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TCA's Winter Press Tour – Day 5: ABC
January 10, 2018  | By Roger Catlin  | 1 comment
 

PASADENA, Calif. — ABC stepped on the gas during its packed day at the TV Critics Association winter press tour, presenting more than twice as many show panels of other networks, having an executive session and throwing a hotel party when two others did not, and handing out shot glasses that tweaked Fox by saying “business as usual.”

(Fox execs had uttered the phrase three times a few days earlier, when asked about the proposed Fox-Disney merger.)

ABC’s business Monday included a couple new entries from Shondaland, a few promising comedies from Alex, Inc. to Splitting Up Together, and the ambitious resurrection of a couple of No. 1 blockbusters, one last seen in 1997, the other in 2016.

Sessions for those reboots, Roseanne (top) and American Idol, closed the day’s panels.

While Roseanne seems to have tapped into the spirit of the original working class comedy, 20 years later, with the return of every cast members (including both Beckys, Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke, both right), reporters questioned undoing the death of John Goodman’s Dan in the 1997 Roseanne series finale to allow for his return. “Why does everybody think I’m dead?” he groans in the opening moments of the new version, premiering March 27.

Things got tense during the explanation as to how the Conners become Trump supporters (as Roseanne’s sister Jackie Harris, played by Laurie Metcalf, squabbles with her in a pink pussy hat).

“I have always attempted to portray a realistic portrait of the American people and of working class,” Roseanne Barr said, after some delay. “And, in fact, it was working class people who elected Trump. So I felt that, yeah, that was very real, and something that needed to be discussed. And especially about polarization in the family, and people actually hating other people for the way they voted, which I feel is not American.”

Said Sara Gilbert, who is returning as the grown daughter Darlene, “we had a wonderful opportunity to talk about this in the context of a family, and I think part of what’s going on is that people feel like they can’t disagree and still love each other or still talk to each other. So, to me, it was a great opportunity to have a family that can be divided by politics, but still is filled with love.”

But the TCA isn’t always so filled with love. So the question came up again, when Barr was asked about an Oprah Winfrey candidacy.

“Of course I love Oprah like everybody else. But you know what?” she added, turning her attention to Trump, “I think it was time for us as a country to shake things up and, you know, try something different.”

“Speaking of racism, I mean, I’m just going to say it,” Barr said late in the session, without further elaboration, “a large part of why I could not vote for Hillary Clinton is because: Haiti.”

Then she introduced a new word when she concluded the session, “I would really like to see an end to hate-triotism in this country.”

*****

Jimmy Kimmel, the late night host who will also host the Oscars on ABC March 4, was asked to react to a possible Oprah Winfrey candidacy as well, following her big speech at the Golden Globes Sunday.

“Obviously you’re preaching to the choir in that situation,” Kimmel said in he panel that began the ABC day. “That said, given the choice between Oprah and our current president, I’m on the bus with Oprah, traveling the country encouraging people to sign up and vote.”

He had a caveat, however.

“We would have to call her President Winfrey, you realize that? We really have to start using the word Winfrey a lot. Which, I don’t know if we’re prepared for that as a country.”

Kimmel had praise for Seth Meyers’ performance in hosting the Globes at a sensitive social moment, before an entirely black-clad audience denouncing sexual misconduct. He said he wasn’t sure he’d face a similar moment.

“The problem is it’s two months from now, so it’s almost like getting into a hot tub or something: You can’t really know what the temperature is until you get there,” he said. “Two months ago, I think Donald Trump was opening the JFK assassination files, if you wanted to see how far away that seems like it was with all the stuff that happens all the time.”

Kimmel’s own political profile was raised last year when he became a passionate spokesman for health care after his own infant son was hospitalized.

“It’s weird,” he said. “I sometimes look at things that are written about me and said about me and I can’t believe that I’m looking at my own name.

“Sometimes you get too much credit and too much praise, and this year has definitely been one of those times.”

People were moved by his tears such that, for a time, his “Jimmy Kimmel Test” became a benchmark for healthcare legislation.

But crying isn’t so odd for him, he said. “I’m very hesitant to admit this, and people have forgotten it, but I cried on the last episode of The Man Show.”

*****

Of the two new Shondaland dramas presented at press tour, one, a youthful legal series, For the People, has a name; and the other, about a fire station three blocks from the hospital on Grey’s Anatomy, does not.

It was still being called the Untitled Grey’s Anatomy Spinoff at press tour, and there was no shortage of comments about it.

“The truth of the matter is, coming up with a title is one of the most challenging things that we do, quite honestly,” ABC entertainment executive Channing Dungey says.

“When I was a young executive and we were about to launch Grey’s Anatomy, that was a show that famously didn’t have a title until literally right before air.

“We’ve gone through a number of different options and ideas. We really want to make sure that what we settle on is the perfect piece,” Dungey says. “But we didn’t want to come out with something here for TCA and then change it a couple weeks later.”

She did say the existence of Chicago Fire “would be the main reason we’re not going to call it Seattle Fire."

“We’ve come up with such an incredible list of so many great titles,” says the show’s executive producer Stacy McKee. “It’s really hard to land on just one that would be perfect. So we’re working on it, but we are definitely excited about a bunch of different ones.”

A bigger issue on the panel was the proliferation of workplace hookups in this and all of the shows from Shonda Rhimes’ (above) set of shows that include Scandal, Grey’s, How to Get Away with Murder and now these two.

Rhimes bristled at the idea that her depictions of numerous workplace romances are the same as sexual abuse or harassment. “I think it’s very clear what’s okay and what’s not.”

The workplace might not be a place for finding a date, she said. But she added, “I think work isn’t the place to shoot people in the face either.

“Seriously. I think there’s a lot of stuff that goes on at work on these shows that are not appropriate for the real world,” Rhimes said. “I think there’s a lot of things on television that could reflect the real world in a much stronger way, and there’s a lot of things that we do on our shows that I think are much more reflective of the way, for instance, women actually behave, people should actually behave towards each other, and people say the things that really shouldn’t be said.”

For the People starts March 13 on ABC. The Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, whatever it’s going to be called, bows on March 22

*****

The revival of American Idol, the onetime Fox juggernaut that went off the air two seasons ago, is one of the biggest titles returning to ABC this spring.

“It’s different, obviously, because of these personalities,” says Ryan Seacrest, the sole on-air holdover as host, said at a session that ended ABC’s panels. “But the show, at its core, works in format and works in premise.”

Its new roster of big name recording stars on the judges panel hope to bring back the magic of the show that spawned a number of imitator shows, some of which were well represented at the winter press tour (NBC showed off Tuesday with a panel for The Voice featuring its latest star mentor - first year Idol winner Kelly Clarkson; a Fox panel last week showed off the star panel of The Four).

Top dollar was paid for the new Idol judges — Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and country star Luke Bryan. But Perry says, “I think the thing that separates this show from, you know, a lot of these talent type shows is we’re secondary,” referring to the panel.

No, it’s about the singers who will again audition by the thousands.

“There are singers, and then there are stylists,” Richie says. “What we are looking for is a stylist who can absolutely not imitate. We are not looking for a talent show. We are looking for an artist, and that’s going to require our expertise.”

“I’m in there on the emotional ride with these kids,” Bryan said. “When they start singing and they are moving me emotionally, I get wrapped up in the moment. I get wrapped up in the pageantry and the dreams coming true.”

It’s only harder nowadays to stand out as a newcomer in the music business, Perry says. “You have to, like, light yourself on fire on Instagram while singing.

But she hopes the show will find an idol who will become a household name, as early seasons on Fox did. “Literally, we are wasting our time if we do not find a star.”

The three stars schmoozed briefly in a ballroom foyer following the panel before briefly harmonizing to a chorus of the Jackson 5 hit “I’ll Be There.” Then they were quickly whisked away.

*****

ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey spent some of her executive session explaining what went wrong with the comedy The Mayor, which the network pulled from the air before it could return from its winter hiatus.

“For whatever reason, it did not connect with the audience in the way that we were hoping that it would,” she said.

It wasn’t that audiences didn’t know about the show, she added. “People knew and they just didn’t come. And what was more disappointing to me personally was it wasn’t just a question of the live same day [viewing] going down week after week. The delayed viewing numbers also continued to drop, and that’s the biggest signal that ultimately it’s just, for whatever reason, not a show that’s connecting.”

Perhaps, she said, that was because “the show arrived on the scene at a time where people were feeling a little bit fatigued about anything that had to do with politics.”

So far, The Mayor hasn’t been officially canceled, she said.

“We’ll be making the final decisions as we go into scheduling in May,” Dungey said.  “We still have four episodes left. We don’t have an airdate left for those, and we’ll kind of figure it out as we go.”

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Mark Isenberg
ABC continues to make bad choices with producers etc. since the Moonlighting era ended. It happens. It gets lucky once in a while with the Goldbergs,Modern Family but Shonda Rhimes has reached her creative limit there. Bringing back Roseanne is a big stretch,too. Where are Steven Bocchco and Glenn Gordon Caron?
Jan 11, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
 
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