On Day 4 of the 16-day biannual Television Critic’s Association Winter 2015 Press Tour, AMC, BBC America, TVland, VH1, MTV, Nickelodeon introduced their featured programming, and the following are quick takes of their new and returning series.
Coming to AMC in 2015 is the new series “Humans” starring William Hurt and Colin Morgan (“Merlin”). “Humans” depicts a world where humanoid robots and artificial intelligence exist and how humorous, unnerving and downright scary it is trying to assimilate them into our homes and lives. (First impression: Preview clips look amazing. I am totally in.)
Also making its big debut on AMC is the “Breaking Bad” spin-off series “Better Call Saul,” which acts more like a prequel series picking up 6 years before “Breaking Bad” began at a time when Saul was simply known as well-meaning attorney Jimmy McGill. Unfortunately, “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White and Jesse Pinkham will not appear in Season 1 of “Better Call Saul” since creator/executive producer Vince Gilligan wanted the spinoff to stand on its own — though he did not nix the idea that either character could appear in subsequent seasons. A bit facetiously, Bob Odenkirk cheekily added, “Every time I go in the office, I say, ‘Has Walter White called yet?’” One aspect the show highlights is that there will be a lot more nuance to Saul’s ethics. EP Vince Gilligan shared, “The Saul we meet here wants to be good. . . The question we’re having fun with in the writers room is ‘Is it better to be true to self or better to be a good person?’ . . . [Saul] wants to be good. But as you’ll see as the episodes progress, why does he want to be good?” To which star Bob Odenkirk added, “In this show you get to meet who [Saul] is behind the scenes.” So “Better Call Saul” will depict the time when Odenkirk’s character Saul was still Jimmy McGill and had not yet embraced the Saul Goodman persona. Also, while “Breaking Bad” was about a “good” man who was actually deeply horrible, this is about a “bad” man who has some sort of goodness in him. Gilligan said the central question of “Better Call Saul” is: why should someone be a good person? He further noted that the “Breaking Bad” timeline was accelerated because Walter White had cancer and “Better Call Saul” does not have that same ticking clock. Then, as to how Michael Mando’s (“Orphan Black”) character fits into the “Better Call Saul” world, Mando explained, “Nacho is a young crocodile that wants to constantly feed because he wants to be king of the pond.” Gilligan added that Nacho’s life is questionable, but he is s a smart and pragmatic criminal. Finally, co-star Jonathan Banks commented that although some of the more well-known “Breaking Bad” cast will not be in “Better Call Saul”, “They are loved, their ghosts are there. This is a different show. We’re into something new.” (NOTE: “The Walking Dead” midseason premiere is Sunday, February 8th, followed by premiere of “Better Call Saul,” and Episode 2 of “Better Call Saul” airs in its normal timeslot Monday, February 9th.)
Returning for its second season, “Halt and Catch Fire” picks up its story in March 1985 and will continue to explore the fragility of human connection. Per executive producer Jonathan Lisco, the internal stress of characters is key to “Halt and Catch Fire” — for example, will they be left in the trash bin of history? Sagely, Lee Pace noted that the “Halt and Catch Fire” characters would love to have lived in our present time with the amount of human expression happening through technology. When asked about Donna’s interesting transition in Season 1, Lisco said that the show’s writers strove to make Donna formidable, but also flawed and interesting. He said it is an established trope to have “wet-blanket wife” on shows like this, but they wanted to play with that idea and blow it up. So they wrote Donna in such a way that she was like a secret weapon. Then, as to the character of Joe, he suffers from “genius founder’s malaise” who is crestfallen by their own creation. Thus, Lisco explained that because Joe’s machine ended up only being B+, his problem in Season 2 is that: “I can do better and the future deserves better from people like me.” Lisco said that that if he is subtle and smart about it, he will begin to ask the questions of: Are we more alone when more connected through technology? Co-star Mackenzie Davis noted that the show explores whether identity is determined by who you surround yourself with and if you’re not connected widely, subculture can be lost. To which, co-star Kerry Bishe said that “Halt and Catch Fire” is meta for what actors try to do: try to balance of art and commerce. Tying it all back to the show’s unusual title, Lisco said that, “These people must keep running, they must keep grasping at the future, lest they catch fire.” (NOTE: “Halt and Catch Fire” Season 1 will be available for binge-watching on Netflix and AMC.com ahead of the Season 2 premiere. Observation: Honoring my love for “Wonderfalls” and “Pushing Daisies,” I devotedly watched AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire” Season 1. It was a slow burn, but good show, and one of the more appealing aspects of AMC’s”Halt and Catch Fire” is willingness to have female characters be smarter, more driven than male counterparts.)
New network president Sarah Barnett said that BBC America has enjoyed 10 straight years of growth with 2014 being their highest rated year. So as BBC America keeps expanding its roster of exceptional television shows: “Broadchurch,” “Luther,” “The Musketeers, “Orphan Black,” and “Doctor Who,” they are confident that trend will continue.
Making its debut in 2015 is the new series “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” a 7-part series slated to premiere Spring 2015. First impression: “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” looks great. It depicts a world where magic has come back, and yet examines what it means when it does. It is about two magicians using magic and the unintended tragic consequences.In the preview clip shown, there was a cool scene where horses created from right from the sand on the beach are used to upright a floundering ship. One of the magicians simply puts his hands in the sand and up spring these horses to save the day. The special effects were outstanding. Writer Peter Harness explained about the show, “It’s paced very fast. We cover all the bases. Magic can cause more problems than it solves.” The show strives to be a faithful adaptation of book of same name, while expanding and embellishing in places to bring it to life on screen.
Also returning for Season 3 is the critically-lauded series “Orphan Black.” The preview clips from Season 3 showed a pivotal scene between Sarah and the Season 2 finale surprise male clone who looks just like Mark, where Sarah steps into his holding cell and says: “Here I am.” Seeing her, he replies: “You’re a legend, Sarah. . . You’re made of the good stuff, aren’t you?” Then another tantalizing scene from Season 3 preview clips was a tense, yet mesmerizing scene between Paul and Helena, who is locked up by the military (for now). There is such a riveting dynamic between them — which for now, feels akin to Clarice and Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs.” During the Q&A, executive producer John Fawcett said, “The idea of a male clone faction in the overall puzzle was an idea from the beginning.” Yet Ari Millen said he found out that he would be play multiple clones around the time of clone dance party. Ari Millen says his new clone character Rudy is “a little on hinge, a little crazy” and “likes to get under people’s skin and he will just dig and pick at you until you blow up.” Fawcett added, “He’s a threat to the girls — a trained fighter – trained likely by the military.” He further added, “We’re always trying to make choices that evolve the show in directions that people aren’t expecting.” When asked about the complexities in portraying so many different clones, Tatiana Maslany said that the challenge for her is, “Surrendering to that craziness and trusting the audience will believe it if I believe it.” But she was pleased that with the addiction of Ari and the fact that he had taken on some of the clone time, she actually got a few 3-day weekends for Season 3. Then because the clone world would be lost without the ever-reliable Felix, Jordan Gavaris said that in Season 3 we will that Felix is starting to think for himself and ask his own questions, and because Sarah is preoccupied trying to rescue Helena, to expect more Cosima/Felix and Alison/Felix scenes. We will see that Felix gets more independent in life away from Sarah. So while Felix is still steadfastly supporting Sarah, he will making his own decisions. He also reassure that there is still that playful bitchiness in Season 3 and laughingly said, “Well, obviously, it’s Felix.” As a juicy teaser, John Fawcett also revealed that there will be two key new characters in Season 3: James Frain (“Intruders”) will portray Ferdinand from Topside, who is a “a really amazing, scary guy, a very dangerous threat to our girls.” He will appear in the first episode of Season 3. The second new character is Jason Kellerman (portrayed by Justin Chatwin of “Shameless”) who enter’s Allison’s world. He is an old high school flame who gets in the way and look for him to stir up some heat in more ways than one. (NOTE: “Orphan Black” returns for Season 3 on April 18th. Observation: “Orphan Black” remains an all-time favorite TV show of mine. Tremendous show!)
2015 is a big reinvention year for TVland. One of their featured new series the comedy show “Younger” starring Sutton Foster (“Bunheads”) and produced by “Sex In the City” creator Darren Star. Also debuting in 2015 on TVland are three new comedy series: “Impastor” with stars Michael Rosenbaum and Sara Rue (story about a con-man who impersonates a gay pastor who died trying to save him), “Teachers” and “The Jim Gaffigan Show.”
First up is “Younger” is an outrageous comedy about a 40-something single mom, Liza, who reinvents herself as a 20-something in order to get a job. It highlights the hilarious situations Sutton Foster’s character finds herself thrown amongst when her new co-workers embrace her as a 26-year old, including being hit upon by young men. Also co-starring are Hilary Duff and Debi Mazar, whose characters try to help Liza navigate her increasingly tricky balance of two lives. “Younger” premieres on Tuesday, March 31st on TVland. (Observation: The preview clips looked great. Perfect combination of comedy and cuteness. Adding this new series as a must-see to my TV calendar.)
Look for “Impastor,” “Teachers” and “The Jim Gaffigan Show” to debut later in 2015. (Observation: I’m totally in for “Impastor” too!)
“Hindsight” is VH1’s newest drama series about a 40-something woman who wonders if she could live her 20’s all over again, what would she do different. It dares to ask: “If you could go back and change one thing about your life, what would you do?” So on the night before her 2nd marriage, Becca (Laura Ramsey) wakes up the next morning to the day of her first wedding back in 1995. The series explores whether she chooses to go through with the wedding or change her entire life. Starring Laura Ramsey, “Hindsight” the show sparkles with infectious enthusiasm. You are really rooting for her character Becca to dare to live her life differently and find the happiness and fulfillment. It invites viewers to fall in love with her while she is falling in love all over again with her first husband as well as the man she nearly made her second husband. Too many men, so little time — or in Becca’s case, too much time as she gets this incredible second chance to figure what future she really wants. “Hindsight” debuted on January 7th and will air new episodes on Wednesday nights. (Observation: The pilot episode of “Hindsight” was adorable. It won me over and I’m in. So cute!)
MTV’s “Eye Candy” stars Victoria Justice as a hacker facing off with a cyberstalker, based on an R. L. Stine book. Victoria Justice said “Eye Candy” is a cautionary tale for online daters and social mediators and of how even a hacker never really knows who is on the other side of the screen. People misrepresent themselves online and the digital realm is unpredictable and dangerous — even for someone who thinks they can find out everything about anyone — especially since serial killers and stalkers do not always put their personal information or even accurate information online. So then it becomes a question of: what do you really know? “Eye Candy” premieres January 12th on MTV. (NOTE: “When Calls The Heart” and “Last Resort” star Daniel Lissing guest stars in Season 1 of “Eye Candy.” “When Calls the Heart” returns for Season 2 on April 4th.)
Also announced, last year’s break-out hit “Finding Carter” returns for Season 2 on March 31st. (Observation: This is personally exciting for me as “Finding Carter” made the cut on my Top 10 TV Shows of 2014.)
“Bella and the Bulldogs” is about a young teen girl who goes from cheerleader one day to being the school quarterback the next day. Infused with a lot of heart and enthusiasm, “Bella and the Bulldogs” is an inspirational show that serves to remind young teens that you can live your dreams. It also weaves in some fun comedic moments that will keep viewers laughing with the the show as it knows as outrageous as it sounds for a young teen girl to be a football quarterback. The show explores the idea of what happens when a girl enters a boy’s world and the challenges she faces along the way. “Bella and the Bulldogs” premieres on Saturday, January 17th at 8 pm on Nickelodeon. (Note: It will also be available to watch online or on-demand starting January 18th through Nick.com, Nick App and Nick On Demand, and rears on Teen Nick on January 23rd and Nicktoons on January 21st. Observation: The clips for the show were quite fun. Worth a peek.)
That is a wrap on Day 4 at Winter 2015. Look for more upcoming snapshots from TCA on the new shows and TV specials coming up for Winter/Spring 2015 here at Seat42F.com.