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Final TCA Report: The Small Presence of The Big Three & Showtime
August 12, 2018  | By Roger Catlin
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — You’d hardly know these days that the TV Critics Association (TCA) and its press tours were built around what was once known as the Big Three networks. Several days were dedicated to the programming fare of ABC, NBC, and CBS.
Among the many changes at press tour, including the switch of the membership from largely newspaper to internet-based, is the influx of cable to such a degree that it dominates the tour, especially when combined with the aggressive streaming services, which this year included not just Netflix and Amazon, but also BritBox, YouTube Premium, Sony Crackle, Facebook Watch, and something called Rooster Teeth. (I kept spreading the rumor that there was going to be a session for Fitbit Originals, but nobody blinked).
This time, to the worst extent anyone could recall, the Big Three couldn’t fill three days, indicating either they didn’t think enough of all of their new shows to launch them in front of the press, or didn’t think enough of the press to bother.
Of the other broadcasters, Fox had a full day with the most extensive party of the tour, and CW held its own with a half day, with more new shows because they are expanding. Both of those had executive sessions as well.
Of the original big three, CBS was the only one to hold an executive session, and they did so despite having the toughest questions to face about recently breaking stories about Viacom chief Les Moonves and sexual harassment.
“Obviously, this has been a tough week at CBS,” the network entertainment president, Kelly Kahl (top), said at the outset. “I know there was some speculation we might cancel today.”
But he added, “We wanted to be here. There are literally thousands of talented producers, writers, actors, and crews, not to mention all the people at CBS who have been preparing for months to launch the fall season. They’ve worked incredibly hard, and we think they deserve our best efforts to share all the new shows with all of you.”
As for Moonves, who made the executive sessions a heady mélange of bravado, goading, news, and jokes when he was head of the network, an investigation is ongoing. At the network, Kahl said, “we are committed to a collaborative, inclusive, and safe workplace.”
Meanwhile, a truck parked outside of the Beverly Hilton where press tour took place flashed its own video message all day: “We believe the women sexually assaulted and harassed by Les Moonves. Why doesn’t CBS? FIRE MOONVES NOW.”
Reporters largely centered on that question, leaving little time for the usual inquiries about keeping around shows like Code Black (“We would like to figure out a way to maybe make it work”) and The Big Bang Theory (“We don’t believe it’s the final year.”).
CBS had some throwbacks amid its panel, including a reconstituted Murphy Brown (left), whose cast flew in after taping its first show in New York. Dick Wolf presented a rare CBS project, The FBI, after virtually colonizing NBC.
Its comedies, Happy Together and The Neighbors, seemed wrong-headed taken as a pair; the Magnum, P.I. reboot left the mustache off Jay Hernandez, but, worse, seemed to leave off traits of his cultural identity as well.
Reporters thanked Kahl for showing up, though, and presenting a day full of panels especially as his counterparts did not.
ABC was essentially a half-day, with the first session starting at 2 p.m. And with all that time, still no executive session from the network's entertainment president, Channing Dungey, who could have at least done a victory lap for her widely praised quick action in giving the axe to ABC's most popular show, Roseanne, after its star posted a racist tweet.
But, network spokeswoman and SVP Communications,  Jori Arancio, said, “The Walt Disney Company is reporting earnings today, and we thought it best not to have an executive session compete with that.” 
Hmm. Really?
Even so, there was no ABC session for its most interesting new show of the season — The Conners, the one that will fill the slot of Roseanne by concentrating on everybody else in the reunited cast.
Instead, there were panels for the comedies Single Parents (right) with Taran Killam, Leighton Meester, and Brad Garrett, and the 1970s Irish family comedy The Kids are Alright with Mary McCormack; the Nathan Fillion cop show The Rookie and the Big Chill-like A Million Little Things about friends who cope with another’s suicide.
NBC had even fewer panels; in fact, just one for a new show, the Amy Poehler-produced Single Kids. The other comedy was for one they picked up following its cancellation by Fox after five years: Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
There was no press conference for NBC’s two new fall dramas - the medical drama New Amsterdam, and the Lost-like Manifest about a flight that disappears for five years — though producers for both appeared on a panel for showrunners.
Any network can present new shows, but the CW has a new full-day, presenting shows on Sunday this fall when it pairs Supergirl with a reimagined Charmed. It furthers the superhero quota on a network that already has five with a sixth in the works with Batwoman.
Its new All American (right) seems a straight-ahead story about a South Central kid who goes to a rich high school to play football, and all that brings along, from Greg Berlanti.
Both Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin are planning final seasons, but only the former got a panel in which creator Rachel Bloom participated.
The biggest shock is that the show is bringing back the Greg character, but it will be played by an entirely different actor - Skylar Astin of Pitch Perfect instead of the originating Santino Fontana. Bloom says it will be a playful and experimental commentary on how people change.
The upcoming season of Homeland, its eighth, will be its last, Showtime entertainment chief David Nevins said in his session at the TCA summer press tour.
Creator Alex Gansa will be bringing the show “to its proper conclusion,” Nevins said. But it isn't a cancellation, he emphasized. “When you tweet this out, I do not want to read the word ‘cancellation…’ 
The decision was made jointly by Gansa and star Clair Danes toward the end of last season, according to Nevins.
The network's president of programming, Gary Levine, praised the show for having “found a way to reinvent it every year and find a way to anticipate world events in a way that’s almost eerie.” The final season begins in June 2019.
Of future projects, Showtime has ordered a pilot for an American remake of the British The Wrong Mans with Ben Schwartz alongside Jillian Bell of 22 Jump Street who is taking the role originally played by James Corden.
Kevin Bacon (right) seems to muster a passable Boston accent in the trailer for Showtime's City on a Hill, about early '90s police activity in the city, coming next year from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
Escape at Dannemora, about the 2015 jailbreak in upstate New York, looks strong. It stars Benicio Del Toro, Patricia Arquette, and Paul Dano. What may be surprising about the eight-hour limited series that premieres Nov. 18 is that Ben Stiller directed it.
In other news, Nevins said Showtime has OK’d a series based on the popular video game Halo, and Russell Crowe plays Roger Ailes in Showtime's adaptation of Gabriel Sherman's book The Loudest Voice in the Room next year.
Jim Carrey was on hand for his upcoming half-hour series Kidding, about a children’s performer who is having problems. It has a terrific cast, with Catherine Keener, Judy Greer, Frank Langella and Justin Kirk, and has the stamp of eccentric director Michel Gondry, who directed Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
It premieres Sept. 9 alongside the new season of Shameless, the network’s most popular show, which will be marking its 100th episode this fall.
A pair of documentaries announced for the fall would be timely immediately: LeBron James' survey of African-Americans and basketball, Shut Up & Dribble, in October, and Alex Gibney's four-part Enemies: The President, Justice & The FBI Nov. 18.
Ray Donovan is back Oct. 28, with a new setting, New York.
In January, a new series, Black Monday (above), a freewheeling look at the 1987 stock crash with Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells, will accompany the second season SMILF.
And Showtime delves into late night talk and comedy by bringing the Desus + Mero show from Viceland.
‘With a little more money and a little more production values “ Nevins says, “they're going to do amazing things.”
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