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5 Things We Learned at TCA: Day 16

The final day of the 2019 winter Television Critics Assn. press tour brought Cleo TV, BYUtv and Amazon Prime Video to Pasadena, Calif. Executives from BYUtv discussed their desire to reach a “broad audience,” despite being owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while executives from Amazon announced the order of almost 20 international series but said there was no real update on the “Lord of the Rings” series just yet. Amazon also presented panels for upcoming scripted dramas “Hanna,” “Good Omens” and “The Boys,” as well as the second season of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag.”

Here, Variety breaks down five things learned at TCA Day 16:

Al Pacino Officially Heads to Amazon
The streamer confirmed Wednesday that the Oscar and Emmy winner has officially signed on to lead the cast of Jordan Peele’s “The Hunt.” In addition to Pacino and the previously announced Logan Lerman, Jerrika Hinton, Lena Olin, Carol Kane, Saul Rubinek, Tiffany Boone, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Greg Austin and Dylan Baker are set to star. The show is a period piece, set in 1977 New York City, that follows the “Hunters,” a “diverse band of Nazi hunters” who have discovered that hundreds of Nazi officials are conspiring to create a Fourth Reich in the U.S. The series is executive produced by Win Rosenfeld from Monkeypaw Prods., Nelson McCormick, Tom Lesinski, and Jenna Santoianni from Sonar Ent.

Amazon Premiere Dates Announced and Satan Cast on ‘Good Omens
Amazon announced the premiere dates for three of its highly-anticipated spring series. “Hanna,” adapted from the feature film by David Farr, launched its pilot after the Super Bowl but will officially premiere its series Mar. 29; the second season of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s auteur comedy “Fleabag” launches May 17; and Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens,” starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen, will launch all six episodes May 31. Watch the trailer for “Hanna” below:

Additionally, in the sixth episode of “Good Omens,” Benedict Cumberbatch guest stars as Satan. The episode will feature a large CGI sequence as the father of Hell shows himself at the dawn of the end of the world. The key to casting Satan, Gaiman said, was to find an actor who could really give Frances McDormand, who is the voice of God, “a run for her money.”

BYUtv Skirts Questions About Inclusivity
With its roots in religion, BYUtv is a tax-exempt network that is made up of a number of staffers who are members of the Mormon faith. Its executives including director of content Andra Duke, said the focus of their network was “bringing people together” and being “positive and uplifting for any family.” However, when challenged with questions of how the network is being inclusive in gender, race, sexual orientation and faith both in front of and behind the camera, specifics were harder to get. Currently, they admitted, they do not have any openly LGBTQIA+ characters on their shows, and during a panel for adventure comedy “Dwight in Shining Armor” creators and executive producers LeeAnne H. Adams and Brian J. Adams were reluctant to break down the makeup of their writers’ room. They said they had a non-traditional writers’ room, in that it was really just the two of them consistently throughout the whole season, although they noted that another white, male writer would be continuing with them into the second season. Additionally, LeeAnne H. Adams said they had another female writer who would be joining them, but she didn’t know her ethnicity because they had only spoken on the phone.

Special Sendoff for ‘Transparent
After allegations of sexual misconduct on the set of “Transparent” arose against series star Jeffrey Tambor, the future of the show changed drastically. Tambor ended up exiting the series in February 2018, and creator Jill Soloway decided to wrap up the run with a musical movie. Salke said Amazon never would have wanted to take a “special” show like “Transparent” and “just end it unceremoniously.” From her perspective, the end “brings the whole thing full circle” and “does everything that you would want it to do.” “Right as my parent came out,” Soloway said, “the first impulse” was to use song. Soloway and their sister Faith were going to make a musical documentary, and after everything happened with Tambor, Soloway said was so emotional there was “no way to go back to a plain old Season 5 and repair by going back.” Salke, they said, asked what the dream was, and Soloway said “to do something big,” so they “dared ourselves to come through.” “We take music and transform the family as a way to come together,” Soloway said. “The show isn’t necessarily ending. It’s transforming.”

Woody Allen Lawsuit in Litigation
When asked about the lawsuit Woody Allen recently filed against Amazon, head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke remained tight-lipped. “I really can’t comment on anything about that,” she said. “It predated me and now that it’s in litigation I can’t comment.” Allen filed a $68 million lawsuit against the streamer after they backed out of a four-picture deal he had signed at the streamer. Allen’s suit alleges the deal was pulled over “a 25-year-old, baseless allegation,” referring to longstanding allegations of sexual abuse against Allen by his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow.

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