TCA Summer 2017 Tour: Quick Takes from NBC 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 NBC who presented on the 10th day of the tour. Here are some of the featured television shows and specials that caught our attention:
Coming off a ratings high for the television season 2016-17, Bob Greenblatt stated that, even without the Super Bowl, NBC had the most 18-34 year old viewers for the television season. [Note: CBS had most total viewers, but NBC claimed the demo prize for the season.] Credit for NBC’s ratings victory is properly accredited to the mammoth success of its new drama THIS IS US, as well as the amazing performances of THE GOOD PLACE and SUPERSTORE. Each contributed to the overall demo win for NBC. Greenblatt proudly noted that for NBC that THIS IS US was a game-changer as it was straight out a ratings hit. THIS IS US ended up being the #5 show on all of television in total viewers and drew in 26 million viewers for the entire first season of THIS IS US, and when totaling all views across all platforms with the pilot episode being viewed by 32 million. Also coming off an extraordinary year was SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, which had its highest rated season in 23 years and AMERICA’S GOT TALENT Season 12 was its highest-rated season yet.
Greenblatt predicted that “same day” ratings will soon be a thing of the past and that more and more ratings include the airing rating plus digital and delayed views across all digital platforms. He feels: “The narrative should be linear + digital. Let the viewers watch anywhere they want to watch.” He also noted that linear viewing tracking has dropped as being the key factor in profitability — for NBC, the delayed and digital viewing is keeping network television going strong.
Greenblatt said that not only did NBC receive a TCA award nomination for THIS IS US, NBC also scored 64 Emmy award nominations this year. (As to the idea to move THIS IS US to Thursdays, NBC quickly reconsidered that idea once it realized that it was putting THIS IS US up against the Fall football season and decided to leave it on Tuesdays.)
Referring to the late pick-up of the comedy TRIAL & ERROR, president Jennifer Salke said that it was difficult to determine where to put the show on the NBC schedule. Unfortunately, it was announced that John Lithgow would not be featured in Season 2, and that there would be a brand new case to follow. In response to the dismay over John Lithgow not returning, it was clarified that TRIAL & ERROR had been designed to reset each season with new characters and cast.
Acknowledging that there needs to be more effort made to hire female directors for NBC shows, NBC is modeling its own program Female Forward, modeling itself on on Ryan Murphy’s Half Initiative. It was to promote and foster women into directing on more NBC shows.
Then commenting on the decision not to go forward with THE CARMICHAEL SHOW, Salke said that NBC loved the show and everyone involved. It had hoped the show would grow, but in the end, it was decided to let the show end.
In GREAT NEWS Season 2, Tina Fey will be appearing as a character in episode 207.
Greenblatt said that more effort was being made to monetize digital viewership and that NBC is following the money to exploit advertising opportunities on additional digital platforms.
As to the longevity of the newly resurrected WILL & GRACE, Greenblatt acknowledged that NBC green-lit the return of the series carefully and after they saw how well done the new season was,t NBC decided to order a second season for the revived series.
Expounding on the miracle renewal for TIMELESS, which was briefly cancelled before resurrected by NBC for a second season, Salke said, “We love the show. There was a bunch of us who really loved the show. . . but there were some financial challenges with the show. There were ratings challenges with the show. To be able to have a fan base that’s so engaged in the show coming and making it just kept bombarding us with feelings that we had about the show. So I like to say it was a collaborative sort of passion swell that kind of made us open it up and look at it again and think: ‘Could we figure out a way to make this make sense?’ I’m so glad that we did. Genre fans get very excited and noisy about things, and I love that. That’s why we love to program for them. So it was a good story.” Expounding on the considerations that went into the rethinking whether it was viable to bring the show back, Greenblatt added, “We’re in a time right now where we have a lot of things that are doing really well, not the least of which is a whole big new crop of reality hits. When we look at the whole schedule and plan the whole year, sometimes it’s, honestly, hard to figure out where to put all these shows. I know you’re going to say, ‘Oh, that’s a good problem to have,’ and it is. But when we did various schedules: we have TIMELESS, we have BLINDSPOT, we have THE BLACKLIST. We have the Dick Wolf shows that we love. . . . We couldn’t figure out a great place to put that show. So all the other factors led to us, unfortunately, saying, ‘We just don’t need this show.’ And then we rethought that.”
LAW & ORDER TRUE CRIME: THE MELENDEZ MURDERS premieres Tuesday, September 26th at 10:00 p.m. on NBC.
MONDAY, SEPT. 25
8 p.m. – The Voice
10 p.m. – The Brave
TUESDAY, SEPT. 26
8 p.m. – The Voice
9 p.m. – This Is Us
10 p.m. – Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 27
8 p.m. – The Voice
9 p.m. – Law & Order: SVU
10 p.m. – Chicago P.D.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 28
8 p.m. – Superstore
8:30 p.m. – The Good Place
9 p.m. – Will & Grace
9:30 p.m. – Great News
10 p.m. – Chicago Fire
FRIDAY, SEPT. 29
9 p.m. – Dateline NBC
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 4
8 p.m. – The Blacklist
FRIDAY, OCT. 27
8 p.m. – Blindspot
THIS IS US
Coming off a strong Emmy-nominated season, THIS IS US brought nearly its entire cast for its TCA panel. Attending were: executive producer Dan Fogelman, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Chris Sullivan, Susan Kelechi Watson and Ron Cephas Jones.
Executive producer Dan Fogelman started off the panel noting right away, “We’re making something that treads in humanity and just kind of regular people, and there’s some comedy in it, and there’s a lot of sentiment, and those are often shows that get in the critical conversation, so to be in the conversation is very exciting for us.”
As to where Season 2 picks up, Fogelman said that THIS IS US picks up the day after the big fight in the Season 1 finale starting on the kids’ 37th birthday. (He explained that for each season, it will start on their birthday.) Because the loss of a parent has lasting effect that only lessens over time, in THIS IS US, just because a character dies does not mean the actor is gone. For example, Jack was dead the entirety of Season 1, but Milo was integral to every episode. Thus, Ron Cephas Jones still has big role to play in Season 2. Fogelman also assured that first episode of Season 2 will contain a big piece of the puzzle about how Jack died and that they definitely have a plan, so the way Jack’s death was originally planned will still happen. As to the secret to the show’s longevity is, “People really enjoy watching these eight guys playing these eight characters. I don’t analyze it a lot more than that.”
For Milo Ventimilia explained that getting this role has been the gift of a lifetime. He said, “I know we’ve all, amongst ourselves, shared how fortunate we all feel about the work, the material we get to work on, but also the company we get to keep. I gotta be honest. If you’re an actor and you have a job, consider yourself lucky. It’s tough. It is hard. Being a working actor is something you always shoot for. Then, when you’re a working actor and you get an opportunity to be a part of a show that has meaning and magnitude and grace, then you just want it to go on for a long time and just soak up every moment you can of it. We’re very fortunate and grateful and a happy crew together.” Milo added, “It’s nice to play a good man who loves his family, loves his wife. . . It’s good to be part of a positive role model that is also flawed.” (Observation: For this panel, NBC showed a special sneak peak of an upcoming Season 2 scene and, like most who watch the show, it made me cry happy tears. It was a truly touching scene between Rebecca and Randall as they recalled a wonderful moment about Jack. Jack, alive or deceased, is such the heart of the show — as he is in his family’s lives. It is his legacy that no matter what his faults and flaws, they still remember how special he was and what a shining an example of acceptance and love he was.)
To which Dan Fogelman added: “I think our job is to try and do it with a degree of restraint that fits our meter collectively of what we feel goes from sentimental to schmaltzy. . . It’s important that something be put out there that allows people to tap into it and, hopefully, in an elegant way.”
sSterling K. Brown described it, “something special is happening.” He acknowledged that it is largely due to the writers who provide that key ingredient when he said, “You step into that writers’ room and you see firsthand, like, how it comes together. It’s a wonderful symbiosis. Everybody’s just trying to do their best job possible.”
Other tidbits gleaned from the THIS IS US panel were:
Sylvester Stallone will guest-star as Kevin’s co-star in his movie — a remarkable casting feat owed to Milo, who approached him about the role.
Also Miguel will be featured more in Season 2. Fogelman defended Jon Huertas’ character saying, “Miguel’s place in the story becomes bigger and bigger and bigger . . . I think we can get him to become this really beloved character who you’re rooting for in his own way. But it takes a minute. It takes a minute in any stepfather in a family, or it takes a minute with any new marriage for the kids and the people. And for fans of the show, it’s going to take a moment, and it’s not going to happen in one episode or overnight. But I think we’ll get there.”
Another polarizing character Toby was defended by Chris Sullivan, who cheekily said, “I think Toby is positioned, in the structure of the show, perfectly, almost as a comment on the way we like to idealize what a romantic relationship should be. And so being set up perfectly, literally perfectly, as this ideal romantic, weird, overly colorful, maybe a little vulgar character so that he can so that they can slowly, throughout time, kind of reveal the different layers of this character and kind of demonstrate the way two people who are at the very beginning of coming together, how they get past all of the romantic, you know, for lack of better word, BS and the courtship and all the fawning and all of the all of those things that are lovely and exciting and new, and really work past those things and get down to the individual pain that that two people need two individuals put their pain into this crucible that is a relationship and forge something stronger. And so I think it’s OK. I think it’s OK to kind of set Toby up that way and kind of see how it unfolds over time.”
Then as to unique role of Rebecca, whose story spans several decade on the show, Mandy Moore laughingly said, “I’m so lucky to have this job, I’ll sit in age, makeup, and prosthetics for as long as I have to. I have no problem with it. We have it down now to about three and a half hours, so it’s really not that bad.”
THIS IS US Season 2 premieres Tuesday, September 26th on NBC.
NBC’s newest drama series showcases elite military professionals, who work as undercover operatives all around the world. Appearing at the panel were: executive producers Chris Ord, Dean Georgaris, Matt Corman, along with stars Anne Heche, Tate Ellington, Demetrius Grosse, Natacha Karam, Mike Vogel, Hadi Tabbal, Noah Mills, Sofia Pernas and technical adviser Mikal Vega.
Executive producer Dean Georgaris said THE BRAVE is not serialized as the stories in each episode are self-contained missions-of-the-week. He explained, “We’re based in reality . . . a team like this doesn’t get to go on some vengeance hunt. They don’t go rogue. These men and women go on and do other missions. So in Season 1, they go all around the world: Nigeria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Mexico.” Though he did concede that there is one storyline involving a bomber that gets threaded through the season. But primarily THE BRAVE is, “a mission of the week that happens to take place around the world.” He added, “One of the things that’s just so exciting for all of us is, it just so happens the real men and women who do this, that’s what these people are like. They are resourceful; they are inspirational. So all we have to do is channel who they are.”
Co-executive producer Chris Ord also explained, “What really drew us to join this project was the strength of women, the female characters in the show, not just out in the field, but in the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency]. . . That’s just a good depiction of reality as men and women who do this job.” To which, Georgaris added, “What makes us special is not our skill set… it’s our mindset, how we deal with problems as they arise.”
From his viewpoint, Demetrius Grosse said, “This isn’t your typical straightforward military show. . . we highlight a very specific group of people who have tactical and military experience . . . we deal more in terms of the espionage and intelligence levels in the military . . [our characters] don’t normally see that go into avoiding actual firefights and military conflict . . . the thing that makes the show unique and special is that you see the behind-the-scenes things that you normally wouldn’t associate with military: espionage, code switching, deep cover kind of stuff.”
Explaining why their characters wear beards for their missions, Mikal Vega said, “That was a very specific thing that we enjoyed while we were down range, to blend in with the local populace a lot of times. Depending on the cultural background of the area of operations, a lot of times they won’t even speak to you if you don’t have facial hair and you’re a man. With the type of operations that our team’s going under, being able to blend with — not look like military members — is key to a mission’s success.” To which, Mike Vogel said that for him the beard was helpful in that, “It helps me not look 12 [years old], so that’s always a plus” and laughingly added, “when you get the opportunity to rough it up a bit and look a little disheveled, I don’t think you’re going to get any complaints from us as we’re sweating our butts off half the time, so it helps hide a little bit of that.”
Similarly, Nataxha Karam noted as to her character and using local traditional dress, “She is a woman on the team, but she is the best sniper, and she has got the best shots, but she doesn’t ignore the fact that she is a woman. . . going undercover into places where men can’t go.” The key to their entire unit is blending in and infiltrating as necessary to accomplish their missions.
Then Anne Heche said that for her the appeal of the show was, “You’ve heard so many wonderful things about what it is to represent a group of people who make life and death situations their life and putting the hands of being a part of this group of people who are representing and honoring our military and the people who have chosen with their lives to give to others and dedicate their lives to saving others is extraordinary. I think I’m fascinated by people who are who sacrifice themselves. And when I first spoke to Dean about this project, he was very interested in talking about the humanity: Who are the people who give up their lives for others, and how are they affected by the decision that’s they have to make every day? What is the toll that it takes to serve your country and put that first above all else? . . . We all feel that it’s a really great gift to be able to portray people who sacrifice their lives for us.”
Mike Vogel added, “We are still all working towards a common goal regardless of those backgrounds ethnically, religiously, whatever it is, that we all want that same outcome of peace and that we are all coming together and that the world is being united on a global stage in helping to bring that about.” Georgaris also noted, “Reality is our friend in this, and it gives us an opportunity to show that it’s not it’s not a team from one nation riding into the rescue with some point of view. It’s a group of people working together with the same goal.”
Mike concluded THE BRAVE panel by sharing, “For me, this a bucketlist opportunity in my career — just getting the opportunity to pay homage to my family members, some of my nearest and dearest friends that come out of this community and making sure that we do them justice. There’s a great quote — it’s debatable whether it was George Orwell or Rudyard Kipling — that said: ‘People sleep well in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.’ And I’d like to add to that. I think we understand it in America, having the freedom of opinion and thought and speech, and to come from many different viewpoints, that’s the beauty that makes up our country. We are afforded that opportunity because rough men and women stand ready to do violence on our behalf and protect that right. So, for me, to have the ability to step into that and in some minuscule, tiny way contribute to their reallife heroics is an honor, and I’m humbled by it.”
(Observation: The pilot episode of THE BRAVE was exhilarating to watch and left you wanting more in the end, so I suspect viewers are going to want to tune in and will keep tuning in for THE BRAVE.)
THE BRAVE premieres Monday, September 25th on NBC.
That’s a wrap on the network and studio presentations from Day 10 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.