TCA Winter Press Tour 2016: Reboots, Reunions and Steven Avery

TCA 16 Recap
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Now that a few days have passed since journalists and critics have decamped from Pasadena, Calif. for the annual two-week grind of Television Critics Association winter press tour, Variety‘s TV team has taken stock of the most noteworthy trends.

Sean Penn’s El Chapo interview grabbed headlines, as did his sitdown with Charlie Rose — along with any mention of Donald Trump, “Making A Murderer,” and unintended cast reunions. (No, the “Friends” cast is not getting back together.) But nothing occupied TCA as much as a report on Netflix’s ratings in a presentation by NBC research president Alan Wurtzel — which Netflix chief Ted Sarandos handily dismissed in his exec session as “remarkably inaccurate.”

And then, of course, there was all the usual chatter about “Peak TV,” which has now hit a high of 412 scripted series.

For those who didn’t make it to the Langham Hotel, here’s what you missed:

Diversity: Even before #OscarsSoWhite began trending, diversity was a hot topic at TCA

  • Many network presidents were asked about diversifying their slates, including newly minted CBS prez Glenn Geller, who teased a non-white “Nancy Drew” series
  • “American Crime Story’s” Ryan Murphy was asked about racial stereotypes in his shows, including “Scream Queens” to which he responded: “That story was about a group of young people in the sorority-fraternity system, and a lot of that was based on actual things … about what this group of privileged, largely white kids were doing.”
  • The “Rush Hour” panel got heated when a press member asked about the stereotypical portrayal of characters, causing exec producer Bill Lawrence to come to his star Justin Hires’ defense. Read what happened here.
  • More panels that covered diversity on TV included NBC’s “Telenovela,” “Shades of Blue” and “Carmichael Show,” “HBO’s “Confirmation,” Netflix’s “Master of None” and ABC’s “Uncle Buck”

The Power of Women: Central female characters and gender equality were topics of discussion during many Q&As

  • Ellen Barkin discussed her “Animal Kingdom” role on her TNT panel. In comparison to some of her former roles in years past, she said, “We definitely had our fair share of male villains, if you will, so now it’s time to have some grown-up bad girls.”
  • Introducing her new late-night show, Samantha Bee talked about about the lack of women in late-night saying, “I do not have any theories. We’re quite puzzled by it as well, but we’re happy to take up the mantle.”
  • TCA boasted a wealth of female topliners including Jennifer Lopez (NBC’s “Shades of Blue”), Eva Longoria (NBC’s “Telenovela”), Krysten Ritter (Netflix’s “Jessica Jones”), Ellie Kemper (Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Sutton Foster (TV Land’s “Younger”) and showrunners for CW’s “Jane the Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” to name a few. In addition to the female showrunner panel, CW also brought together a full panel of women from “The 100” to discuss the fan-favorite show, as did Netflix for “Orange Is the New Black” and TV Land for “Teachers.”

Animal House: It’s not just actors and producers who attend TCA…

  • There were not many dry eyes in the room during NatGeo Wild‘s panel about an animal rescue show for which one of the cast members cried with her once-missing cat in her lap
  • Rashida Jones and the Carells were joined by “Angie Tribeca’s” real star — Jagger the dog — on stage
  • The “Puppy Bowl” promotion was in full force as teensy pups ran around outside the ballroom to perk up press members (see evidence here)
  • Jane Fonda brought her along her pooch for her “Grace and Frankie” panel

Love Is In the Air: TCA almost functioned as date night for many real-life couples who sat on panels at the press tour

  • Husband-and-wife “Daily Show” alums Jason Jones (“The Detour,” TBS) and Samantha Bee (“Full Frontal,” TBS)
  • Steve and Nancy Carell who were both at TCA to support their TBS comedy “Angie Tribeca”
  • Austin Butler (MTV’s “Shannara Chronicles”) and Vanessa Hudgens (Fox’s “Grease Live), who publicly support each other at industry events, were both on hand for their separate projects
  • “Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail‘s fiance Emmy Rossum was not at TCA, but her Showtime dramedy “Shameless” was renewed for Season 7 during the press tour
  • “The Americans” co-stars and real-life expectant parents Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys sat on a panel together, promoting the fourth season of their critically-acclaimed FX drama

Let’s Talk About Sex: Press tour got a little inappropriate — hey, anything to get journalists’ attention, right?

  • “Yes, I’ve done anal” was Nikki Glaser‘s ice breaker of choice during her Comedy Central panel for her talk show “Not Safe With Nikki Glaser”
  • Kelly Rowland is helming a girl band talent search show for BET, called “Chasing Destiny,” but during the TCA, the press learned a bit too much about the girls on the docuseries when one of Rowland’s fellow panelists said they all “get their periods at the same time” to an unimpressed, but hard-to-shock, room of journalists
  • Even NatGeo got into the X-games, presenting their upcoming sex series “Original Sin”

It’s Getting Hot In Here: Some panels got a bit tense…

  • NBC execs take on Trump: When NBC chief Bob Greenblatt and alternative boss Paul Telegdy were asked about Donald Trump’s involvement with the network, given NBC’s decision to cut ties with the presidential candidate, Greenblatt said the “earth didn’t fall off its axis” for having Trump on “SNL,” while Telegdy later apologized for appearing to be defensive.
  • The “Rush Hour” team was questioned about racial stereotypes and when a press member wouldn’t let go of his opinion, exec producer Bill Lawrence responded, “You’re coming at the question from a very negative angle. It’s designed to put us on the offensive, but that’s your prerogative. You’re a journalist.”
  • While paneling for Season 2 of her E! series “I Am Cait,” Caitlyn Jenner responded to the comments made by Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes, offering to step in herself as host next year
  • Ted Sarandos was hounded about Netflix’s ratings, per usual. “Why NBC would use their lunch slot with you to talk about our ratings?” he said. “Maybe because it’s more fun than talking about NBC ratings.”

Cast Reunions (Unintentional): These reunions weren’t planned, but many familiar faces from old favorites were in Pasadena

  • Mad Men: Alums Christina Hendricks, Jay Ferguson and Alison Brie were all on hand to support their new shows Sundance’s “Hap and Leonard,” ABC’s “The Real O’Neals” and TV Land’s “Teachers,” respectively.
  • Desperate Housewives: Felicity Huffman was at TCA for Season 2 of ABC’s “American Crime,” while Eva Longoria was there for her new sitcom “Telenovela”
  • Felicity: Did anyone get ‘90s nostalgia with “The Americans” star Keri Russell and “Animal Kingdom’s” Scott Speedman?
  • The Following: Natalie Zea was a lot less scary on her panel for family comedy “The Detour” and James Purefoy was far from a murdering as he was charmingly chatty on the “Hap and Leonard” panel
  • House: They’re no longer playing doctors, but Hugh Laurie was busy with AMC’s “Night Manager” and Olivia Wilde was cracking up with her HBO “Vinyl” producers Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese
  • Community: Along with Brie, the Greendale gang was in force, along with Gillian Jacobs (Netflix’s “Love”), Donald Glover (FX’s “Atlanta”) and Joel McHale (Fox’s “X-Files” reboot)

More Reunions (Intentional): Just like this past development cycle, reboots and spinoffs were a hot trend at TCA, reuniting some famous friends

  • Netflix: “Fuller House”
  • Fox: “The X-Files” and news of an upcoming “Prison Break” event series
  • CBS: “Criminal Minds Beyond Borders” and “Rush Hour”
  • CW: “Legends of Tomorrow”
  • ABC: “Uncle Buck”

Oscar Season: TCA celebrates the TV biz, but some big movie names were in the house

  • Bryan Cranston: the “Breaking Bad” alum, who’s nominated for “Trumbo” at the upcoming Oscars, was on hand for HBO’s “All The Way”
  • Steve Carell: the “Angie Tribeca” exec producer is part of “The Big Short” ensemble, which is up for best picture at the Academy Awards

Repeat offenders: These TV over-achievers made multiple appearances

  • Jonathan Krisel: “Baskets,” FX and “Man Seeking Woman,” FXX
  • Jennifer Lopez: ”Shades of Blue,” NBC and “American Idol,” Fox
  • J.J. Abrams: “Roadies,” Showtime and “11.22.63,” Hulu
  • Anthony Hemingway: “Underground,” WGN America and “People v. O.J. Simpson,” FX
  • Special shout-out to Kether Donahue who was on Fox’s “Grease Live” panel, but had to send a video message to Stephen Falk’s phone on the “You’re the Worst” panel, since she was at a rehearsal for “Grease”

Steven Avery Stars at TCA in Absentia: The subject of “Making A Murderer” was brought up repeatedly, and not just during the Netflix documentary’s session

  • The producers for FX’s “People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” spoke about “Making A Murderer” when explaining why the public is so fascinated by the true crime genre — including Ryan Murphy who asked, “How is the judicial system so broken?”
  • In an awkward, quiet moment during his “Love” panel, Judd Apatow broke the ice by saying, “So, who thinks Steven Avery did it?”
  • The documentary makers of “Making A Murderer” insisted they did not have an opinion on Steven Avery during their Netflix panel, but they did hint at a possible second season

Sean Penn Takes a Stab at Journalism: News of the actor interviewing El Chapo for Rolling Stone broke during TCA

  • Kate del Castillo, who was instrumental in setting up Penn’s El Chapo meeting, is still on track to star in a Netflix series, Ted Sarandos confirmed during his session
  • The “Narcos” cast was asked what they thought about Sean Penn meeting El Chapo

 

Debra Birnbaum and Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.

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