TCA Summer 2016 Tour: Quick Takes from the Netflix Presentations

Twice a year, various cable and networks attend the Television Critics Association’s Press Tour where they promote new and returning television shows through a series of daily panels and exclusive preview clips spanning over a two week period.  The tour presentations provide a way for television shows to get traction and attention of the hundreds of TV critics who then in turn will hopefully write about and promote those shows to their various audiences via online and print media outlets.

This Summer’s TCA tour included presentations from Netflix, who presented on the first day of the tour.  Here are some of the featured television shows and specials that caught our attention:


Right away Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos addressed the questions of ratings by noting that while both Nielsen and Symphony claim to have ratings for Netflix’s shows, that data diverges greatly and he would be happy with either rating.  Sarandos emphasized that Netflix does not track ratings for its shows and that it is not part of their business model and that Netflix only looks at subscribers, not ratings.  He then proudly announced that Netflix currently streams in 130 new countries, adding to 160 countries it was already available in as of the first of this year.   In addition, 9 of Netflix’s kids series nabbed 32 Emmy nominations and its other original programming scored another 54 primetime Emmy nominations this year.

Netflix strives to offer original content that is:  fresh, relevant, compelling.  In response to the question of what Netflix evaluates when it decides to cancel a show, Sarandos said it looks at: relative to what it costs, does it get an audience? Then when looking to green light a series, Netflix considers:  shows that can sustain multiple seasons and multiple season arcs and great stories that appeal to broad swath of the population.  Addressing the challenges in Netflix’s rapid expansion across the globe, Sarandos admitted that there are issues of band-with, internet speed, and e-commerce when dealing with expansion into new territories and that they don’t know the specific problems until they are in each new territory, but dealing with those are part of Netflix business plan.  When asked for examples of Netflix show that appeal internationally, Sarandos said that ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, NARCOS, and the Marvel series DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES.

Shows being released soon on Netflix:
LAST CHANCE U (July 29, 2016)
BEAT BUGS (August 3, 2016)
THE GET DOWN (August 12, 2016)
CHEF’S TABLE: FRANCE Season 3 (September 2, 2016)
EASY (September 22, 2016)
LUKE CAGE (September 30, 2016)
THE RANCH Season 1, part 2 (October 7, 2016)
BLACK MIRROR Season 3 (October 21, 2016)
THE CROWN (November 4, 2016)
LOVESICK (November 17, 2016)
GILMORE GIRLS (November 25, 2016)
CAPTIVE (December 9, 2016)
ONE DAY AT A TIME (January 6, 2017)

Also among Netflix upcoming releases for Marvel lineup: LUKE CAGE (Season 1), IRON FIST (Season 1), DEFENDERS (Season 1), as well as DAREDEVIL (Season 3), JESSICA JONES (Season 2), PUNISHER (Season 1).

Greenlit new Netflix shows:
MAMA LLAMA starring Jennifer Garner.
SANTA CLARITA starring Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrmore.
GODLESS starring Jack O’Connell and Michelle Dockery
OZARK starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney

Other Netflix news:

Netflix’s agreement the exclusively stream prior seasons of CW shows has been extended. Netflix has the international streaming rights to CBS’ new STAR TREK series (outside of the U.S and Canada).  Also a second season of BEAT BUGS has been ordered.

As Sarandos noted: “I’m pleased we have built volume– also happy we are building franchises that viewers will enjoy for years to come.” Addressing the concern over “peak TV”,” Sarandos wryly responded:  “I know there’s a lot of shows to watch on TV, but which one of those would you have cut? Our vote is to keep the bar high and to keep them coming.”

Side-note: Netflix’s Summer TCA sizzle reel reminded me just how diverse and cutting-edge their slate of original content is right now, and it is impressive.


Once upon a time there was a young English girl who finds herself suddenly Queen of an empire. One of the world’s last reigning monarchs, Queen Elizabeth II has lived an extraordinary life. Seeking to spotlight Elizabeth, as a woman and a queen, Netflix’s new drama series THE CROWN pulls back the curtain on Queen Elizabeth’s early life.  As creator Peter Morgan said: “We all imagine it is a fairytale. It is anything but.”  Starring Claire Foy, who portrays Elizabeth, and Matt Smith, who portrays Elizabeth’s husband Prince Phillip, as well as John Lithgow, as Winston Churchill, THE CROWN sparkles with phenomenal performances and a dazzling display of cinematography across the English countryside.  Peter Morgan also noted that at the time Elizabeth became queen, that she and her husband were not people who were accustomed with being taken seriously and they had a lot to quickly learn and adjust to.  So, in THE CROWN, the marriage of Elizabeth and Prince Phillip is the main story and Elizabeth becoming queen is secondary.  Morgan further noted that as Elizabeth and Phillip lived at a time when divorce is not an option and thus they had to make their marriage work.  Claire Foy added that she has a high regard for Queen Elizabeth, adding: “She’s a very very very good person who has given her life for her country.”  As to the challenges of portraying Winston Churchill, John Lithgow said: “The hardest thing was getting over the fear. I was very intimidated by the entire prospect of playing [him]. . . Everyone has heard his speeches. What’s really fascinating is looking behind that.”  He also laughingly noted that as he is 14 inches taller than Winston Churchill, he had to think “small” when playing him and wore a fat suit.  Matt Smith said that for him, he just focused on how charming and witty Prince Phillip was in the role.  (Initial impression:  Heaven help the #DoctorWho fans, Matt Smith stars in Netflix’s new series THE CROWN — just discovered my new obsession!)  THE CROWN premieres November 4, 2016 on Netflix. Twitter handle: @TheCrownNetflix


Netflix’s drama series THE GET DOWN, coming from Baz Luhrmann (“Strictly Ballroom,” “Romeo + Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge,” “The Great Gatsby”) and Grandmaster Flash, features the incredible joy and celebration of the rise of hip-hop music and dance in the 1970’s Bronx.   In trying to describe what the show is, Grandmaster Flash said it is “the missing years of what has now become a billion dollar business.”  Baz Luhrman added that: “Netflix offered this incredible canvas. They want something that’s not like anything else.”  For writer Nelson George,he said that the part of what he likes about it is its portrait of youth in the period and it is more than a birth of the hip hop story.  Baz said:  “These kids did this because they wanted to say: ‘We exist.’ I wanted to get it right and pay respect to all those young people.”  But Nelson George was quick to emphasize:  “It isn’t poverty porn. . . the show focuses on how much strength and determination it took to pull out of that.”  Baz Luhrmann stressed that THE GET DOWN had to be told from kids’ point of view, which is why it often feels like “South Bronx Side Story.”  THE GET DOWN premieres August 12, 2016 on Netflix. Twitter handle: @TheGetDown


Netflix’s docu-series is set at East Mississippi Community College, where athletes have one last chance to strive for a career in pro-football.  It takes troubled football players and rehab them both academically and athletically.  As Coach Stephens said: “Getting them to play football is the easy part — none of them want to go to class, that’s the hard part.”  At LAST CHANCE U, students learn life skills and social skills as well, including about money management andy mortgages, as well as having a career after football and dealing with adversity. The show also addresses the physical toll of football, which can be a dramatic injury or the cumulative effect on any athlete.  Coach Stephen emphasized that the university seeks out athletes committed to getting a degree and a career, everything it takes to be successful in their lives on and off the field. (Impression: Remarkable look at a school giving young people one more chance at achieving their dreams and simultaneously instilling them with useful and necessary life and education to step out and survive in the world.  Laud-worthy endeavor.)  LAST CHANCE U premieres July 29, 2016 on Netflix.


Stepping back into the world of Stars Hollow was easy for everyone involved. Star Lauren Graham described it as: “It was like no time had passed. It was the old show.” Co-star Scott Patterson said it was the ATX Festival in Austin, Texas that really drove it home that there was still a strong interest in a GILMORE GIRLS reboot and credits ATX for getting show back on TV (or in this case, Netflix). Talking about what has changed in revisiting the Warner Bros exterior and interior sets, Amy laughingly said: “When Scott walked into Luke’s Diner it wasn’t that, the [Pretty Little] Liars were in there lying — we had to get all the lies out!”  Lauren emphasized that it is a “gift” to go back to the show 10 years later and even better that they got to do it on their terms.  In spite of the social media frenzy over both the love-lives of Lorelai and Rory, Alexis Bledel does not want the focus to be on Rory’s love life or who Rory ends up with, and gushingly said: “There is so much more.”  As to Lorelai’s love-life, Amy simply said: “People’s questions are answered by the end of it.”  Lauren added: “Through dealing with [Richard’s death], [Lorelai] makes some decisions.”  Then when quizzed about the infamous final four words, creator and executive producer Amy Sherman-Palladino said of the next 4 Netflix installments: “It really is a journey leading up to the last four words.”  She strongly urged fans not to just fastforward to the final four words as : “They’ll have more meaning, if you watch all four episodes.”   (Initial impression upon watching the first 2 minutes of the revival: I had forgotten how fast they talk in Stars Hollow! That said, the first 2 minutes sneak peek is very cute.)  Amy had hoped that Netflix would not release all four episodes at once because she likes viewers to pause in between episodes, but to her chagrin, Netflix is releasing all for installments of the GILMORE GIRLS revival on the same day: November 25, 2016. (Tip: Recommend skipping Black Friday to binge!)  GILMORE GIRLS premieres November 25, 2016 on Netflix.  Twitter handle: @GilmoreGirls


Netflix’s new supernatural thriller series STRANGER THINGS has become quite a social media sensation and for those who saw the entire first season, there is a sense of: what is next?   When queried about where a potential second season could go for the characters, creators and executive producers Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer explained that while Season 1 of STRANGER THINGS was focused on solving the mystery of where Will went and what happened to him, there are enough dangling threads hanging at the end of Season 1 that they could do more — if Netflix orders Season 2.  The Duffers explained: “It’s important to us that everything you are experiencing is from point-of-view of ordinary characters — and that some of it is not explained.”  Appearing for the Q&A panel were:  Winona Ryder, Millie Brown, Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin.  Describing her character, Winona Ryder said: “I appreciated her flaws.  There’s nothing cookie-cutter about her” and that “the reaction [and success of the show] has been completely overwhelming, in the best possible way.” When asked what stuck out the most in portraying characters in the 1980’s, co-star Gaten Matarazzo said: “Now days you do not see kids riding their bikes” but the hastily added,  “it’s cool to be like in the shoes of a kid that was in the ’80s” and noted, “holding those giant walkie-talkies was crazy — the antennas went up to the ceiling!” Caleb McLaughlin also loved: “Those parachute pants. It was hot outside but I’d still be so comfortable.” Co-star Millie Brown laughingly added: “I had no idea what a record player was!” (Impression: With shades of Steven Spielberg in the storytelling and cinematography, this series feels delightfully familiar with a thrilling twist.)  Season 1 of STRANGER THINGS is currently available on Netflix. Twitter handle: @Stranger_Things


Netflix’s new children’s series BEAT BUGS is a charming and fun cartoon featuring and inspired by the music of The Beatles, showcasing various guest musical performers and entertainers, such as: Jennifer Hudson, Pink, Rod Stewart, The Lumineers, Sia, Eddie Vedder, Aloe Black, The Shins Tori Kelley.  Creator and executive producer Josh Wakely wryly noted he was a bit naive when he set out to get licensing rights to The Beatles music for BEAT BUGS — yet he got 50 songs — it just took 3 years to acquire the rights for the songs. BEAT BUGS premieres August 3, 2016 on Netflix.  The BEAT BUGS soundtrack will also be available that same day on Apple iTunes.


Back for its wildly entertaining third season, the terrifying thriller BLACK MIRROR returns with six new stories, starring: Tessa Thompson, Michael Kelly, Wyatt Russell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Zach Gilford.  Creator and executive producer Charlie Boojer described the anthology series as having the theme: “Technology is not the villain. It’s their human failings.”  He also noted:”We’re not about trying to hammer messages into people’s brains. We want to entertain.”  (Impression: Spooky stuff ahead with this crazy series.  It could give you nightmares — or at least make you hyper-aware of technology in your life.) BLACK MIRROR Season 3 returns with 6 brand new episodes on October 21, 2016 on Netflix.


As a special event, Netflix played the cute puppy-card and brought out to introduce a few famous dogs from their shows:  Cosmo from FULLER HOUSE, two pugs from LADY DYNAMITE, three corgis from THE CROWN, the DEA dog from NARCOS, and Paul Anka from GILMORE GIRLS.  (Needless to say, a roomful of TV critics were completely won over very quickly — no heart is immune to the puppies!)


Netflix’s third Marvel drama series after DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES, and which exists in their shared universe is LUKE CAGE.  Appearing for the Q&A panel were: Mike Colter, Cheo Coker, Mahershala Ali, Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi, Simone Messick, Frank Whaley, Jeph Loeb.  So while the characters are aware of the events that occurred in DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES and the AVENGERS films, it feels like a “street legend” and the characters are still a bit in awe. So in introducing the specific world of LUKE CAGE, Jeph Loeb noted that there are similarities to the classic western: the single hero who reluctantly steps in to help.  From the sneak-peek footage shown depicting Luke Cage enduring a hail of bullet fire without a scratch, star Mike Colter laughingly admitted that he got so used to the bullet hits exploding on his body that he forgot to wear one of his earplugs once, and  THAT really hurt. Coker also explained that LUKE CAGE is from Luke’s point of view and that perspective shift allows viewers to get into a different world than seen [in DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES]. In order to flesh out the LUKE CAGE world, executive producer Cheo Coker said: “[We] just want to present compelling heroes and compelling villains with depth.” So the writers really leaned on this when writing Mahershala Ali’s character Cottonmouth, which Ali noted: “For every villain, from [their] perspective, they are a hero.”  Likewise costar Theo Rossi noted: “You never sit in judgment of the character you are playing — even if they do awful things.” When asked about Marvel’s fondness for embedding “Easter Eggs” in their TV series and films, executive producer Jeph Loeb happily clarified: “We have always been big fans of providing Easter Eggs for our fans, but we do not want to be known as as an Easter Egg farm.” So while characters could crossover from the other Marvel shows or films, it would not just be done without a specific purpose.  (Impression: This new series looks FANTASTIC. Can’t wait to watch it!)  LUKE CAGE premieres September 30, 2016 on Netflix.  Twitter handle: @LukeCage

That’s a wrap on the network and studio presentations from Day 1 of the Summer 2016 Television Critics Association Tour.  As a reminder: be sure to mark your calendars for the upcoming new series and specials as you do not want to miss out on the next great TV show that everyone will be talking about.