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6 Things We Learned From TCA 2019: Day 2

Alex Kurtzman TCA
David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

CBS and CBS All Access took their turns at the winter Television Critics Assn. press tour on Wednesday (with a bonus appearance from PopTV’s upcoming publicist drama, “Flack,” starring Anna Paquin). Only two panels were devoted to new upcoming shows — including Super Bowl leadout competition show “World’s Best” and limited series “The Red Line” — while the rest featured returning series (including “Star Trek: Discovery”) teasing what’s yet to come.

Here are six things we learned from day 2 of TCA.

1. “The Red Line” Wants to Be “‘Parenthood’ Meets ‘The Wire'”

One of CBS’ upcoming new midseason shows is “The Red Line,” a limited series (named for Chicago’s red metro line) about the devastating aftermath of a police officer shooting an unarmed black doctor, produced in part by Ava Duvernay, Greg Berlanti, and Sarah Schechter. “I think by telling those incredibly emotional, human stories there is a very unique window through which we can examine larger institutions,” said executive producer Caitlin Parrish. “That was another reason why Chicago was so rich and so fascinating, because politically, religiously, in terms of the education system, the transportation system, the unions, there’s just so much to examine as a cross section of America.”

Star Noah Wyle, no stranger to television, admitted that “The Red Line” hit him in a different way than anything else he’d ever worked on. “I have never read a piece of material and had it move me like that,” he said, “and that consistently happened with every single script.”

2. The God on “God Friended Me” Is About To Be Revealed — Maybe, Kind Of

The central mystery of freshman drama “God Friended Me” has been the identity of “the God account” that reached out to pessimistic atheist Miles (Brandon Micheal Hall) and made him question everything. Over the course of the season, though, the best bet appears to be a tech billionaire named Simon Hayes. EPs Bryan Wynbrandt and Steven Lilien revealed today that Simon will be played by Adam Goldberg, so he’s about to become a part of the show in a much more real way by the end of the season (not that they gave any further details how or why).

3. CBS All Access Expands Its Ambitions in 2019

CBS’ premium streaming platform has seen double-digit growth since its launch, said Marc DeBevoise, president and chief operating officer of CBS Interactive, and Julie McNamara, exec VP of original content for CBS All Access. They emphasized that its subscribers are overall younger than those of broadcast networks, with 83% included in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

As for original series, DeBevoise said that All Access will have at least 9 by the end of 2019, including “The Twilight Zone” (premiering April 1). They have also ordered new Stephen King adaptation “The Stand” to series, are developing a series with Marc Cherry (“Why Women Kill”), and “Interrogation,” a drama inspired by true crime that will star Peter Skarsgaard and let viewers pick which episodes they watch in which order, therefore influencing their perception of the central case.

4. The Good Fight” Season 3 Introduces Devilish Michael Sheen, New Stylistic Flair

CBS All Access’ critically acclaimed drama (and “Good Wife” spinoff) is set to get even more ambitious in its third season, premiering March 14. As per showrunners Robert and Michelle King,”Schoolhouse Rock” style interludes will explain complex aspects of pressing news stories, and each episode will include Shakespearean soliloquies from one of the characters to describe what they’re thinking at a particularly pivotal point. (Every chapter will also be named in the style of “Friends,” i.e. “The One Inspired By Roy Cohn.”) At one point, Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald’s characters will realize they both love Prince, and sing a spirited duet of “Raspberry Beret,” because why not.

Meanwhile, Michael Sheen joins the cast as a lawyer who, in his own words, is a “pre-Devil like the god Pan…he just wants to eat and f–k and disrupt and poke people.”

5. Alex Kurtzman Aims to Deliver ‘Trek’ Like You’ve Never Seen Before

Alex Kurtzman, executive producer and showrunner of “Star Trek: Discovery,” addressed concerns about luring in fans who may be reluctant to watch the show on pay streaming service CBS All Access. “‘Trek’ has to evolve like all television has evolved in the last 5-6 years,” he said. “Our job is to give you a ‘Star Trek’ that you couldn’t possibly get on network television.” Kurtzman also addressed how the newest entry into the TV franchise will deal with canon established by the other shows. “We certainly know that in order for ‘Trek’ to live on we will need to find ways to operate outside of canon as well and create new canon,” he said. “That’s part of the job.”
As for the recently announced Picard spinoff series, sorry, Trekkies: all the network would offer is that it will debut “later this year.”
6. Pop Pulls Plug on “Let’s Get Physical,” Flies “Flack” Flag
Meanwhile, it turns out that Pop TV’s “Let’s Get Physical” just didn’t work out. The sitcom, which premiered last winter, was quietly canceled after one season after it failed to exercise its ratings muscle, the cable network confirmed. Pop execs said they had hoped to make it their version of the popular film “Dodgeball,” but it ultimately couldn’t quite execute. Set in the world of aerobics, the satire starred Matt Jones as a middle-aged slacker who is willed his father’s broke-down family gym. Jane Seymour played his mom, who takes the reins of the family business, while Chris Diamantopoulos played his rival. AnnaLynne McCord also starred. Entertainment One produced the eight-episode series, which was shot in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Enjoying increased buzz for its staple comedy “Schitt’s Creek,” Pop TV has the Anna Paquin comedic drama “Flack” next on deck. The cabler also renewed the sketch comedy “Hot Date,” and ordered two scripted comedy pilots: “Best Intentions,” from writer Adam Herz, A+E Studios and Ben Silverman’s Propagate Content, and “Ride or Die,” from writer Matt McConkey, The Gotham Group, and Nomadic Pictures.