The Television Critics Association’s summer press tour began Wednesday in Beverly Hills with presentations by HBO, National Geographic, and first-timer Facebook. The day brought some anticipated programming-budget discussion, a couple surprise appearances (as well as a surprise absence), and a heated exchange when an exec tried to wave off a question.
Here are five things we learned from Wednesday’s sessions:
1. The long gestating “Deadwood” movie is finally official. HBO programming president Casey Bloys announced that the film is currently slated for a spring 2019 debut, though that timeline is “not set in stone.” Bloys said the biggest obstacle to getting the project moviing was coordinating the schedule of the ensemble cast, which includes Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker, and John Hawkes.
2. After a New York Times report earlier this month spread details of an internal meeting in which longtime AT&T exec John Stankey told HBO employees that their way of doing business would need to change (and compared those coming changes to childbirth), the pay cabler and its new owner are trying to take control of the narrative of their union. Bloys put a positive spin on Stankey’s mandate. “There are no plans to dilute the HBO brand in favor of volume of programming,” he said, adding later, “what I heard in the meeting with John is someone talking about investing in programming, which is music to our ears.”
3. During the panel for the upcoming HBO limited series “Camping,” executive producer Jenni Konner addressed the end of her partnership with fellow executive producer Lena Dunham, who have collaborated for the past eight years. “There’s no drama to be found there. It’s just work,” Konner said. Still, Dunham was scheduled to appear on the panel via satellite but did not. HBO said she had been stricken with the flu.
4. Facebook execs appeared prepared to field questions about objectionable content on their platform, but not prepared enough. VP of product Fidji Simo responded to a question about videos from Alex Jones’ Infowars — which promotes the false claim that the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax — being available on Facebook Watch, saying “if you are saying something untrue on Facebook, you’re allowed to say it as long as you’re an authentic person and you are meeting the community standards.” When asked about Facebook’s Fox News partnership, head of global creative strategy Ricky Van Veen tried to shut down the line of questioning. When another reporter shouted to him “answer the question,” Simo answered for him.
5. National Geographic is famous for entertaining the TCA press corps with puppies and TCA bingo, but nothing could compare to Jeff Goldblum, who was on hand to promote his new 12-episode documentary series, “The Curiosity of Jeff Goldblum.” Making the most of his viral moment since the debut of his shirtless statue in London, the star went off-script as soon as he hit the stage, telling the Teleprompter operator that he was going to “extemporize.” Goldblum accomplished the rare feat of making reporters laugh as he riffed on surprising facts about ice cream. “Odds bodkins, he’s a curiosity, isn’t he?” he said of himself. Indeed.