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TCA Summer 2017 Tour: Quick Takes from CW Presentations

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TCA Summer 2017 Tour: Quick Takes from CW Presentations

TCA Summer 2017 Tour: Quick Takes from CW 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 presentation from CW who presented on the 9th day of the tour.  Here are some of the featured television shows and specials that caught our attention:

Executive Session 

CW Seed is celebrating its 5 anniversary.  It is currently home to a variety of original series for the CW, including three DC animated shows: VIXEN, CONSTANTINE (soon to be released), and THE RAY. CW Seed is a venturing into eSports. It also airs the earlier version of THE FLASH (1990 version), SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. THE OC, EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS, GIRLFRIENDS, DYNASTY and EVERWOOD (which is its most popular series to date on it).  Noteworthy: CW has seen triple digit increases in its viewership on CW Seed.

As to the CW’s longest running drama series SUPERNATURAL, president Mark Pedowitz stated that SUPERNATURAL will go as long “as the boys [Jared and Jensen] want to do it.” (So likely to continue beyond Season 13.)

Coming this Fall is the now annual event of the 4-show crossover event with the CW’s four DC shows, and this year it will be held across only 2-nights: Monday, November 27 for SUPERGIRL paired with ARROW and Tuesday, November 28th for THE FLASH and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW.  Naturally, last year’s DC crossover was the most successful in the CW’s history.

The CW is introducing two new drama series this Fall: VALOR, a military conspiracy-drama, and DYNASTY, which is a remake of the 1980’s series.  With both REIGN and THE VAMPIRE DIARIES having concluded their runs this last Spring, the CW is looking for shows to draw in more female viewers and hope that VALOR and DYNASTY will do that.  VALOR is felt to be a great soap backdropped against a military background. VALOR will not only extend the CW brand, the chemistry between leads Christina Ochoa and Matt Barr really makes it a strong show for the female audience.  Plus, it has a great twist that will help it stand out.  As for DYNASTY, the CW feels it get the buzz going and will entice fans of the original series and they hope the younger audience will find it too

As to the returning midseason shows, Mark stated that 2017-18 season is not necessarily the final seasons for IZOMBIE and THE 100.  They will just have to see how each series does when they return. He emphasized that he trusts his showrunners to tell him when shows need to end and he does not want the shows to “run out of gas and be forced to go on.”

As for JANE THE VIRGIN and CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, he likes those shows because they work for the CW and fill their need for hour long comedy series to round out its programming slate.

Mark said there has been no talk between CW and the Canadian producers of Kristin Kreuk’s new legal show, but would be open to considering it if approached.

The CHARMED reboot has been sent back for re-development as Jennie Urman is tied up working on JANE THE VIRGIN.

He compared the new drama LIFE SENTENCE as to being along the lines of THIS IS US and reassured that while there is a “hook” in the story, it is not a supernatural twist.

He also stated that the decision to pick up BLACK LIGHTNING was easy. He jumped at the chance when it a was offered as he has wanted to be in business with Akil Productions for years.

All the midseason shows, both the new shows LIFE SENTENCE and BLACK LIGHTNING, as well as returning shows THE ORIGINAL, iZOMBIE and THE 100 will air 13 episodes this next season.

Finally, Mark said that he aims to have the CW offer year-round programming. So he anticipates ordering 6 more pilots this next season, just like last season. He feel that the CW is still growing and has made significant gains in viewership on all platforms.  He wryly noted:  “They said broadcast was dead. Broadcast is far from dead. Cable is going through a contraction. It’s just the nature of the beast.”  He also guaranteed that as the CW has always been an “outlier in broadcasting,”  and “will be around for a hell of a long time.”

DYNASTY

The CW’s remake of the classic 1980’s drama DYNASTY is being relaunched under showrunners and executive producers Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage and Sallie Patrick, and stars Grant Show, Elizabeth Gillies, Nathalie Kelley, Sam Adegoke.  The remake keeps the campiness of the original and adds a bit of a wink-and-a-nod feel to it for the audience. The cat fights, hair-pulling, chest-to-chest saber-rattling drama is all there.  As Elizabeth Gillies cheekily said: “I got the script and thought, ‘oh this would be A LOT of fun!'” 

One readily apparent change was changing Heather Locklear’s classic Sammy Jo into a male version of the character for the remake.  This opens the door for that character to be a love interest or object of interest for the character of Steven, who is gay. Josh was quick to reassure that Steven’s sexual orientation is not an issue with his father Blake and that the father and son will butt heads over their views on environmental issues involving the company.

Another change made was changing the character of Krystle and “dirty-ing” her up so that the audience is not sure of her motives.  Likewise with Blake. They wanted him to take on some classic villain attributes to ensure he has a bit of fun too.  Grant Show said that after 35 years of working in serialized television, in large part due to Aaron Spelling, that he feels “uniquely positioned to play Blake Carrington.”  In fact, when he first got the script, he thought to himself, “This is my job. I’m not letting anyone else have it.”

The one question that will not be answered right away is: who will play Alexis?  The show wants to take time in introducing that long-awaited character but assures that it will happen at some point in the first season.

Josh Schwartz said finding the balance of humor with character self-awareness is important.  Equally important, the cast has to be funny. Mix those together: self-awareness with funny actors and it adds humor to dramatic moments. He hopes that DYNASTY reflects that.

[Observation: the best part of CW’s reboot of DYNASTY is Nick Wechsler, who is best known for his prior roles on ROSWELL and REVENGE, and his role is only too fleeting in the series.  When I finally put my finger on what I sensed missing from the CW DYNASTY reboot: it was that is has no “heart.” Whereas THE OC had a beating “heart” and it felt infused with love. And, as I have always said, the secret ingredients to any great TV show is: hero, heart, hook. Unfortunately, miss one of these ingredients and the show will fall flat and fail.]

DYNASTY premieres Wednesday, October 11th at 9:00 p.m. on the CW, after the Season 2 premiere of RIVERDALE.

VALOR

The CW’s other new drama VALOR brings the sexy sizzle among dogging bullets and bombs — and stars Matt Barr, who fans may remember from his prior series HARPER’S ISLAND, HELLCATS, SLEEPY HOLLOW, and Christina Ochoa, who fans may remember from KINGDOM and BLOOD DRIVE.

VALOR has a female-centric feel to CW’s VALOR that was not in the other military dramas coming this Fall.  That maybe due to the fact that the show has two female military veterans working in CW’s VALOR writers room to consult and contribute details for the stories and characters.  VALOR will also strive to depict both life in the from lines and what life is like for soldiers when they are not on duty, which includes issues with PTSD and addiction.  Christina even said that she has done a lot of research into what the military elite units really go through by reading books like “Black Hawk Down.” She also did training for drumming and learning to pilot a helicopter.  To which, her costar Matt cheerfully added, “If a zombie apocalypse comes, and there’s a helicopter — in theory — we could fly it.” Matt also said that because it is crucial for the characters in life-and-death situations that he and worked on bonding as much as possible so that their characters are in sync.  As to the scruffy facial hair and longer hair cut, which seems unusual for a character in the military, Matt said that the casual look helps soldiers assimilate and denotes rank.  That, along with tattoos, are viewed like a badge of honor.

Executive producer Kyle Jarrow said they really wanted VALOR to tell character stories that dig into military life day-to-day and the reality of special ops missions. He also noted that the U.S. is not in a major ground war right now, more and more missions are being carried out by special ops.  That being said, to create a bit more of a “hook” for the show, they added a military cover-up into the story.  So VALOR will not simply be about going on special ops missions, it will be about finding out what truth that someone in the government is trying to bury and cover up.

VALOR premieres Monday, October 9th at :00 p.m. on the CW, after the Season 3 premiere of SUPERGIRL.

LEGENDS OF TOMORROW

Returning for Season 3 is the CW adventure series LEGENDS OF TOMORROW.  Appearing for the panel were executive producers Phil Klemmer and Marc Guggenheim along with stars Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh and Tala Ashe. One big reveal right away was that the show will find is characters visiting a 1870’s circus.  Phil noted that because the show jumps quickly between different time periods on the show that it feels like they are jumping into a new movie every week.  That also means they are kind of starting from scratch with sets and costumes each episode as well — and Marc gave a shout-out to costume designer Vicki Mulholland for her amazing work on the show. 

The second thing addressed was the addition of Tala to the show for Season 3.  Marc said that since the show has so many male characters that they wanted to add another female character to balance is out a bit.  Additionally, as Phil noted, because Ashe’s character Zari is a computer hacker aka “hacktivist”, from the future, it will push the Legends a bit more. Because the Legends meet Zari in the future in 2042, which is a very bleak time, and she is a hacktivist, she will present a philosophical challenge. As Tala explained, her character Zari speaks truth to power in the ways that she can and Zari challenges the Legends to improve history, not just keep it on track. 

However, there is a bit of a bump in the road as, in new season, the Legends are not the only game in town. While the Legends continue to be the only family each other has as they travel through time, when we meet up with them again, Rip has created the Time Bureau which has replaced the Legends and makes them obsolete. This puts the Legends in an awkward and interesting position.  Thus, Season 3 will see the team looking for their purpose. In addition, this season will be more of a personal story as each realizes how much they need each other. 

Also Ray’s brother Sydney will be making an appearance.  While Ray will remain the beacon of light, we will see his counter-point in brother Sydney.   With the challenge to discover who they are now and what they all mean to each other, as Brandon noted, the potential for change proves to be addictive idea for Ray. But no matter what he goes through, that  Ray always bounces back.

Other teasers included:

Captain Cold will be back in Season 3.
Arthur Darvill will be in the season premiere playing an interesting new version of Rip.
When last seen, the show had left Damian Darhk in 1985. When we see again, it will be the version of Damian Darhk as portrayed after the events that occurred in ARROW and the show has promised a fun way to bring him back.

The LEGENDS OF TOMORROW Season 3 premiere is Tuesday, October 10th at 9:00 p.m. on the CW.

EVERWOOD

It was a pleasure to see the cast of EVERWOOD reunited for this joyous occasion at TCA.  It was a love-fest all around as several cast members were a bit teary-eyed and emotional during the panel, as were many members of the press.  The show clearly has left an indelible mark on the lives of many on both sides of the camera — and it is well-earned.  Thanks to its incredibly strong concept and execution, as well as superb writing, EVERWOOD helped launch the careers of not only executive producer Greg Berlanti, who produces many of the CW shows (SUPERGIRL, ARROW, THE FLASH, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, BLACK LIGHTNING), but boosted the careers and profiles of the all-star cast of Treat Williams, Gregory Smith, Vivien Cardone, Brenda Strong, Emily VanCamp, Tom Amandes, Chris Pratt, Sarah Drew, Stephanie Niznik, Scott Wolf, Debra Mooney, John Beasley, Steven R. McQueen, Justin Baldoni.  While Chris Pratt, Scott Wolff, Brenda Strong, Sarah Drew, Steven R. McQueen and Sarah Lancaster were not at the panel, the rest of the cast returned for this special reunion panel at TCA.  It is truly remarkable that  nine of the original cast were assembled for this momentous reunion celebration.  It goes to show the lure and appeal of the show even after nearly a decade of being off television.

One of the best examples of why this show touched so many lives is illustrated by the one memory that Vivien shared about how when she first met Treat Williams, who portrayed her father in the show, and Treat told her, “Listen, I know that it’s been hard.  Your dad is away. I’ll make a deal with you.  My family is not with me either.  So, if you promise to be my temporary daughter, I’ll be your temporary father.”  Vivien then shared: “And that bond has stayed ever since. So this is the kind of relationship that this whole group has had. We are very blessed and very fortunate that we have that.” For as executive producer Greg Berlanti insightfully observed, the premise of EVERWOOD was based on the idea that: “You would feel better if Treat Williams was your dad — and he gave you a hug and you both cried.” 

Just reflecting back on those magical, warm years filming the show together, Greg Berlanti got a bit choked up and shared, “I’m sorry.  This is an emotional day for me.  The show, obviously, was about coming of age.  I was so lucky that I made it when I did at the beginning of my career.  I’m very blessed.  I realized a few years after, that I’m not sure I’d be that lucky again in the same way.  I’ve been really proud to work on a lot of things I’ve worked on since, but I think probably people that know this show probably know me better, in that way.  It was very personal.  And every four or five years, I try and do something that’s as personal again.  But it was dealing with a lot of themes from that point of view, at that moment in my life that were resonant to me: getting out of high school, the filming of how to navigate life as a single parent.  I think the themes that the community was dealing with — and wanting to put on television subject matter that was, I felt, like was in the news, but not necessarily reflected in dramas — and I think the cornerstone of it was this notion that tragedy makes us real and that we suffer tragedy, and we overcome it, and we become richer, deeper, more meaningful people.” 

Greg then added, “I hadn’t suffered a lot of those things when I was 29 years old, you know, and wrote this show.  And I’ve gone through a lot of them since.  So when I think about how differently I see things now than I saw them at the time that I was really blessed to create it.”  To which, Tom chimed in with, “As an actor, some of the finest and bravest writing that I’ve ever  ever had the pleasure of working on.” And Treat agreed saying, “We knew that Greg’s script was extraordinarily special. These guys wrote it so beautifully. I really did feel like we were channeling [Frank] Capra at his best.  So I think nobody gave a damn about the cold [weather], because we knew how good it was.  We knew we were making something very special.” Even Vivien noticed at her tender young age as she shared, “It’s just being a part of something so beautiful — and the wonderful relationships that I developed with these people.” 

The warm affection was felt not just almost the show regulars, but also felt by Season 4 guest-star Justin Baldoni, who shared that for him, “[It was] my first real job and, for the last 12 years, I’ve been so grateful to Greg [Berlanti] and Rina for giving me a shot.  I mean, I learned how to act on TV with these guys, which is a pretty intimidating feat,. . . it set the tone for me to see what a family was like on set.  I came in in the fourth season, and they embraced me like I was there the whole time. .  . Everybody was just so kind. . . . It really was my first experience with a family, and I can tell you that that experience for me was something that I’ve really purposefully and intentionally tried to recreate with JANE THE VIRGIN, just being kind and loving.” He heartfeltly added, “These guys every day showed up to work, and they loved their job.  It was like they were getting a chance to do something that I think was so important for television.  They were telling stories that mattered, stories that were from the heart, but that then hit the heart.  Then, of course, ten years later, I get so blessed to be able to do that again on a show on the same network.  So I will forever be in debt to both of you [Greg and Rina] for letting this kid learn how to act on your priceless, amazing show.”
 
Jumping back in, Treat thoughtfully said, “I think the emotion came originally came from Greg [Berlanti] and Rina.  It came down through them, and we were given emotional work to do.  When you are given work that’s set deep and that powerful, and you are doing scenes with people where you are really opening up your guts and saying, ‘We’ve got to show up, and we’ve got to be here emotionally.’  So I think because they gave us that work to do and we were all committed to doing it that it brought us all to a place a lot of casts don’t get to.  . . . [But it was] from the getgo.”

Adding her two-cents, co-executive producer Rina Mimoun simply and heartfeltly said, “I hope people find it again. I think it holds up.” To which Emily added,  “It definitely stood the test of time.” And Tom Amandes noted, “I think it’s more ahead of its time now than it was then,” and Emily replied, “Probably, yeah.”

Reflecting how deep an impact EVERWOOD has had in the intervening years across the globe, Tom Amandes shared, “One of the more memorable times was I was in in Spain, and these young women came up and burst into tears.  I am not kidding.  The only thing they could say wasEVERWOOD —  and it was really moving, because I think at that point the show had been off for a while, but it was playing in Europe — and it was striking to see how much of an impact it had.”  To which Emily added, “And really devoted fans.  I think our EVERWOOD fans are different from anything else I’ve ever done. . .  It holds such a close place in people’s hearts who watched it.  So it’s always really heartwarming when people remember.”  Stephanie also added from her experience, “I often get stopped by mothers who had especially enjoyed EVERWOOD because they would often say to me:  ‘It’s the only show I can watch with my teen that we both love.’  And these same mothers are stopping me now and saying, ‘I want my grandkids to watch this show with me.’  And it’s nice.  Lovely.”

Looking back, Emily recalled that working on EVERWOOD helped her immeasurably as her career was just beginning. She recalled, “This show taught me everything and really informed all of the later decisions I would make in my career and mostly taught me how I wanted to be within this industry and behave.  I had the most wonderful examples — from the actors to the creative team to the writers — and I just feel so fortunate  . . . I’m deeply, deeply grateful that this was one of my first working experiences.”  She further noted, “It was like an acting master class for us young folk working with [Treat, Tom, Stephanie, Debra, John] and all of the guest stars that would come in and out, I mean, we we just  I think you’ll probably agree with me.  Like, Greg [Smith] and I would just soak it all in and observe and watch. . .  That’s where that sort of spark was lit.  We just had this incredible creative environment to feel completely free to fail, completely free to breathe and grow, and it really it helps — I mean, the memories that I have from that experience really helps with every job that I do to this day, and so I’m very, very grateful.”

Chiming in, Treat echoed Emily’s sentiments and said, “Those people who came in, it’s extraordinary.  When you think of the names — James Earl Jones came in.  Betty White came in.”  And  Stphanie added: “Dylan Walsh.  Jane Krakowski. Charles Durning.” Then John Beasley made sure they did not forget: “J.K. Simmons.” Prompting Treat to add as well, “And Kristen Bell.  I mean, we had extraordinary talent and wonderful stars . . .  It was amazing.  It was just extraordinary, who we got on the show.  It was very exciting for all of us.”

EVERWOOD remains not only a treasured memory among the cast and producers, it has left them craving the opportunity to revisit that world again.  So when asked if they would want the story to continue, if possible, and EVERWOOD revived for a film or limited series and if there were any talks of jump-starting that revival, Treat quickly responded, “I started today!” which got a loud burst of laughter from everyone.  Then Greg ruefully admitted, “No one has asked, but I think we all would love to work together again.” Which got a got an excited “Yes!” from Vivien and Treat exclaimed at the same time, “In a New York minute! I’m ready to go on Season 5.  I’m all set to go!”  Even Emily had to sheepishly and happily admit,  “We’re all just here because we want an answer.” Even for the actors, the story of EVERWOOD does not feel done quite yet and they too would embrace the opportunity to revisit that miraculous world once more.

Reflecting back to why he initially took the role as Dr. Andy Brown, Treat recalled, “I thought Greg had written an extraordinary, beautiful pilot.  I think it’s one of the greatest pilots ever made, and I just wanted to be as good as I could be in it for him, and the rest of it just, sort of, took care of itself.” And that leap of faith was rewarded ten-fold with the extraordinary store of EVERWOOD.  Treat concluded by saying, “I thought we did some really wonderful work, and I’m deeply, deeply proud of it.  And as I told Greg today: ‘Of all the things I’ve done in the 44 years I’ve been doing this, it’s right at the top.’  I’m just so very proud of the show.”  

EVERWOOD is clearly remembered fondly and somehow it has continued to touch lives well beyond its brief time on television.  It is legacy to be proud of and will surely stand the test of time, and as the final Season 4 episode was aptly titled, “Foreverwood,” until then, EVERWOOD is forever engraved in our hearts.

That’s a wrap on the network and studio presentations from Day 9 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.

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