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 presentation from ABC who presented on the 13th day of the tour. Here are some of the featured television shows and specials that caught our attention:
Starting off the session on a friendly note, ABC president Channing Dungey stated it was her first day back after her maternity leave and then happily shared an adorable photo of her newborn. It gave the panel an air of friendly candor.
Right away, Dugey announced that ABC has six of the Top 10 comedies currently on the air, and then noted that the majority of ABC shows double their ratings when delayed viewed are calculated in. (Observation: Nice to see all the networks have embraced delayed-viewing as the new standard — especially since it does seem to be a more accurate picture of the total number of viewers watching TV shows.)
Dungey also announced that THE MIDDLE is signing off this season as Season 9 will be its last. ABC wanted to give the show ample time to say goodbye to its fans so it could celebrate its farewell season with them. (Observation: This fits nicely with Dungey’s claim that ABC is the “most social network.” It wants fans to be able to be a part of the social media experience when a show is counting down to its final episode.)
ABC has ordered up more of its series: $100,000 PYRAMID, CELEBRITY FUED, and MATCH GAME.
ABC’s long running drama series GREY’S ANATOMY celebrates its 300th episode in November during Season 14.
As to the reboot of the comes series ROSANNE, Dungey stated that in the reboot that John Goodman’s character will be alive. As to whether Johnny Galecki will return to reprise his role, Dungey said that talks are still ongoing.
Another key change will be the morphing of the drama series DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, which will steer away from being a conspiracy thriller and lean more into being a show that focuses on the characters in the White House, less conspiracy-based and more focused on relationships. (Observation: I rather like the idea of DESIGNATED SURVIVOR will be along the same vein as the Aaron Sorkin film “The American President.”)
Then talking about ABC’s high-profile reboot of AMERICAN IDOL, Dungey lightly teased, “The rumors that we have cloned Ryan [Seacrest] are highly unsubstantiated and we cannot confirm those.” She also said that ABC hopes to announce the remainder of the judges who will be joining Katy Perry and Ryan Seacrest for the show soon. She is confident that the ABC version of AMERICAN IDOL will be familiar, but with an ABC spin.
As for the scandal surrounding the new season of BACHELOR IN PARADISE, Dungey firmly stated that the incident brought to light safety issues that ABC wants to be more on top of in the future. (Observation: A question worth asking is whether nondisclosure agreements aka NDAs in Hollywood are harming more than helping. The incident on BACHELOR IN PARADISE is cloaked in secrecy simply because everyone working on the show — contestants, producers, editors, network executives, etc. — are all subject to non-disclosure agreements, which hampers any attempt to investigate allegations of wrong-doing and if any contestant was put at risk.)
Looking towards the new season, Dungey is firmly behind its new drama series THE GOOD DOCTOR, coming from producer David Shore and Daniel Dae Kim and starring Freddie Highmore and Richard Schiff. She described THE GOOD DOCTOR as inspiring, hopeful and heart-warming, which is something the world needs more of right now. (Note: I totally agree. THE GOOD DOCTOR is my favorite new show of 2017-18 TV season. If you are a Freddie Highmore fan, you will love him in THE GOOD DOCTOR. He is extraordinary in it.)
One final note from Dungey was that MARVEL’S INHUMANS will air only 8 episodes, followed by the premiere of AGENTS OF SHIELD, which will begin its 22-episode season in late November 2017.
ABC’s new comedy THE MAYOR is about 20-something who runs for Mayor for the publicity and then unexpectedly wins and how he then has to adjust to his new responsibilities. Appearing for THE MAYOR panel were: executive producers Daveed Diggs, Jeremy Bronson, Jamie Tarses, James Griffiths, along with stars Brandon Michael Hall, Lea Michele, Bernard David Jones, Marcel Spears, and Yvette Nicole Brown. Executive producer Jeremy Bronson said in the show, “[Courtney Rose is] a guy who’s really all heart, and he’s very very smart, but he hasn’t thought about how to solve these issues.” But Courtney Rose is also a guy how is well-connected to his community, so he begins to think: “How can I use these relationships to tackle general issues?” The show hopes to turn the spotlight on how a community comes together, in a non-partisan way, to improve the circumstances of its citizens. Bronson described it as, “It’s a very diverse town, probably around 30,000 people or so. . . down on its luck town with a lot of unemployment there and not a lot of infrastructure. It needs some help. It needs somebody who is has the optimism to turn this ship around.” Bronson said, “We’re much more interested in this really socially conscious guy who is young and smart, who is thrust into this really unlikely position. He’s this fish-out-of-water who looks around in his community, sees these problems. He’s been rapping about them and writing about them for years. And now he’s in a position to actually effect some change with the help of his mom and his best friends, advisers.”
It was this particular intersection of politics and hip-hop music that appealed to Brandon Michael Hall, who admitted that he had been in a rap music group growing up.
Yvette Nicole Brown chimed in to share that, for her, the appeal was, “I think that my [character Dina’s] relationship with Courtney on the show — Brandon on the show — will be like my mom’s relationship with my brother, because she’s very tough, but she’s fun. She’s his biggest fan. So I think that is something that I hope to bring.”
Bronson added, “Courtney Rose is someone who didn’t want to win, but deeply, deeply loves this city, wants to give, is very generous, feels the pressure of and the weight of this job and this responsibility that he’s been given. And with Dina’s help — with mom’s help — he’s really going to be that sort of maverick-type politician who is using tools that he has that maybe other conventional politicians don’t have.” He also added that Courtney’s strength comes from his attitude, “If you’re going to judge me solely based on my art, on my music, which is really good and, I think, very impressive, but if you’re going to judge me on that, then, yes, you might not have faith that I can do this job.” He noted, “But if you look at the whole man, and you look at his heart and you look at the people he’s populated his life with and the way he tackles problems, I think you’ll see this character and say he might actually be able to get something done.”
Yvette Nicole Brown pointed out that “Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs is a producer for the show and creates music for THE MAYOR. Diggs said, “You can make time for the things you love.” (He is currently working on THE MAYOR and BLACKISH and producing a new album simultaneously) He became involved with THE MAYOR because of the theme of a rapper becoming a politician. Daveed explained, “[T]his idea about a rapper running for mayor as a publicity stunt — the more we started talking about it, the more my brain just started going crazy. . . . My brain was firing on how specifically regional rap music is, how really it changes from community to community. So this idea of a very local political show, but a chance to include rap music in it, became for me this really interesting challenge in the presenting rap as it actually is used in when you grow up as a rapper, it is a very local thing. There was the people who are on the radio, but that’s not who we’re really listening to. We’re listening to everybody, who’s at the poetry cafe. Those are the people who are the soundboards for our communities, right? So it just became this piece that I was really fascinated in, and I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since.”
Bronson emphasized that THE MAYOR is ”less an ‘issue show’ than a story about the growth of a young man” and his responsibility to loved ones and to his community. Brandon added that the core of THE MAYOR is: love, family, and hope. (Observation: THE MAYOR does feel more reminiscent of the classic Jimmy Stewart film “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” than the politics we see around us today.). THE MAYOR premieres Tuesday, October 4th at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.
THE GOOD DOCTOR
ABC’s new drama series THE GOOD DOCTOR is a medical drama about young man with autism hired to be surgeon. Taken from a heartfelt scene in the pilot episode, when the younger brother tells his older brother with autism, “Never forget: you’re the smart one — you can do anything,” the show focuses on the positives of a young man challenged in communicating and how he will overcome that hurdle to save lives. In fact, that was one of the biggest appeals about the show for star Freddie Highmore: that his character would be saving lives opposed to taking live, like his last character Norman Bates in BATES MOTEL. (That was said with a bit of a wink and a smile, so Freddie was definitely inviting everyone to laugh along with him.). Appearing for THE GOOD DOCTOR panel were executive producers David Shore and Daniel Dae Kim along with stars Freddie Highmore, Nicholas Gonzalez, Hill Harper, Richard Schiff, and Antonia Thomas.
Talking about the genesis of the show, executive producer Daniel De Kim said, “I’m very proud to be part of this show. It’s one that I saw several years ago after it aired in Korea. It started as a Korean series, and I loved the message of it. It was a very familiar genre to American audiences in that it’s a medical show and I thought it would be really a good opportunity to make it in America. And so that was the impetus for me to try and bring it over. But everyone knows that it’s not enough just to have an intellectual property. You have to have the right people behind it. That’s why it was such a crucial element to be able to bring someone like David [Shore] aboard to bring this vision to life and he really wrote an incredible script and took it from there. We assembled a great cast, and if you’ve seen the pilot, you know that we might have something special here.” Co-executive producer David Shore noted, “Dr. Shaun Murphy [Freddie Highmore] — whom I also love — is asking it from an innocent point of view, a nonjudgmental point of view, and making us challenge there’s so many things we do in life and so many things we do in our interactions, so many dances we have in our interactions that we just take from granted, and I think he comes at them in a different way and looks at them from fresh eyes, and I think he’s talking to our viewers as much as he’s talking to the doctors. He’s talking to us, talking to me as much as he’s talking to anybody else.”
Kim further noted, “We haven’t seen an autistic character on a network broadcast show as the lead, and autism affects 1 in 68 Americans. Of all the people that I know, I know someone who has been touched, they know someone who has been touched by autism. So to be able to start this dialogue, I think, is really an important one. That was really the heart of it.” Freddie added, “David [Shore’s] writing is wonderful. There’s a subtleness to it, a lightness to it. But, at the same time, it manages to delve into those deeper issues without being melodramatic. It’s never sort of forced and over the top.”
Freddie then shared, “The character [of Shaun], I think, of course, was a fascinating one, and it all starts on the page. What I think we’re trying to do on this in terms of portraying Dr. Shaun Murphy is moving away from perhaps the stereotypical versions of people with autism that have been shown on television and in certain movies in the past. The number one thing being that they’re somehow emotionless, devoid of emotion, that they don’t experience as broad emotional range as neuro-typical people do, and of course, that’s complete nonsense. So whilst we won’t negate or seek to sort of move away from the very real struggles that Dr. Shaun Murphy will experience by extent of his condition, there will also be moments of joy — and that’s what attracts to me in the pilot. There’s a humor to it. You understand what makes him tick. You will find out how and why and who he’ll fall in love with and understand him as a fully formed individual.”
Freddie further explained, “I know it seems sort of silly having to almost say it . . . what is interesting about Shaun is that he will disrupt the sort of status quo of the hospital and he will ask questions that haven’t been asked, and they may be an inopportune time, but it will hopefully prove edifying. I think much of what the show is about is not solely seeking to try and confine Dr. Shaun Murphy into the rigid structure of the hospital that already exists. It’s as much that or as less that and more bringing other people into the world that he’s experiencing, seeing how his version of the world can better understood. . . . One of the techniques that we’ve used in order to try and accomplish that is the visual depictions of what he is going through inside his mind is he trying to diagnose certain conditions or act upon them later on in surgery.”
Talking about the inherent hospital resistance in allowing a doctor with autism to perform surgery, executive producer David Shore said, “Almost right away, we’re going to go there. There’s going to be people who think he doesn’t belong there for a while and [Shaun’s] going to have to prove himself. But I don’t think that is what the show is ultimately about, so I don’t want to tread water with that. I want to honestly debate that and pursue that, but he is an atypical doctor, but in a way, they’re all atypical doctors. That’s what I really want to get into is: [Shaun’s] a catalyst for change within the other doctors, and he has a different way of looking at the world that I think will inspire them.” Shore added, “But I think [Shaun] has strengths and he has weaknesses, and we want to explore those, just as we want to explore those strengths and weaknesses of each of our doctors. . . I think [Shaun’s] fine motor skills have proven to be quite capable. The real challenge will be in his communication skills. . . He can be right and fail in communicating the information, which is crucial, and he can see things frankly. He’s seeing so many details that he may be sometimes seeing things that aren’t there. I assure you, he will be right many, many times, and he will save lives. [But] we want to be honest about this: [when he is] wrong, and a price will be paid for that.” Freddie added, “Much of what we’re trying to do when depicting Dr. Shaun Murphy is trying to understand him, trying to understand in what ways he thinks differently, how he see the world and experiences it differently.”
Co-star Richard Schiff shared, “I have a history with this particular challenge of autism with a couple of different people in my life. I personally appreciate any person in real life that steps out of their way to save a life, so to speak, even if it’s psychologically. We were just talking yesterday, because we ran into Gene Wilder’s nephew [Jordan]. And I told him the story of how Gilda Radner had seen me in this big room when I was a teenager and nobody knew me, and I was very troubled at the time. And she cut a beeline to me, put her hands on my face, and said: ‘It will be all right,’ and then talked to me for quite awhile. And I told this to Jordan and he told me that that’s who Gilda was. She would just find the person who was troubled and do that. She didn’t do that with every person. Those kinds of experiences in my life saved my life. The fact that [my] character went out of his way to find somebody who was troubled, because not only was he challenged with this problem, but he went through trauma in the flashback. The fact that he decided to be a mentor to this individual, to me that’s a very, very touching and compelling story. So I took jumped off the cliff for this based off that and hope that it finds fruit.” (Observation: Richard’s leap of faith will be rewarded. THE GOOD DOCTOR is a TV show this Fall that I will stop everything for and watch it LIVE as the characters are ones that I want to spend time with.). THE GOOD DOCTOR premieres Monday, September 25, 2017 at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.
KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD
Another new series I am excited about is ABC’s new comedy KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD where a young man returns home to try to find his purpose in life — never expecting that something extraordinary was going to happen to him. Appearing for the panel were executive producers Michele Fazekas, and Tara Butters along with stars Jason Ritter, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, and Chloe East. The ABC description for KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD: “Kevin [Jason Ritter] is a man who materialistically has everything, but is emotionally fragile. He has realized things like wealth and status aren’t going to make him happy and, in the midst of a downward spiral, returns to his small town in Texas to stay with his widowed twin sister and niece. Amongst a strained homecoming, there is a series of fantastic events leading to the arrival of an unlikely friend who tasks him with an unbelievable mission, whether he wants it or not, to save the world.” Executive producer Tara Butters laughingly said, “I have to say the whole kind of underlying theme that we talk about about the show is: Don’t be an asshole. . . . And that’s kind of what this whole show is about. It doesn’t take that much to be kind or help somebody. . . We try to show there’s still humor and heart in those stories. [Kevin’s] trying to be a better person. And I think we all could try a little harder.”
Jason Ritter added: “It’s fun to see where the show goes and how there are times where [Kevin’s] super into it and he’s, like, ‘All right. Let’s do this. Let’s get it done.’ And then he rebels again, and he’s a little bit moody. [H]e’s not the hero that you would expect to eventually take up the mantle and he’s not exactly happy being tasked with saving the world. It’s a lot. It’s a big ask. . .[But] I think that is there’s a lot that is completely out of our control and you can obsess about things that are out of your control and let them bother you, or you can focus on the things that are in your control. One of the things that is all in our control is bettering ourselves and looking inward. Before you look outward and start blaming other people or getting upset with other people, you can look at the way that your actions affect the people around you.”
Quick to dispute the popular misconception about her character, co-star Kimberly Hebert Gregory said, “[My] character is not an angel. She’s flawed. She’s not angelic. She doesn’t necessarily behave like an angel. She doesn’t use language that’s necessarily angelic. She has a real purpose, and her purpose is really bigger than just helping Kevin do what he needs to do. She has actually bucked the universe, and she has sacrificed greatly to come because she has a love for humanity, which I think is actually a great kind of tone to have for the character. Like, her love for humanity is so great … she’s almost kind of playing God in a way.” Co-executive producer Tara Butters added, “When we say she’s a warrior for God, we mean that. The fact is she is her own hero of the story too because she’s coming down with her own purpose and, as the show kind of expands over multiple episodes, one of the things you will realize is that as much as she’s there to kind of help Kevin, Kevin ends up helping her, and they end up creating this kind of really interesting partnership in which — not to be a spoiler — but you will meet other people of her kind.”
Michele clarified, “Without giving too much away, I think there is something behind the problem that they encounter in the series, or at least in the first season of the show, and so that is part of what Yvette is working on and trying to figure out what happened. And I’ve always liked how we were big BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fans, and I always liked how Joss [Whedon] designed his where you’d have, like ‘big bad’ for the season. . . I think this first season has a goal as well, and that is sort of wrapped up into it.”
Fazekas explained that in KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD, Kevin’s an unlikely hero — and is kind of about a hero who should not be a hero and is not good at it. They really wanted the show to offer hope in a time when it is easy to feel terrible about what is going on in the world. So they created a show with characters that have humor and heart and that can be watched by whole family. (Observation: My deep fondness for ABC’s KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD likely attributed to my love of JOAN OF ARCADIA, which Jason Ritter also co-starred in, but I loved how upbeat and fun it felt watching it.) Premieres Tuesday, October 4th at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.
ONCE UPON A TIME
ABC’s family drama ONCE UPON A TIME is coming back with a bit of a reboot: familiar faces in similar roles, but the story will be a brand new chapter. So Regina (Lana Parrilla) is not Regina and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) is not Hook and Rumple (Robert Carlyle), well, he just might still be the Rumplestiltskin we know from before, he just will not remember it it. In the new chapter, it is a brand new curse and this time, Regina, Hook and Rumple will not remember their former lives. Thus, it will be up to Henry — an adult now — to figure out how to find them and save them, and be reunited with his lost love Cinderella — a life he himself does not yet remember. Appearing for the panel were co-executive producers Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis, David Goodman along with stars Lana Parrilla, Colin O’Donoghue and newcomers Andrew West (who plays the adult Henry), Dania Ramirez (who plays Cinderella), and Gabrielle Anwar (who plays the Evil Step-Mother).
Executive producer Eddy Kitsis explained the reboot as, “We have a grown-up Henry and he has found himself in a new book with new characters, and he’s called on some of his friends, like Captain Hook and Rumpelstiltskin and, of course, his mom, the Evil Queen, to come join [him]. So we’re going to have a new curse in a new town with new characters, but we’ll still see some old faces.” Co-executive producer Adam Horowitz then added, “It’s a mix of both the characters that, hopefully, the audience has grown to love over the years, and this new direction allows us to continue with some of that but open up new doors of storytelling, bring in new characters, and be able to tell new origin stories and go back in a way that we haven’t been able to do in a long time.” To which co-executive producer David Goodman added, “[There is] also a change in locale. We’re leaving Storybrooke with sort of this very small town and moving to the city, which I think can open things up in terms of a little bit of tone and the kind of stories we’re going to be telling.”
Lest fans worry that all their favorites will not be seen, Kitsis reassured, “Episode 2 is going to answer what has happened with Emma [Jennifer Morrison] and Captain Hook, and Episode 4 will answer that very question for Belle [Emilie de Ravin]. We are not going to be we’re not looking to get rid of any of the ‘happy endings’ that we have created or set up or ended with. We’re not trying to take any away. We are moving forward, and we think we have a way to achieve both things.” Horowitz added, “What happened in the first six seasons of the show remains deeply rooted in the DNA what’s going forward. We are telling new stories with some of the characters from the first six seasons and with the new characters, but what came before – we were all very cognizant — as we write the show and as we perform the show — we are always thinking of the fans. But we hope that people check it out and will see that we are thinking about that.” He also explained, “With the way we sort of reset things, with the new stories, we’re not beholden to so much of that old mythology. It opens up so many new doors and avenues to go through. And also it will hopefully be refreshing for the audience to be able to come in and start to begin new chapters.”
To entice viewers into the new chapter Kitsis said, “This season Henry and Cinderella is going to kind of be the epic romance that we had Season 1 with Snow and Charming — we haven’t shown them meet yet and we haven’t shown the relationship yet — this year we’ll be actually showing you how they met, how they fell in love, how they were ripped apart and wondering whether or not they’ll find each other in Seattle.” Dania Ramirez reassured, “They show flashbacks to actually introduce the backstories or what happened to these people prior to showing them a couple years later in the real world. You’re going to get a chance to see all that.” And Andrew West chimed in with, “You’ll get a chance to see various time periods in these characters’ lives. You see where we leave young Henry at the end of Season 6, then going into Season 7, you see him a little bit older, even older still living in Seattle in the real world, and we’ll fill in different periods in these characters’ lives. . . Through some of the flashbacks that we’re going to see in the beginning of Season 7 — you see a continuation of this Henry character that feels very much like the Henry that we’ve all watched for six years, and then we get to see him a little bit later in life, and all of that just feels so new and different in a really exciting, interesting way.”
In describing her new character, Dania said, “For me, Cinderella was really about this girl that had been abused and trying to figure her way out and the great way about where we pick up Cinderella on that show is]: what is she going to do now that she has been through what she has been through, and how is that going to inspire a different kind of life for other people? The great thing is we are living — especially in the temperament of this world today — it’s great to feel like you can tell a story no matter what ethnicity you are and still the themes are the same, so people can unite. I think it’s a great way to unite people, so thank you to the writers for thinking about that.”
Then as to what happened to Hook, Colin O’Donoghue said, “When we meet Hook at the start of this season, he is a uniformed cop in Seattle. He’s different from a Hook any of the other ten different Hooks that I’ve played over the five or six seasons. . . I describe him as: there’s a sense of loss there in the guy, and I think that he just doesn’t know what it is that’s missing. So he’s striving in some way to find who he is still . . . the Hook that we meet is trying to be the best uniformed cop that he can be and do things the right way. But as is always the case on ONCE UPON A TIME, it’s more complicated than that. And it’s fun.” He added, “I’ve been very, very lucky to play so many different variations of this one character. That’s one thing that I’m really excited about. This season, I get to explore him in a completely different way than you’ve seen and see how we can spin it. . . I think the writers have done just an incredible job so far. In particular — I’m not going to say what happens — but one of the episodes I think it might even be one of the best episodes of any sort of show that I’ve read or seen. It’s really, really, really fantastic.”
Adding to the complicated reboot is: what happened to Regina, now known as “Not Regina”? Lana Parrilla revealed, “When we meet her, this other version of Regina, she’s working in a bar. She’s a bar owner. She’s a little rough around the edges, not the queen that we’re used to. She has curly hair. She looks very different. She feels different. Like Colin, I also played so many different versions of this character and this one feels really different. All the other versions were evolutions of the character. And this one’s like I mean, her name’s not even Regina.” She also added, “She’s no longer in charge. We’ve always seen Regina in charge or try to be in charge, try to control, try to manipulate — then she redeemed herself. But this Regina is something else, and I’m having a blast playing her. I’m still discovering her. I think we’re all still discovering who she is. It’s refreshing. It feels different. You don’t get a lot of opportunities where you get to play so many different versions of these characters, and it’s fun as an actor to be a part of something that is constantly evolving.”
Capping it off, Horowitz said that the spirit of the show is, “It’s more about hope — and it’s about having belief and faith in something can lead you to a better life and to a better outcome. . . . It’s about hope and optimism. That’s always been the core of this show — to tell stories about characters who are in distress, but who can find that hope within themselves and get to a better life.”
(Observation: The sneak peek for Season 7 was AWESOME! I have fallen under the spell of this new version already and am looking forward to watching. Really digging ABC’s new theme of “hope” for many of its shows.) ONCE UPON A TIME Season 7 premiere Friday, October 6th at 8:00 p.m. on ABC. (Moved to Friday nights)
Fleshing out the story of Marvel’s Inhumans, as previously seen in the ABC series AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., the new drama series INHUMANS explores life among the Inhumans that have fled Earth centuries ago and who are now on a collision course with those back on Earth when their presence is discovered on the Moon. ABC describes the show as: “The story of the Inhumans royal family after they are splintered by a military coup. A few barely escape to Hawaii, where they are separated and have to deal with the humans around them. They must also find a way to reunite with each other and return to their home before their way of life is destroyed forever.” Appearing for the panel were executive producers Scott Buck and Jeph Loeb along with stars Anson Mount, Iwan Rheon, Serinda Swan, and Ellen Woglom.
Executive producer Scott Buck explained, “The Inhumans originally came from Earth and fled Earth a long, long time ago because they could not peacefully coexist with humans. So when they are prepared to encounter humans, it’s with a great deal of fear and reluctance.”
Jeph Loeb clarified that, “This is really a story about two brothers, in almost a Shakespearean kind of way, and the woman who is actually caught in between them, who is the queen.”
Anson Mount said that for his character Black Bolt, “blood is certainly thick enough to want to keep his brother around, as much as of a troublemaker as he is, because he’s a very, very, very valuable adviser. [Black Bolt] is, by far, the most intelligent member of the family. He’s pitted as sort of this nemesis, and Iwan did a very good job of creating a protagonist out of this character. And when you really listen to what he says, it makes a lot of sense. I think that both brothers learn from each other through their different ways of looking at their own world.” (Key point to understand ahead of time is that Anson Mount’s character Black Bolt does not speak — ever. He carries his scenes without speaking. A specific form of sign language was developed for Mount since Black Bolt wouldn’t have been taught the Earth specifics.)
Iwan Rheon further explained, “It’s essentially two brothers who have got a very different approach in life. . . Black Bolt is he can’t speak, for a start, which makes it difficult to communicate. So he sort of holds everything in, whereas [my character] Maximus is very much about getting it out .. . and once there’s a threat that humanity are going to discover the Inhumans, he has a very different approach that he believes they should get they should go straight down there and face the problem straight on. Whereas Black Bolt is, like ‘No, we do nothing,’ which frustrates Maximus. There’s that kind of clash between them, basically in almost like in manifesto in what they believe. So Maximus then goes on and tries to change things.” As to Maximus’ relationship with Medusa, he noted, “[Maximus] was always very good friends with Medusa as they grew up, but then she went and ditched him for the older brother.”
Serinda Swan added,”Medusa is the character that’s sort of caught between the two brothers, friends to both growing up. Built a relationship through communication with Black Bolt. She was the one that we walk in the room and they both took risks, obviously, because one whisper from him, and it’s a distraction. So she was the only one who would walk in and sit with him, and they developed this language. She trusted him not to kill her, and he had to trust her with his language, with his communication. So she is the communicator, so she is the translator. There’s this beautiful thing between the two of them. Part of the reason why I loved Medusa and why I really wanted to play her was she’s not just his translator. She’s this really incredible, powerful character all on her own. The symbiosis between the two, you see this strong, powerful man and this powerful woman, and then it’s husband and wife, and it’s king and it’s queen. There’s a real dynamic there.” Though she laughingly noted, “You’ll see little bits, like when we play around … with not always matching what Black Bolt signs to what Medusa says. She might switch a little word here or there, which is great because you get to see that family dynamic and how she has that strong will.” She also revealed, “There are interactions with the humans, both how we expect it to be but then also in a very unexpected way. You get to see the relationships that develop there as well. So there’s a really beautiful duality there and conversations that happen between humans and Inhumans. And I always say it’s a very human drama set in an Inhuman world.”
(Observation: The version I have seen of INHUMANS is not very strong and is currently in the process of re-edits. That said, I will definitely watch all 8 episodes.) INHUMANS premieres Friday, September 29th from 8-10 p.m. on ABC, then airs Fridays at 9:00 p.m. on ABC with a limited run of 8 episodes. (Note: To help celebrate and launch the new series, ABC is premiering INHUMANS in IMAX movie theaters on September 1st with a special 75-minute sneak preview of the first two episodes.)
10 DAYS IN THE VALLEY
ABC’s new limited drama series is based on a recurring nightmare that executive producer Tassie Cameron had: “I was working alone late at night in my writing shed about 10 feet away from my house, and that it would be I’d finish writing, and I would come, and my back door would be locked, and I’d break in, and my kid would be gone.” In 10 DAYS IN THE VALLEY, the story follows the woman who works as a writer on a police procedural TV show whose daughter is abducted right from their home while she is working outside and how the details of the police investigation start working their way into her writing for the show. Appearing for the panel were executive producers Tassie Cameron and Kyra Sedgwick, along with stars Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje and Erika Christensen.
Kira Sedgwick said what appealed to her about the show was, “I was interested in doing a show where I’m not solving a mystery. I am a mystery. I mean, really, [my character] Jane is just such a mystery. And hand-in-hand with the mystery of this character is the mystery of what happens to her daughter and why and the who — the what, the why is very much unraveling the history and the mystery of Jane and her relationships with all these people, some of which are historical, her sister and her ex husband, and some of which are new. But we really, literally go back in time and find out why is Jane the way she is. Why does she have these coping skills and coping mechanisms that and I think these are the kinds of things that really interest me as an actor, is we’re all a product of our upbringing, and to be able to deep sea dive into that with this character and also lots of other characters was fascinating to me. I mean, Jane is in some ways the center, is very much the center of the show, but in all the characters we get to see why they are who they are and what makes them tick, and we’re surprised by all of them.”
Co-star Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje said the appeal for him was, “When [my character] Detective John Bird comes into the world of Jane — everybody’s a suspect — obviously, he thinks this is actually going to be pretty much a shut and closed case, a domestic dispute. Maybe the husband has taken the child. But as things evolve, he starts to see that there’s more to it than meets the eye and is somewhat intrigued by not only the world of Jane — but with each encounter and question, he starts to see that the answers are not adding up, which leads him to start to investigate further. And as he investigates further, he starts to see that some of these untruths are actually really, really taking him in areas where he couldn’t have foreseen.” He also quickly added, “But in terms of the relationship between Bird and Jane, I think on a professional one, she is a suspect just like everybody else. On a personal one, I think John Bird is intrigued by Jane. Here’s a woman who’s juggling. She’s committed and she’s passionate, and I think there’s a common thread between them. They’re both workaholic. And they won’t stop. Once they’ve got a bone between their teeth, they go for it. So I think there’s this common bond and respect for her as a professional and as a mother juggling it all. But ultimately, she is a suspect and she is not telling the whole truth. So I think his angle is to find that and, in so doing, I think he’s somewhat enraptured by this world.”
Erika Christensen also described it as, “I’ll say it reads like a novel. There are a lot of there’s so much about this world that you learn, and there’s so many turns and reveals along the way. Ultimately, as far as Lake and what happened to her, you get a huge chunk of information soon and then that’s just not all of it, and the story continues and goes deeper and deeper.”
10 DAYS IN THE VALLEY premieres Sunday, October 1 at 10:00 pm on ABC. (Note: 10 DAYS IN THE VALLEY could potentially have second season, but it is really intended to be a limited-run series. Its story wraps up by the end of the 10 episodes.)
On the heels of the ABC announcement that Season 9 would be THE MIDDLE’s “Farewell Season,” the panel for the show was surprisingly upbeat if not already a bit misty-eyed at the prospect of saying goodbye to this beloved series. Appearing for the panel were executive producers Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline along with stars Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott, Eden Sher, Atticus Shaffer. Reflecting on the continuing appeal of the show, Atticus Shaffer observed, “I’ve always grown up in a small town atmosphere like this, so I’ve always had an appreciation for it. However, being able to be on this show and grow up on the show, that’s one of the things that we play up, are those small town values and everyone knows everyone — and you definitely appreciate it.”
Executive producer DeAnn Heline said, “The truth is we could write this family for ten more years. The actors are so great. We all love each other. We’re a great family. To keep it going was certainly appealing. But also, at a certain point, we didn’t want to be in the situation where it felt like we either had to end it now or just go for ten more years. I don’t know. We didn’t want to be at a point where, a few years down the road, it was the kind of thing where we didn’t get to end it on our terms. So it felt like the timing was right, and it wasn’t again, I think it was just a more personal decision than really about than even what was happening or where we are in the world or even ABC. It was a really personal decision among all of us.” Co-executive producer Eileen Heisler added, “Our show has always been kind of like Mike: don’t stick your head too far above the wheat. Just kind of keep doing your job and do our job. And I think that people have found it. And maybe it didn’t get all the massive attention that it could have gotten, but the critics have been really kind to it.”
As to what Season 9 will hold for the fans, Heline described it as, “[In] the first episode, we talk about the Heck legacy and what is the Hecks’ legacy. I think that you will find what’s fun — and that’s why we wanted to go out on our own terms and have this last season — is when we bring some of our great characters back, like Reverend Tim Tom and all that, we really want to make sure everyone is having a special episode. It’s still going to be it’s not like it’s going to be something crazy and different. It’s going to be the show that you love, but I think it will have extra meaning for fans of the show and people who love the show.”
Then what will the series finale episode be like, Heline said, “It will be a special episode for sure. I think it’s going to be an hour long, we think, episode or two halves or something like that. So, yeah, we know what the last episode is, and I think it will be something that the fans of the show will love.”
Looking back at their luck in casting three wonderful actors — Charlie, Eden, and Atticus — to play the Heck’s children, Heisler acknowledged, “They came into the world fully formed. We made a really strong effort in the casting to try to get really well-rounded, really fine actors, and we were so lucky, especially Atticus was teeny weeny, but we had a hunch. It was a good bet, you know, but I thinkThey came into the world fully formed. We made a really strong effort in the casting to try to get really well rounded, really fine actors, and we were so lucky, especially Atticus was teeny weeny, but we had a hunch. It was a good bet.” Heline himed-in with, “To Atticus’ credit too, a lot of times when kids start hey are adorable, as Atticus was adorable when he was little, but then they grow up, and then it’s like, now they are not adorable, but they are not funny. We just lucked out in that Atticus and in all of them, as they grew, just got funnier and funnier.” To which Heisler added, “It became clear, I think early, that everybody could handle stories, and it was just we would not be here right now if we didn’t have kid actors formerly kid actors who could handle it and kid characters who had full lives. So it was something we thought of, but I think it exceeded all of our expectations.”
When asked what they will miss most about working on the show, Atticus said, “I’m going to miss my crew family.” Patricia said, “When you put your hand out on set and someone just puts a bottle of water in it.” Charlie said, “It’s a lot of fun. I’m going to miss being able to have this job.” Eden said, “I’m going to miss being able to have a job where I can just come in and [do] wherever I want.” And Neil said, “I was about to say: I don’t think I’m going to miss anything.” Then he paused and with tears in his eyes, he softly said, “I will miss the people.” Neil then explained, “[This has been] such a gift to an actor because you just don’t get that. . . . I hope I get to do it again. But that’s what I have treasured from the experience: the opportunity to just be given that gift that you have to realize is so rare as an actor.”
Goodbyes are never easy, but as Heline happily shared, “I guess we take the Sue Heck attitude, which is the positive, optimistic attitude, which is: we’ve been on the air. We’ve seen so many shows on Wednesday nights after us that have gone away, and here we are nine years later. We are still on. Our fans love us. All of you guys, the critics, have been lovely and wonderful to us.” To which Heisler proudly noted, “We are leaving — making this decision together — when we are having such a good time together. And conversely — what Neil said about being able to play these scenes — for us, as writers, to be able to write them has just been a gift beyond belief.”
With immense pride and joy at being able to bring their fun-loving family show to appreciative fans for nine seasons, THE MIDDLE is signing-off on top. THE MIDDLE Season 9 premieres Tuesday, October 3rd at 8:30 p.m. on ABC. (Note: Appropriately, THE MIDDLE series finale will hit sometime in “the middle” of 2018.)
That’s a wrap on the network and studio presentations from Day 13 of the Summer 2017 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.