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TCA, Day 4 -- From Elisabeth Moss to the Trump Campaign
July 29, 2017  | By Ed Bark

BEVERLY HILLS, CA -- A funny thing happened on the way to this forum. Your dogged TVWorthWatching correspondent actually got a lengthy night's sleep and was rested and ready for a panel titled "Has Politics Made Late-Night Great Again?"

Well, it certainly hasn't hurt the ratings of CBS' Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which has blown past Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show in the total viewer ratings ever since the host began dismantling President Trump in each and every opening monologue.

But Saturday was the last day for cable's portion of the TV Critics Association "press tour." So no broadcast networks were represented in this four-pronged presentation by writers for Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, The President Show and The Jim Jefferies Show and TBS' Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (top).

Still, what would any of these shows do without all that non-stop material from the leader of the free world? TVWW wondered whether any of these writers perhaps feel a bit guilty about decrying Trump while at the same time savoring all that comedy gold.

They all gave a "political" answer. A Hillary Clinton administration would have been so much better for the country even if also comparatively uneventful. Or as Ashley Nicole Black of Full Frontal put it, "If Hillary Clinton was President, we'd just get in there on pantsuits and policies. I would give anything."

"I just find it exhausting. It's hard to find it fun," said Jason Reich, now head writer for the Jefferies show after previous tours with The Daily Show and Full Frontal.

"It also can get really boring to deal with this same person who's provoking the same level of outrage with everything he does," The Daily Show's Hallie Haglund said. An alternative administration would provide "a lot more room" to explore other issues.

Christine Nangle of The President Show also went the diplomatic route, even though the show is hosted by Trump (as played by comedian Anthony Atamanuik, right).

"The only positive is it's unearthing part of our culture and part of our country that I think a lot of people didn't know existed," she said. "There's so much more hate and resentment than we possibly could have imagined. So had Hillary won or things gone differently, I think people would have gone on thinking everything was great."

But that's not the way it is. And in the realities of the polarized here and now, comedy is no longer the great equalizer, said Black.

It used to be that "the hardest thing for a leader to overcome is being made ridiculous. So comedians making fun of leaders has been more their downfall than scandals and things like that," she said. "I think times have changed. Because now people are so divided. They say, 'Oh, you think he's ridiculous? We love him more. We are going to stand up for him even more because you don't like him.' "

Nangle and The President Show are doing all Trump, all the time, but "he's not just someone that dropped out of the sky and said, 'I'm going to ruin everything for you,' " she said. "We made him. We allowed this to happen. So as much as you can go deeper without being heavy-handed, that's what we aim for."


It's quite a cast for Sundance TV's Top of the Lake: China Girl, in which Elisabeth Moss (right) of Hulu's heavily acclaimed The Handmaid's Tale reprises her character of detective Robin Griffin. She's joined by Nicole Kidman (lately of Big Little Lies) and Gwendoline Christie, who remains a tower of strength as imposing warrior Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones.

"I think that all that's happened is that the people who control the purse strings" have finally caught up with the fact that audiences want to see strong women characters on-screen, Moss said during cable's concluding panel late Saturday afternoon.

For Moss, in particular, it's been a helluva career since Mad Men ended in May 2015. In quite a big hurry, she now has two franchise TV characters. TVWW asked her how that feels.

"I've been doing this for a long time, since I was a little girl," Moss said. "I've had many years of being unemployed and broke. I've not gotten far more things than I've got . . . That's the Holy Grail. You just want to know you have a job to go to. I'm constantly pinching myself. I never get used to it. 'Thank you for wanting me.' Yeah, it's been really amazing."

The six-hour China Girl follow-up to Top of the Lake will air on successive nights Sept. 10-12.


AMC's programming announcements Saturday included a big swerve away from series tied to either Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead.

The network has ordered Dietland for a 2018 premiere. Adapted from the same-named 2015 novel by Sarai Walker, it uses the beauty industry as a backdrop for a "part-character drama, part-revenge fantasy" that will dissect "society's obsession with weight loss and beauty."

The series' executive producer is Marti Noxon, whose previous credits include AMC's first signature show, Mad Men as well as UnReal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce.

There's no announced cast yet.

Sundance TV will present Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders on Nov. 18-19 as part of a weekend True Crime Movie Marathon that includes a 50th-anniversary screening of the In Cold Blood feature film.

Unlike The Jinx, Making a Murderer or The Keepers, there's no doubt who did it or who all the victims were.

But director Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost) terms it "the granddaddy of true crime stories" as well as an unprecedented first-time focus on the Clutters as victims. He thinks that will be compelling enough to hold an audience.


A lot goes on out here, seemingly all at once sometimes. So here's a little HBO cleanup operation from an earlier session with programming head Casey Bloys.

There will be a Season 3 of True Detective, which was much-praised for its Matthew McConaughey/Woody Harrelson arc and then not so much for a sophomore outing fronted by Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn.

Bloys said he's seen five new scripts, all of them "terrific," and also has signed Mahershala Ali (right, an Oscar-winner for Moonlight) to head the cast.

"And when we find a director that we want to hire, we'll be a 'go' for that," he said.

A Deadwood movie also is potentially among the living. Creator David Milch has delivered a script under the proviso that it would "stand on its own" whether or not you watched the original series, which left HBO in August of 2006.

"And I'm happy to say that David totally delivered on that," Bloys said.

But can it be done on a "budget that makes sense" for HBO? And it's also a challenge to reunite most of the cast (Powers Boothe since has died), "which is no easy task because everybody is kind of all over the place," Bloys said. If those pieces also fall into place, "we're inclined to do it," he said. "But we have to get over those hurdles."

Your TVWorthWatching correspondent also asked -- yet again -- about whether David Chase's A Ribbon of Dreams will ever become a reality after first being announced by HBO in March 2009 during the first full year of President Obama's administration.

Two summers ago, one of Bloys' predecessors, Richard Plepler, said, "I've seen pages" when TVWW asked about this saga of Hollywood's formative years from the creator of The Sopranos. But now it looks as though the project is very much on a back page.

"He had scripts written, and he actually put it aside to pick up some other things," Bloys said. "So the status right now is just kind of on hold."

As is HBO's previously announced movie about Donald Trump's presidential campaign, based on a book by the authors of Game Change. That book became an Emmy Award-winning depiction of the 2008 presidential campaign, with an emphasis on Republican nominee John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Those roles were played by Ed Harris and Julianne Moore.

There's no casting or source material yet for the Trump movie. "The guys (Mark Halperin and John Heilemann) are writing a book and thinking about a movie at the same time," Bloys said. "And we haven't seen the script yet. The good news is they have a very specific period of time that they're going to look at. So whatever happens and continues to happen with this administration, it's focusing on a specific part of the campaign."

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