The annual television critics’ winter press tour is upon us, with cable taking the spotlight for the first few days of the event. Rather than live tweeting as we had in the past, instead we will provide a daily blog detailing what the networks have to offer… and there is a lot that they are presenting.
These posts will be updated several times throughout each day.
BBC World News
BBC World News hosted the TCA breakfast with a clips package of the kind of high quality programming one can find on their network, including BBC World News America. Richard Porter, the Controller of English for BBC Global News, promised that the network focuses on news rather than commentary. A special clip of Yalda Hakim’s Our World investigation into the United States’ drones in Yemen was presented with Yakim in attendance.
Discovery started the press events in the ballroom by announcing that effective March 3, the Military Channel will become the American Heroes Channel. A press release from Discovery Communications says that the upcoming channel will “expand on the Military Channel’s promise to honor the great defenders of our freedom, while providing a rare glimpse into major events that shaped our world and the trailblazers and unexpected advocates who made a difference.”
A trailer that was shown this morning celebrated “what you can be, what you will be” and featured quotations from major historical figures and “heroes” in U.S. history.
Next, AHC’s Against The Odds panel introduced three war veterans as well as executive producer of the series, Max Culhane. Against The Odds premieres the six-part series on March 3 as the launch show for the American Heroes Channel. The series will tell the real life stories of bands of brothers who survived game-changing and scary moments of war.
Investigation Discovery was next up, and the network’s ratings were praised. “Over 600 hours” of new and original content is promised for 2014, and three new titles were introduced – 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover as part of a “Forget You Week” to go with Valentine’s Day, Secret Lives of Stepford Wives in early April, and a new installment of Injustice Files involving “sundown towns” that still exist. ID then presented Tamron Hall and her ID newsmagazine Deadline Crime with Tamron Hall. Hall’s reason for following hard journalism is that she personally went through tragedy as her sister was murdered in a case that is still officially unsolved.
Next, it’s time for the Velocity channel, who present their new show Americarna which chronicles how American culture and car culture go hand in hand.
OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) has a large slate of programming coming for 2014, and they showed off parts of Oprah’s interview with Lindsay Lohan. This interview precedes an upcoming documentary series about Lohan that will air on OWN from filmmaker Amy Rice. They then showed off the Deion Sanders docu-series that has the working title of Deion’s Family Playbook. The series premieres in March.
Discovery is also proud of their ratings for the last year, and to kick things off, they showed off their first scripted drama mini-series, Klondike. The show looks amazing and comes from executive producer Ridley Scott. Premiering January 20 and starring Richard Madden, Abbie Cornish, Sam Shepard, Tim Roth, Conor Leslie, Augustus Prew, and Johnny Simmons, Klondike should be a highlight for Discovery in 2014.
The network will be “very particular” about their next scripted project as Klondike has set the bar very high. The cast and executives from Discovery all seem very enthusiastic about the finished product.
Next on the agenda was a presentation for Animal Planet, who had their most watched year ever for the second year in a row in 2013 with new programs like Treehouse Masters. The Brown family of the 6-part series Alaska Bush Family was introduced with a clip. Patriarch Billy Brown has crazy facial hair that would make Phil Robertson’s beard look normal. Basically, the Browns live in Alaska “out in the middle of nowhere” around the many kinds of wildlife you can find in the bush country, and many of the kids of this family have very unique names. Like many other shows presented today, the settings and real life locations here look fantastic. If we can’t travel to Alaska ourselves, Animal Planet is bringing Alaska to us. The show premieres this Spring.
Then, Animal Planet showed a reel promoting Puppy Bowl X on February 2… and in the lobby, adoptable puppies and kittens were outside for us to visit with.
IFC kicked off their presentation with their comedic drama The Spoils of Babylon, which actually premieres tonight, January 9. Perhaps intentionally, everyone looks like they’re in 1980’s styles like a bad TV miniseries from that time period. The series stars Tobey Maguire, Kristen Wiig, Val Kilmer, Jessica Alba, Tim Robbins, and Haley Joel Osment. The entire panel – which included Wiig, Osment, Maguire, and producers Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele, all seemed to have a wicked sense of humor matching the tone of the production.
TV One is now celebrating their 10 year anniversary as one of the premier destinations of entertainment aimed at African-American viewers. The TV One promo reel showed off their history so far as they move to the future, which includes live broadcasts of the NAACP Image Awards in February 2014. On February 26, TV One will be premiering Unsung Hollywood with the premiere episode focusing on actress Pam Grier, who appeared on the panel. Future episodes of Unsung Hollywood will feature subjects including Richard Roundtree and the cast of What’s Happening.
Key nominees for the 2014 NAACP Image Awards were also announced. You can find the list of nominees here.
Lifetime is now hitting an anniversary as well – its 30th – with “ambitious original programming” that is revitalizing the network. They have original series like Witches of East End, Devious Maids, and Drop Dead Diva that are doing very well. Lifetime has some new shows on the way as well, including Under The Gunn. James Gunn will team up with former Project Runway contestants Mondo Guerra, Anya Ayoung-Chee, and Nick Varreos as they have to prove they have the vision and business savvy to operate a fashion empire with 15 up and coming designers under their watch. Under The Gunn will premiere on January 16.
Lifetime has a powerful slate of original movies and miniseries on the way, with the biggest being Flowers In The Attic starring Heather Graham, adapting the novel by V.C. Andrews. Flowers In The Attic premieres January 18, and an adaptation of the sequel is already in production. Lifetime’s adaptation will not shy away from the more controversial elements of the book.
Marc Cherry then came on stage (with a cold) to present Season 2 of Devious Maids. He talked about how the show was passed over by ABC, but it turned out to be a fantastic experience after all on Lifetime. Shooting for Season 2 begins on Wednesday, and Eva Longoria will be directing an episode.
Appearing at the Devious Maids panel with Cherry were actresses Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez, Roselyn Sanchez, Judy Reyes, Edy Ganem, and Susan Lucci and Executive Producer Sabrina Wind. They came on stage following a well received Season 1 sizzle reel.
Marc Cherry mentioned that he definitely would to play the “Eva Longoria card” by creating a role for her at some point. He also has mentioned that in Season 2, Marisol will marry a rich man and have a devious maid working for her. Cherry learned from his experience doing Desperate Housewives to have a plan in advance, rather than doing a first season without thinking about a plan for Season 2.
On A&E, Chloe Sevigny and James D’Arcy star in Those Who Kill, a new drama thriller based on a popular Danish crime series format. The show is about a character named Catherine Jensen (Sevigny), a fresh and smart detective who goes out to catch serial killers.
HBO had a total of seven presentations scheduled for today… but first, an announcement: Game of Thrones will be back Sunday, April 6. A trailer will run Sunday night during True Detective.
Also announced is that the fifth and final season of Boardwalk Empire will air this Fall.
True Detective has the first panel of HBO’s lineup, and actors Matthew McConaughey, Michelle Monaghan, and Woody Harrelson were in attendance. The series follows the search for a killer from the original investigation of the murder in 1995 to the reopening of the case in 2012. McConaughey said that what happens within that 17 years time is “really the fun of these eight episodes.”
Next up was Silicon Valley, a comedy from Mike Judge about some guys who build their own tech company. The trailer elicited genuine laughter from the room.
HBO also presented the gay-themed Looking, starring Jonathan Groff as one of a group of friends in San Francisco who explore the options available to a new generation of gay men. The panelists – which included Groff as well as other members of the cast – seemed to have gotten a very positive response from the room, who seemed to appreciate the show’s warm heart.
Next, HBO showed another gay-themed original film, The Normal Heart, from director Ryan Murphy. With an all-star cast that features Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Taylor Kitsch, Alfred Molina, and Jim Parsons, it looks absolutely depressing in the best possible way: Performances in this production appear to be out of this world. Expect this to sweep the Emmys later this year, with Ruffalo in particular surprising the audience with what, from at least the trailer, looks to be something amazing. The Normal Heart will air this Spring.
The Leftovers comes from LOST’s Damon Lindelof and acclaimed novelist Tom Perrotta. The intriguing concept shows what happens when 2% of the world abruptly disappears without explanation. Scheduled for this summer, this looks really interesting.
The next panel was for Girls, which HBO has just renewed for a fourth season to air in 2015. The season premiere airs this Sunday, January 12. The panel became quickly awkward when a journalist asked Lena Dunham why there is so much nudity on her show.
The final panel of the day was for John Oliver’s upcoming new topical comedy series. Oliver was quite excited when he learned that Sarah Palin will be appearing at the press tour tomorrow.