Category: TCA Blog 2008 (Page 3 of 11)

Nina Tassler stands by her decision on “Moonlight”

Just a quickie for all you “Moonlight” lovers out there, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler had this to say about the cancellation of the show:

“Well, everybody knows I love vampires…werewolves, warlocks, I love ’em all…but the response to ‘Moonlight’ was actually more actor-centric, so I think it certainly measures our decision on the show. Right now, I don’t question the decision we made.”

Okay, what did I tell you people? If you’d just toned down the “Alex O’Loughlin is a hunka hunka burning vampire” stuff, maybe this show could’ve been saved…

(For the record, though, she did say that she’d be glad to have him back on CBS again…in another series.)

TCA Press Tour, Day 9: ABC, Pt. 2

Life on Mars: As you may (or may not) have read in my previous posting, there have been a lot of rumblings on the ‘net about how this show has had to deal with the dreaded “R” word. That’s right: retooling. It’s one of the dirtiest words in the TV business, since it implies that something’s gone so horribly wrong with the show…or, more likely, it never gelled in the first place…but whether or not this is truly the case with “Life in Mars” depends on how much you trust the ‘net.

The original series told the story of Sam Tyler of the Greater Manchester Police, who, after being hit by a car in 2006, found himself in the year 1973, where he split his time between being a cop and trying to figure out what the hell happened to him. But what’s going to happen when this thing gets Americanized?

According to producer Josh Applebaum, the differences aren’t quite as dramatic as you might want to believe, but there was a version by David Kelley at some point. “I think the main difference,” said Applebaum,” is that we’re moving the show to New York, which, for us, is a huge part of it. We’re New Yorkers. We think the show kind of will live beautifully being set in New York. When we think of the early ’70 cop genre, it speaks so much to New York as a whole, and that’s primarily the difference. David’s version was set in Los Angeles. We’re moving it to New York and just trying to recapture the spirit of the British version.

“We actually spoke to the creators from the BBC, and we sort of asked their permission to change the mythology of what’s going on with Sam Tyler, because in their version, ultimately, he was in a coma. And for us, to be doing hopefully a long-running series where you know that the whole thing is a dream or that he’s in this coma state, it felt unsatisfying. So with their permission, we are changing the mythology. And each week, we’ll be kind of deepening that mystery as to what’s going on with him. They have the three options that they sort of posed. Has he traveled through time, has he lost his mind, or is he in a coma? ”

Time will tell which of the three it is. We certainly don’t have a clue; the original pilot was scrapped, of course, but no new pilot was available for our perusal. As stands right now, I guess we should just be glad that the clips we saw did indeed feature the Bowie song which gave the show its title. (American tastes in the ’70s were just nowhere close to as cool as the UK’s tastes.)

We’re psyched that Michael Imperioli decided to sign onto the show, given that his only truly notable post-“Sopranos” appearance has been a short, underrated stint on “Law & Order”….and even that was only a temporary gig. “Well, I definitely was picky,” admitted Imperioli. “I mean, something like ‘The Sopranos’ that fulfills your creative drive for such a long period of time and challenges you is a hard act to follow. If I’m going to commit to something that hopefully is going to be on for a long time, you want something juicy and you want something different. That’s really what I was looking for. I got the script, and I was not familiar at all with the British show. To be honest, I’d never heard of it! But I thought it was very well written and a really cool idea, and the idea of doing New York detectives in 1973 really, really appealed to me a lot, just of the flavor of it and the period. Culturally, what the city was like then…the ’70s is a period of time that I have an affinity for – the music and just politically what was going on – so I was really into it. And the character…I thought there was a lot of truth to the character, and I thought he’s different enough from what I had done in the past…although it seems to be most of the stuff I’ve been doing is either a cop or a robber! But if that pays the bills, that’s okay. The other thing was that it shot in New York, which was something that I was hoping to do; if I was going to do another series, it would be in New York. So it kind of satisfied all those things at once.”

Not much else to tell you, really, except that all the Anglophiles in the viewing audience will be ready to rip this thing to shreds, so they’d better come roaring out of the gate or be ready to face the consequences.

No pressure.

Opportunity Knocks: While you have to pat the guy on the back for carving himself a niche as a television producer when just about everybody expected him to fall flat after “That ’70s Show,” I’ve never been a huge fan of Ashton Kutcher’s reality series. “Punk’d,” like all hidden-camera prank shows, had its moments, and as a self-professed geek, it would be a lie if I didn’t find myself rooting for the the guys in “Beauty & The Geek” once in awhile, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually seen an entire episode of either series. As such, there was really only one reason I stuck around for the panel for Kutcher’s new traveling game show, “Opportunity Knocks,” and that’s that…well, I just wanted to see Ashton Kutcher. (He’s a pretty big deal, you know.)

As it happens, the panel ended up being a lot of fun. The premise of the show is that the producers of the show go to the contestants’ houses, talk to their friends, family, employers, and even their friendly neighborhood postal carrier, and then they ask personal questions that, in theory, they should know the answers to. Or sometimes they’ll flip it around and play it “Newlywed Game” style, where they asked the contestant a question about themselves, and people close to them have to get it right before they reveal the answer.

The show’s host, J.D. Roth, decided that the best way to get the critics involved in the series was…well, to get them involved in the series! They called TV Guide’s Matt Roush up to the stage, and when he arrived, they revealed that, while he’d been out at the TCA Tour, they’d been in his office at TV Guide…and they had the footage to prove it. They then quizzed him about what was written on a cue card that he had saved from his work on “America’s Next Producer.” He was unable to do so…so they brought up Brill Bundy from, along with both her husband and co-worker, to see which of them knew her best. Which one did? Well, let’s just say that her co-worker won’t be sleeping on the couch for the next week or so…

Sounds like a cute enough show, and the questions don’t appear to be malicious. It wouldn’t surprise me if this turned into a sleeper hit come the fall.

TCA Press Tour, Day 9: ABC, Pt. 1

I’d just like to pat myself on the back for a moment, if I may, and say that this is the first time since the first day of the tour that I’ve actually caught up to the point where I’m writing about a network’s presentations while that network is still doing their presentations. I don’t know how many people are reading my stuff with any regularity, but given how hard I’ve been trying to knock this panel coverage out in a timely manner, those of you who are keeping up will know how much ass I’ve kicked to get this close to being completely caught up.

Okay, enough self-congratulation. On with the ABC coverage! And…what’s this? Why, it’s another executive session! Welcome, if you would, the President of ABC Entertainment, Mr. Steve McPherson.

I posted about the first question of the panel the other day, but it was so funny that it bears repeating, so here’s the exchange as it went down:

Jimmy Kimmel: Hi, my name’s Tom Weinerman from the Sarasota Star-Herald Tribune. There are rumors that ABC is actively courting Jay Leno for 11:30. Is there any truth to those rumors? And if so, I have a follow-up, then.
Steve McPherson: I don’t really feel comfortable answering that in this forum. What’s the follow-up?
Jimmy Kimmel: Is it McPherson or McPhorson?
Steve McPherson: McPherson.
Jimmy Kimmel: If anything were, God forbid, to happen, would that mean…would Ted Koppel get fired, or how would that work?
Steve McPherson: Yeah. It would be doomsday for Ted.
Jimmy Kimmel: If you were even to talk to Jay Leno, wouldn’t that be like contract tampering? Wouldn’t that be illegal? Couldn’t you go to jail for that?
Steve McPherson: It’s possible, but…you know, you have any other questions?
Jimmy Kimmel: How do you keep your hair so nice?
Steve McPherson: Can we get this guy out of here? Obviously, the Leno situation, we figured…
Jimmy Kimmel: Are you at all afraid that, if you do replace Jimmy Kimmel, he might do something crazy to you or your car?
Steve McPherson: Yes. Actually, very afraid.
Jimmy Kimmel: I’ll be out in the parking lot.


After Kimmel headed off to do untold damage to McPherson’s car, his boss assured us, “I can’t say enough about Jimmy. His show has just exploded this year. He’s done an amazing job. You know, I think everybody knows all the YouTube stuff, and the videos have been just an explosion. The live commercials he’s doing are groundbreaking. The show creatively is firing at all cylinders, and we’re hugely supportive of it. The Leno situation…to me it’s a question for NBC. I can’t believe that they’re going to let this guy go at the top of his game, and if that happens, I guess we’ll look at it at the time, and Jimmy will be involved in those discussions. And that will be that.”

So there you go.

As to other notable revelations from McPherson, they were as follows:

* Will this be the last season of “Scrubs”? More details on that later from the horse’s mouth, but as far as McPherson’s concerned, “After talking to Zach, talking to Bill, and whether and/or all of the cast is a part of that, I still think there’s a great amount of growth there. It’s a show that, despite being moved around into like 17 time periods and really never being given the marketing support, has really performed unbelievably well on NBC. So we’re excited to have it as part of our comedy assets, and we do think that it will not hopefully be a one-season situation. But we’ll just take that step by step.”

* The unique tone of “Pushing Daisies” will remain unchanged. (I guess there was some concern about that…? I couldn’t imagine they’d change a thing about it, given how it so defiantly stands apart from anything else on the television, but at least we have confirmation now.)

* “Private Practice,” meanwhile, will be tweaked to a certain extent…not the cast (thankfully, since it’s one of the best ensembles out there), but the direction. “If you watched the show last year, maybe the best episode was about the baby that was switched, and the kind of moral and ethical dilemmas that go on with that and real medical drama. We’re going to get Kate (Walsh’s) character back to actually doing surgery as part of that, which I think will be a big proponent for getting some more energy back, getting some medical drama. There’s going to be more interaction with the hospital, because I think she does an unbelievable job of character, but it works best when it’s laid over kind of a palette of these really great medical stories.” (Again, we’ll have more details when we cover the actual “Private Practice” panel.)

* As far as his position on Katherine Heigl’s war of words with the “Grey’s Anatomy” writers, “I think it’s unfortunate when there’s any kind of turmoil on a show. There’s so many people who work so unbelievably hard to make that show the #1 show in the country. I think it’s a beautifully written, beautifully acted, beautifully produced show. Everyone from the grips to the writers to the EPs, I think, deserves an enormous amount of credit, and I never like to see when any of them are in any way taken lightly, so I think that was really unfortunate. She’s absolutely staying with the show. There’s an unbelievable storyline for her this year, which is really central to everything that’s going to go on this season. We’re really excited about that. Shonda (Rhimes) is really excited about that and is the one who actually crafted that. I think you’ll hear more about that from her as the season goes on…and maybe at the Show Runner Panel.” (That’s a big 10-4, by the way.)

* According to McPherson, everything is just ducky with “Life on Mars.” “I don’t know where the rumors come from,” he said, perhaps rather naively. (Clearly, they come from the internet!) “I think people are kind of searching for something. There’s no conspiracy. It’s in great shape. We are keeping some of the cast. We’re in the process of recasting certain elements. Michael Imperioli is joining the cast. We’re pursuing a big element right now that we’re hoping will close. We’re shooting in New York, which we’re really excited about. So we continue to be extremely excited about that show. I don’t look at it as a troubled show at all. We’re really enthusiastic. We had a piece of casting that we booked two nights ago. It is a work in progress, certainly. But I would certainly not root against it at this point. It’s really one of my passion projects. It’s something we’ve been trying to bring to life for a few years.”

* The rumors are true: Katie Holmes will indeed be guest-starring on “Eli Stone.” “I was at the table read. She was fabulous,” says McPherson. “It’s a great role for her. There’s actually some singing and dancing that she does, and she’s exquisite. It’s a really special piece of business. And obviously, for a show that we really creatively believed in and had a tough launch because of the strike, it helps us from a promotional standpoint. But first and foremost, Greg (Berlanti) came to me with the idea because he really had a creative way to do it, and him and Katie wanted to get back together and do something, so we were really fortunate that she agreed to do it, and we’re excited.”

* The greatest lost ABC project of recent years: “A Will Ferrell Christmas.” “We had signed a deal to do a Christmas special variety show with Will Ferrell a couple years ago,” said McPherson, “until he realized how much money he made in features and decided to go do that instead.”

* “Boston Legal” is ending because David Kelley has 13 episodes left him. Yes, it’s apparently really just that simple. “He really wanted to end it,” said McPherson. “He really wanted to do some things with our two core characters. It was really his decision, and I really like being able to know when shows are going out. Let’s let these creators who have created unbelievably compelling characters and iconic pieces of television end it with dignity and integrity and, to me, compelling content. And we can market it as such. For us, it’s an advantage. We really appreciate David signing up and getting excited about these final 13. We’re talking about how to really sell them as this kind of final crescendo for what, for us, has been a terrific series.”

And those are pretty much the highlight’s from Mr. McPherson’s neighborhood. From there, we move on to…

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TCA Press Tour, Day 8: FX

First stop: the FX executive session, where we enjoyed a fireside chat by FX President and General Manager John Landgraf and learned a few things about what we can expect to see on the network in the future.

* “Nip/Tuck” has finished production on the final eight episodes of a 22-episode Season 5. The season will begin airing in January 2009. The network is also ordering an additional 19 episodes of “Nip/Tuck,” and which will be the final episodes of “Nip/Tuck.” The series will end its run on FX in early 2011, going out on the magic 100-episode mark.

* “Rescue Me” is currently in production on a 22-episode season, and will return in Spring 2009. Michael J. Fox will do a four-episode arc on the show, beginning in the Season 5 premiere. He will play Janet’s new boyfriend, who is confined to a wheelchair.

* Marcia Gay Harden will be joining Timothy Olyphant and William Hurt as series regulars for the second season of “Damages,” and – bonus! – Ted Danson will be back as Arthur Frobisher. (More on that when we get to the “Damages” panel.)

* Jay Karnes, a.k.a. Detective Wagenbach on “The Shield,” will be joining FX’s new series, “Sons of Anarchy,” for six episodes (and maybe more, depending on how things pan out), and Drea de Matteo will also pop up for three episodes.

* The network intends to produce 39 more episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” in addition to the 13 that are
currently in production. Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton, who created it and star in it, will remain as stars and executive producers for all 52 of those episodes, and Kaitlin Olson and Danny DeVito will stay on as series regulars.

* They’ll also be ordering 13 episodes of a new original comedy series created by Kenny Hotz, the former “South Park” writer who went on to create the excruciating Comedy Central series, “Kenny vs. Spenny.” Currently titled “Testees,” the series is a scripted comedy which focuses on two friends in their early 30s who earn their living as medical guinea pigs. It will premiere on Thursday, October 9th, at 10:30 p.m. following a new original episode of “Sunny.” I will possibly not be watching when it does.

* “The Riches” may not be back for a third season. Said Landgraf, “We haven’t made a decision yet. We are really struggling with the decision. On the one hand, you know, it’s a show I have spilled blood, sweat, and tears on with (creator) Dmitry Lipkin and with the cast. I love the show. Tremendously proud of it. It was a very challenging tone to take on. I know, because you and I talked about it, that you felt it wobbled and some of you felt it wobbled a little bit in the beginning, but I think we really stuck the landing finally and it grew into something terrific. On the other hand, it fell 44 percent in ratings from Season 1 to Season 2. So that looks to me like the core audience is much smaller, that even though the show continued to grow creatively, there was a significant amount of rejection of the show from Season 1 to Season 2. It’s always a little bit of a question: do you hold onto the past or do you sprint toward the future? And we just haven’t made that decision yet on ‘The Riches.'”

So there you have it. And, now, on to…

Damages: I’ll gladly admit that I missed out on “Damages” during its initial run on FX (I also missed out on the “Damages” panel at the press tour last year, which might have something to do with why I wasn’t caught up in all the buzz), but once the first season of the series came out on DVD, I was addicted right from the first episode and was on the edge of my seat all the way until the closing credits rolled on the season finale. And, wow, what a finale, huh? Talk about a perfect set-up for Season 2! It’s been a long wait, but the show’s coming back – tentatively, anyway – in January 2009, and co-creator Daniel Zelman began the “Damages” panel by setting the stage for what we’ll be seeing.

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TCA Press Tour, Day 7: Fox’s Sunday Animation Panel

Okay, maybe this needed its own posting and maybe it didn’t, but to my way of thinking, any panel that includes Matt Groening and Al Jean (producers of “The Simpsons”), Mike Judge and John Altschuler (producers of “King of the Hill”), Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman (producers of “American Dad”), Mike Henry and Richard Appel (producers of “The Cleveland Show”), and Seth MacFarlane (producer of “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” and “The Cleveland Show”) is automatically gonna be funny enough to get it’s own posting.

I was proven right when MacFarlane came onto the stage and, knowing that the previous panel had been for Fox News, asked, “Is this where Karl Rove sat? ‘Cause I don’t want to get AIDS…”

(When the room erupted in boos, MacFarlane grinned and replied, “Use that as the bar.”

Here are some of the panel highlights:

* The “Empire Strikes Back” episode of “Family Guy” just had its animatic screening, according to MacFarlane, and will be shipped off to be animated in a few weeks or so. No air date has been set yet, however, and there’s apparently some question about whether it might be released on DVD prior to being aired on Fox. (MacFarlane would also like to do a “Family Guy” version of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” but he’s pretty sure Paramount won’t let them do it.)

* Don’t look for any crossovers between “The Cleveland Show” and “Family Guy” anytime soon. “Cleveland’s moving out of town, and there’s a whole new fresh crop of characters,” said Henry, “and we’re not going to have Peter come visit anytime soon. Cleveland’s not going to go back anytime soon. We’re really looking to establish ourselves.”

* This year’s “Treehouse of Horror” will include a “Peanuts” parody called “It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Millhouse,” where a pumpkin comes to life and is so upset at what humans do to pumpkins that he tries to kill and eat everybody.

* Seth Rogen is writing an episode of “The Simpsons,” where Comic Book Guy creates a superhero that gets turned into a feature film, with Homer playing the lead. Seth Rogen plays a personal trainer who helps slim Homer down and get him into great shape, but when the movie ends, he can’t afford this trainer, so his life goes back to hell.

* There was silence when I first asked the panel if they had any guest stars in the upcoming season they could discuss, but Jean finally responded, “We had Mark Cuban and Jeff Bezos playing themselves with what’s probably the richest supporting cast in the history of animation.” (“Other than the ‘Simpsons’ cast,” quipped Groening.) Inspired by Jean’s forthrightness, MacFarlane then admitted that we could expect a “Family Guy” episode where Stewie and Brian go to Russia with Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd.

* Despite years of gossip to the contrary, Matt Groening and Seth MacFarlane do not dislike each other. “Matt and I get along very well,” MacFarlane assured us. “People want us to hate each other. We get along extremely well. He’s a wonderful guy.”

* When one writer mentioned that “Family Guy” was on the list of the Emmy Awards’ 10 finalists for Best Comedy and asked what Stewie would wear to the Emmys, Seth MacFarlane turned to the crowd and laughed, “Jack McGee over there, with his hard-hitting questions!” (After the laughter died down, he thanked us for getting the reference.)

* Matt Groening has an issue with 3-D eyeballs. “Know what really bothers me about animation?” he asked us. “This shows that I’m from the wrong generation. Every one of those CGI animated movies that has a cute animal in it, for me they look like toys. They look like figurines that you would see in the toy store. But that’s okay, I can get by that. It’s that they have human eyeballs with little human irises, and so whenever I’m watching any of those movies, I get freaked out because I go, ‘They put human eyeballs in those characters,’ and that really bugs me. So I like the fact that I get to work with animators who is are able to draw almost perfect circles, little ovals with dots. That’s an eyeball.”

* Although a George Bush presidency has been great for “American Dad,” Mike Barker is willing to put the country ahead of the show and root for the Democrats. “It’s going to be really interesting,” he admitted. “Stan has been on the winning side for so long. To see him deal with what is hopefully going to be the other side, it’s going to be an opportunity. It’s actually really cool for the show because it gives us a chance to see him kind of vulnerable and kind of more frustrated. So we’re looking forward to it for more reasons than one.”

* When someone asked the panel what they might say to the person who might say, “I can’t watch this, it’s just a cartoon,” MacFarlane suggested, “Give ‘Scrubs’ a chance?” (After the “Scrubs” panel, Lawrence was informed of this jab and replied with a smirk, “Wow, MacFarlane’s doing another cartoon, huh? Gosh, but he does so much other stuff!” He then clarified that he and MacFarlane have a relationship, and that “it’s okay to fuck with each other.”)

* When the panel was asked if they were concerned that they might accidentally steal stuff from each other, Appel assured them that he consciously steals stuff from them, while Mike Henry said, “I don’t know if people know, but the scripts for ‘The Cleveland Show’ are just going to be ‘Good Times’ episodes.”

* As long as Fox wants “The Simpsons,” Groening and Jean are ready to keep doing the show. “We’re having a really good time,”confirmed Groening. “The task that we face at ‘The Simpsons’ is trying not to repeat ourselves, trying to come up with new ideas that we haven’t done ourselves already. And under the guidance of Al, the animators and writers are coming up with ideas that I don’t think we’ve done before.” “And that we’re really excited about,” added Jean, who also acknowledged that “since we’re not now doing a movie and a ride at the same time as the show, it’s kind of easy.”

* Mike Judge has no definite idea when “King of the Hill” will end, but it sounds like he wouldn’t be surprised if it ended tomorrow. “I keep thinking I’ve got one bad season in me, and then we end up having some really good episodes,” he said. “Then I think the next one will be the bad last one. I don’t know. It seems like as long as the episodes are still good, I’ll keep doing it as long as FOX renews it and, you know, it’s still fun.”

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