the show four years forward, having the characters outside of college, in the working world, being young adults, just felt like the time was right. We knew we would have interesting storylines for each of the characters, and Mark Schwahn is just a really good writer. He took all of these characters and put them into young adulthood, created new arcs, new situations, and the show had a renaissance. I mean, it was a great idea, and it really did pay off for us.”

Pft. The results still felt trite to me, and I’m not backing down on this.

Okay, now we move on to…

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TCA Press Tour, Day 11: Showtime

It’s rather gratifying to see Showtime continue to grow into its own as a premium cable network that can compete with HBO. For so long, they were hovering just a shade higher than Cinemax in the eyes of viewers (I don’t know about anyone else, but I distinctly remember seeing many a bare breast on the network back in the day), but now they’ve got a reputation for having at least as much quality original programming as the folks over at Home Box Office, and their popularity is such that the network earned their own executive session.

Matthew Blank offered us a heartfelt introduction, along with the announcement that “Inside the NFL” will be coming to Showtime next season, then promptly passed the buck to Robert Greenblatt, the network’s President of Entertainment, who provided us with several other revelations about upcoming programming:

* Coming soon: “The United States of Tara,” which stars Toni Collette and John Corbett, is executive-produced and based on an idea by Steven Spielberg, and is written by Diablo Cody.

* There are very serious discussions about an “L-Word” spin-off, though it seems to exist predominantly on paper at this stage of the game. “Eileen Chaiken is creating that for us,” said Greenblatt. “We’re going to be shooting it right after ‘The L Word’ wraps this year, and it will star one of the girls from ‘The L Word’ as a sort of crossover. The storyline at the end of ‘The L Word,’ the final episode in the final season, there will be an open-ended component to it. And Eileen is going to carry that story along on the Internet, which we think is an interesting way to keep ‘The L Word’ experience going. Then if we decide to go ahead with the spin-off that storyline will segue into the new series.” He would not, however, commit to which girl was intended as the star of the spin-off, mostly because the actress hasn’t even been told that she’s under consideration yet!

* Another season of “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” has been ordered, and with this 7th season, it will officially become the longest-running series in the history of Showtime.

* There will be a new reality documentary series called “Locked and Loaded,” which is not about Denis Leary but, rather, about a gun store in rural Colorado. Greenblatt described the series as “sort of a fly-on-the-wall show. You see many, many different kinds of people coming into a gun store, and you see the reasons why they buy handguns and rifles and all kinds of other things.”

* Based on the creative success (but, ultimately, due in no small part to the ratings success) of “Weeds,” the network has ordered two more 13-episode seasons of the show.

* After much discussion on the ‘net about the possibility, Greenblatt confirmed that the Edie Falco pilot, currently known as “Nurse Jackie” (a title which may or may not stick), has been ordered to series. She plays what Greenblatt describes as “a very complicated nurse in a New York City hospital,” and based on the clips we saw, by “very complicated,” he means she’s a drug addict. And, yes, someone else did bring up the similarity to “House,” but Greenblatt assured us that “it’s not going to be big medical story of the week necessarily. I think it’s a different take on a medical show that’s grounded by a really iconic, caustic character played by a great actress.”

* Even though they’re limited by history, Greenblatt thinks that there’s at least another two years of plot possibilities left in “The Tudors.” “The third season is the next two (wives of Henry VIII), Anne of Cleves and Jane Seymour…I love meeting people who think Jane Seymour, the actress, is in the show…and then the following season, I think, will be the final two wives,” he theorized.

* The future of “This American Life” is murky. “Ira (Glass) is not only the most dedicated person in the world, he’s a perfectionist and he doesn’t want to put any episode out that isn’t really extraordinary,” said Greenblatt. “And I will tell you that’s not true of all producers. He’s also doing a radio show, and he will not let anything affect the quality of the radio show. And the same people are doing the radio show and the TV show. So every year, we step back and have a conversation with him. ‘Can we do ten? Can we do eight? Can we do six?’ There may be a year where we do a couple of long-form specials with him and we don’t do episodes of the show, per se, because it’s really hard to find those stories. They don’t just fall into his lap.” To put a fine point on it, a third season has not officially been ordered, but per Greenblatt, “We’re talking to (Ira) about how many he wants to do and what form it might take.”

* Showtime is currently planning to air the three seasons of “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” – one’s already aired in the UK, Season 2 premieres there in September, and the third has been commissioned but hasn’t yet begun filming – and reserves the right to consider airing any future seasons, should there be any. “But,” added Greenblatt, “it looks like a
franchise that there’s a lot of interest in.”

Okay, that’s that. Now, we move onto a panel described as “Showtime’s SHO Stoppers,” which featured the stars and producers of the network’s four signature series: Weeds (Mary-Louise Parker and Jenji Kohan), Californication (David Duchovny and Tom Kapinos), Dexter (Michael C. Hall and Clyde Phillips), and Brotherhood (Jason Clarke and Blake Masters).

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TCA Press Tour, Day 11: CBS, Pt. 2

You may have noticed that my postings have slowed down. You might not have cared, but you’ve probably at least noticed, if only because you haven’t gotten four or five Diggs from me every day. Well, there are two reasons for that: the first is that we’re dealing with days with one broadcast network as opposed to five or six different cable networks, and the second is that my wife joined me on Friday, and given that I hadn’t seen her since July 7th, I wanted to focus more on her than my work for a change.

C’mon, I earned a break! And it’s not like I wasn’t still attending all of these panels for you…well, except for the majority of The CW’s panels. I must admit that, after the “90210” presentation, we hit the road and went to Universal Studios…and, yet, even then I was working, so be sure to stay tuned for my coverage of the new ‘Simpsons’ ride, which was awesome.

But, okay, enough of my apologies. Let’s continue with CBS’s presentations, shall we?

The Mentalist: I’d like to take this moment to give a shout-out to my mother-in-law, who was interested in this series before it was even on my radar. When I told her I had started to get my usual flurry of advance screeners in preparation for the TCA tour, the first question she asked was, “Hey, have you gotten one for that show ‘The Mentalist’ yet?” In fact, I had just gotten one that day…and when I told her, she all but flipped out. “We need to watch that when I come over for dinner on Friday!” she informed me. She kept trying to tell us about the shows that the series’ star had been in, except that she was blanking on both his name and his other shows, but a quick trip to IMDb.com solved both problems, at which point she gave a look of disdain when I admitted that I’d never actually seen an episode of Simon Baker’s previous series, “The Guardian.”

Finally, as we began to screen the pilot, the truth came out: she thinks he’s hot.

I can’t speak to the man’s inherent hotness because I don’t want “The Mentalist” to fall victim to what is henceforth to be referred to as “The ‘Moonlight’ Effect.” I really, really dug what I saw, possibly because it reminds me of what “Psych” could be if James Roday didn’t grate on my nerves. It’s a drama about a guy named Patrick Jane (Baker) who has honed his observational skills to a degree where he was able to make a living as a TV psychic, but he’s since given that up and become a detective. He’s got a major ego, but it’s warranted, given how good he is at what he does. Still, it’s been known to backfire on occasion; he has a dark history which is hinted at during the course of the pilot and will be explored during the course of the series.

Baker admitted that he got particular enjoyment out of playing the flashback scenes to his character’s early days. “That was a lot of fun,” he said, “because you’re playing an actor and you get to actually comment on the shallowness of acting. You’re commenting on yourself, so it’s sort of self-deprecating in a sense. I love that the character is a fraud and is aware of his fraudulent nature.”

Baker did not, however, have an opportunity to do much research for on playing a TV psychic, given the speed at which things happened with his casting and the pilot’s subsequent filming. “I was flown in from Australia, met with Bruno (Heller, producer) the day I arrived,” said Baker, “and a day and a half later, we were shooting, basically. So Bruno said, ‘Have a look at a few different people on YouTube,’ and I had a look at stuff. Next thing, I had my whole family around me, we’re all going, ‘Oh, my God, how did he do that? How did he do that?’ And then on YouTube, there’s also people posting other clips where they debunk, explaining how these tricks are working through NLP, neurolinguistic programming.It’s just tip-of-the-surface of the knowledge that these people have, so I didn’t ask anything. We had a consultant from the Magic Castle, who was more of a sleight-of-hand guy, but he had a few different hypnotizing tricks and stuff like that. And Bruno furnished me with a bunch of literature, holiday reading. It’s very heady stuff. What these guys get into and the skills that they have and then the capacity to remember things and move forward is…it’s too much for me. I’m pretending totally 100 percent to be a mentalist.”

To bring things full circle, let us note that Heller is aware of the similarities to “Psych,” but he’s not worried about critics making snarky comments. “Patrick Jane isn’t pretending to be a psychic,” explained Heller. “He was someone who worked as a psychic but now is very honest and direct about not having those powers, so there’s no pretense. They’re two quite different shows. You can always draw parallels with other shows, but this is much more like Sherlock Holmes than (‘Psych’).”

I second that emotion.

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TCA Press Tour, Day 11: CBS, Pt. 1

Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t deny that CBS has been talked about quite a lot in the last couple of years. First, “Jericho” got the network lots of press as a result of their decision to resurrect the show for a second season because of fan demand, then it got them even more when they canceled the show for good after it failed to win the appropriate ratings. In recent weeks, they’ve been dealing with bitter vampire fans who can’t believe that “Moonlight” managed to win the People’s Choice Award for Best New Series, only to get canceled when it, too, failed to win the ratings necessary to earn it a sophomore season. Last year, Mandy Patinkin’s abrupt decision to bail out of “Criminal Minds” was all the talk of the TCA Tour, and, now, William Petersen is leaving “C.S.I.,” which is also chat-worthy.

CBS President Nina Tassler took all comers in her Executive Session, and here are the highlights…besides that bit about “Moonlight,” of course.

* The future of “Swingtown” is ambiguous at best. “I’m very proud of the show, I love the show, everybody knows how passionate I’ve been about it,” she said. “I wish the ratings were better, but this is the life we’ve chosen for ourselves. But right now, we’re behind the show and we are proud of it.” When further questioned as to whether “proud” translated into “second season,” however, she wouldn’t commit. “We haven’t made that decision right now, but I am proud of the show. Creatively, I think they’re doing a great job.” (She also reiterated her disappointment in the ratings, which is surely not a good sign.)

* Despite much prodding, Tassler claimed to have no actor in place to fill the shoes of “Billy Petersen” in “C.S.I..” “I don’t think you replace Billy,” Tassler said, “but you sort of look at adding elements to the show that are really going to invigorate and contribute to the alchemy of the show where it is today. They’ve created a great character. He’s a doctor, a scientist who’s got a very interesting DNA that is going to inform the duality of the character. Like I said, it’s not necessarily replacing Billy, but it’s adding an element that is going to sort of inform the dynamic of the team today. What I know of him so far…Carol (Mendelsohn) and Naren (Shankar) are still working on him…is that he is an outsider coming into the CSI unit. When Gil Grissom leaves, he’s the head of the unit, (but) this character doesn’t come in at the beginning as the head of the unit. He comes in a little bit as an outsider, someone who is ultimately going to work his way up within the team and ultimately become the head of the unit. But he has an interesting genetic profile that, in certain sort of medical contexts, they’ve noticed that many times serial killers have that same genetic profile. And this gentleman knows this about himself and is sort of in this journey and to discover who his true character will ultimately become.” The gentleman in question, however, has not yet been cast, and if there’s anyone under discussion, his name did not leak out during the course of the panel.

* Disappointingly, “Harper’s Island,” the new thriller series starring Bill Pullman, is not scheduled to debut ’til mid-season. (Okay, granted, it’s probably not any better than your average slasher flick, since that’s clearly what it resembles, but I was still entertained by the teaser reel they sent us.)

* There is no controversy over the omission of Jay Mohr’s new sitcom, “Gary Unmarried,” from the panels. “Jay is re-taking his vows with his wife and her entire family on the other side of the world someplace,” Tassler explained. “He planned this about a year ago, and he flew over his in-laws and his whole family, so that’s why he’s not here right now.”

* Sophina Brown has joined the cast of “Numb3rs,” and Rocky Carroll has become a regular on “NCIS.”

* Despite doing relatively well on CBS this summer, there are no plans to continue re-running “Dexter” on CBS.

* There are six more episodes of “Password” being filmed, but there is no concrete time-frame as to when they will air. There is no word on the return of “Power of 10,” though CBS apparently reserves the right to bring it back. (At the very least, Tassler never said it was canceled.)

* There will also be more Hallmark movies aired on the network, though no specifics were offered.

* Despite rumors to contrary, there is no plan for an overhaul of “The Price Is Right.” “We are very respectful of the brand and the integrity of that show,” Tassler assured us, “and probably about a year, two years before Bob finally stepped down, there was a multiyear strategy to perhaps put a fresh coat of paint on some of the games that hadn’t been touched in years. As you’ve seen, the sets have been refurbished, but certainly respectful of what those doors looked like, what the lights looked like, but this is all basically it was a plan that was put in place years before Bob left just to sort of make some minor adjustments to the show.”

* Tassler revealed that Sarah Chalke will be doing multiple episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” this year (hey, maybe Bill Lawrence was right!) and that Jason Alexander and Luke Perry would be turning up on “Criminal Minds.”

* As to the problems with “Two and a Half Men” becoming “Three Men,” Tassler says, “You’re going to see Angus is going to be going through typical teen things. I mean, he’s 14. So it opens up a whole new treasure trove of stories. Charlie’s got a whole host of issues that he has to deal with in terms of having a teenager in the house, so it forms a great season of new storytelling for them on the show.”

* “Flashpoint” may return. Or it may not. “Like I said, we’re in the ratings game,” said Tassler, “and if they do well, it’s certainly something for us to consider.”

And that’s the end. From there, we move into…

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Why Craig Ferguson is the coolest talk show host on TV today

Because for the second year running, he bought us pizza for our TCA meeting.

  

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