Chicago Sun-Times
We're watching TV. You're watching TV. Let's get on the same channel.

Recently in Television Critics press tour Category


Based on a rough cut of the pilot, I'm really looking forward to Showtime's summer drama "Ray Donovan."

Set amongst California's rich and famous, Ray Donovan is the titular character who does the dirty work for L.A.'s top power players. The hour-long drama series stars Liev Schreiber as a go-to guy who makes the problems of the city's elite disappear. The family drama unfolds when Ray's father (Jon Voight) is unexpectedly sprung from prison, setting off a chain of events and unresolved issues.

It debuts on Showtime at 9 p.m. (CT) Sunday, June 30, following the season 8 premiere of the premium cable net's most popular show, "Dexter" (starting earlier than usual).

(Interesting trivia: Ryan Gosling (lead singer of the band Dead Man's Bones) wrote and performed the song played with the show's trailer.)

Donovan is a fixer (a grittier Olivia Pope), but there won't be a crisis-of-the-week, EP Ann Biderman says.

"I never saw this as being procedural," Biderman says. "It unfolds over this huge canvass and I think that's what's so thrilling about it." She wants each one to feel like a "small film but it's highly serialized."


(All times ET/PT)

Season 3 of SHAMELESS starring William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum premieres Sunday, January 13th at 9:00 p.m. along with the second season of HOUSE OF LIES followed at 10 p.m., and the sixth season of CALIFORNICATION at 10:30 p.m.

INSIDE COMEDY will premiere season two of its critically-acclaimed documentary series on Monday, February 11th at 11 P.M. The ten, half-hour episodes will feature David Steinberg along with a line-up of comedy luminaries including Louis C.K., Steve Martin, Tina Fey, and Will Ferrell.

CBS' summer schedule

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


From CBS press release:

New Reality Competition Series Based on the Hit UK Format "The Great British Bake Off," Premieres Wednesday, May 29, 8:00-9:00 PM

"Under the Dome," a New Drama Based on Stephen King's Best-Selling Novel and Produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment,

Debuts Monday, June 24, 10:00 PM

Expanded "Big Brother" Gets an Earlier Summer Premiere on

Wednesday, June 26 at 9:00 PM

The Second Season of "Unforgettable" Premieres Sunday, July 28, 9:00 PM


| No Comments | No TrackBacks


CBS' Entertainment President Nina Tassler is touting the net's achievements: It's still America's most-watched network with 4 of the top 5 comedies, 17 of the top 30 shows overall. NCIS continues to be huge and Big Bang Theory (which has hit series highs for the past 2 weeks) is getting even bigger: It's jumped ahead of ABC's Modern Family in the key 18-49 demo.

"Our network will once again be the most watched network for the 10th time in 11 years," she says.

The net is down about a tenth from where it was last year in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demo, Tassler said, and she's not too concerned about it. Says CBS "wants everybody," not just younger adults.

As in previous TCA sessions, Tassler was asked what impact the recent events in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., have on the network during pilot season?

"I'm a parent, I'm a mother," Tassler said. "What happened has shaken me and all of us to our core." There's a "renewed sensitivity" when people come to work now. "It's an ongoing conversation."

She says nothing on the air at CBS is inappropriate (I would counter "Criminal Minds" toes that line), and ultimately, parents have to control what their kids see.

"What my child does or doesn't watch is my prerogative," she says.

'The Job' CBS

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


CBS is capitalizing on the anemic employment market with a new Michael Davies ("The Glee Project") and Mark Burnett-produced reality show that has qualified candidates competing against one another for careers. Lisa Ling hosts.

Premieres Friday, Feb. 8.

The first episode has contestants going for an assistant manager gig at The Palm restaurant in NYC. The second episode has folks vying for a job at Cosmopolitan magazine.

Creator Michael Davies said the genesis of the show came from his work on "The Glee Project," which is basically an extended job interview for a role on "Glee."

"No one has ever made a show about interviewing for a job," Davies said. "People are going to learn about interviewing, preparing their resumes."

Added Mark Burnett: "Nobody's ripped down" in the show. "America doesn't want that."

Out of 40 candidates, 16 people have been offered jobs over the course of eight episodes. In some episodes, one person gets a job. In others, as many as three get hired.

'Golden Boy' CBS

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


CBS' newest procedural "Golden Boy" tells the story of a rookie homicide detective on his way to becoming the youngest police commissioner in New York City. It stars Theo James (the short-lived Pamuk in "Downton Abbey") as Det. Clark and Chicago-native Chi McBride as his veteran partner.

"I was on the screen for about 20 minutes and I still get people going, Mr. Pamuk?" James said about his role on the beloved British drama.

CBS Entertainment President said that when the network first bought the show, it was a "single star vehicle." While shooting the pilot there was a "palpable chemistry" between James and Chi McBride, changing the tone of the show. (I've seen two episodes and McBride does shine as James' world-weary partner in the homicide division.)

Executive producer Nicholas Wootton started on police dramas 17 years ago with "NYPD Blue."

"I have no agenda about policing in New York City," Wootton said. He just wants to tell the most interesting stories from policing, like a story he heard from a technical consultant who said you never sit down with a confidential informant alone because you might be tape recorded.

"Golden Boy" is set in the present and toggles between that and seven years in the future.

The midseason drama debuts Feb. 26.

ABC Entertainment Chief Paul Lee says the net has "a lot to do," but he also trumpeted ABC's success stories of the fall season.

Says he was disappointed in the performance of "Dancing With the Stars" All-Stars' performance. "Turns out people like to see bad dancing as much as they like to see good dancing."

"Revenge" moved to its new Sunday night time slot this fall and Lee said it paid off. The Hampton's set drama grew 17 to 20 percent (even though the second season isn't as good as the first).

"Nashville" is doing well with with the millennials but the net "really wants to build those 35-49 numbers."

Said the fall was an incredibly disruptive launch schedule with the hurricane and the election.

Lee seemed committed to the under-appreciated "Happy Endings," one of my personal favorites. Putting it on Sundays and Tuesdays increases its odds of sampling, he said. Hope he keeps that one around.

See my Twitter feed for more ABC tidbits out of today's executive session...


Fox's low-rated drama "The Mob Doctor," starring Jordana Spiro and set and filmed in Chicago, ended its beleaguered 13-episode run this week.

I asked Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly what went wrong.

"It was a confluence of things," Reilly said. "All I can tell you is every time we screened it for an audience either in a promo or the show, the audience said, 'We really like that.' It was actually a pretty good show. I think in the time slot it came on - against Monday night football and against "The Voice" at the high water mark - and then we gave it a title where, in the world of choices, a lot of people said, 'I'm not sure what that is or I'm not sure if it's for me.' And it just fell right through the cracks. It was really unfortunate. I didn't know whether it was going to be a hit or a not a hit. But I certainly thought it was a good show that would at least find an audience. It found an audience, but a very modest one."

Earlier in the day Reilly summed up the name of the show this way: "The worst title in the history of the world."


| No Comments | No TrackBacks


ABC's latest attempt to fill the "Desperate Housewives" void is "Mistresses," debuting this summer. It's based on a six-episode BBC show but in the U.S. version, "we have familiar sign posts who loved the BBC version" but viewers will also "be very surprised" by the differences, said EP K.J. Steinberg.

It stars Alyssa Milano ("Savi" Davis) as a Type A attorney who has a one-night stand and is trying to have a baby with her adorable Aussie husband. Adultery is a theme that carries through into the lives of her girlfriends, too: Yunjin Kim (Karen Kim) and Rochelle Aytes (April Malloy). Savi's free-spirited sister, Jes Macallan (Josslyn Carver), gets the best lines of the bunch.

'Zero Hour'

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


While Red Widow looks promising, I'm not so sure about ABC's other midseason drama, Zero Hour, starring Anthony Edwards as Hank, the publisher of a paranormal enthusiast magazine.

Hank has spent his career debunking myths and solving conspiracies, so we're told. But when his wife Laila (Jacinda Barrett -- remember her, "Real World" fans?) is abducted from her antique clock shop, Hank gets sucked into a worldwide mystery that goes back centuries (Da Vinci Code style).

Contained in one of his wife's clocks is a treasure map, "and what it leads to could be cataclysmic." Hank has to decipher the symbols and unlock the map's secrets while ensuring the answers don't end up in the wrong hands.

'Red Widow'

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


ABC's new drama "Red Widow," from "Twilight Saga" films writer Melissa Rosenberg (also of "Dexter"), debuts March 3 with a two-hour premiere in its Sunday night time slot. It's based on a Dutch series called "Penoza."

"Red Widow" stars Radha Mitchell ("High Art") as Marta, a woman who seems to have the perfect life -- three kids, gorgeous husband, even more gorgeous home in California's Marin County -- but her idyllic world comes crashing down when her dope-exporting husband is murdered and she's plunged into the world of organized crime.

Netflix's turn at TCA. The panel has reps from three of the streaming subscription service's new offerings: "Derek," "Hemlock Grove" and the fourth season (14 episodes) of "Arrested Development."

First up is Ricky Gervais' "Derek." Netflix's description of the new comedy, set in an old folks' home:
"Derek," the new show from "The Office" creator Ricky Gervais, is a bittersweet
comedy drama about a group of outsiders living on society's margins. Derek
Noakes is a tender, innocent man whose love for his job shines through.
Working in a retirement home, Derek cares deeply for the old people, because
they are kind and funny and tell him stories of what life used to be like. Alongside
him works Dougie (Karl Pilkington), his landlord who is one of life's unlucky
individuals; Kev (David Earl), a loveable train wreck; and Hannah (Kerrie
Godliman), a care worker in the home and Derek's best friend. She is smart, witty
and hard-working, but unlucky in love, and, like Derek, always puts other people
Derek is a show about kindness. It uses humor to deal with the real issues of
everyday life. The uncaring outside world popping in and out will boil your blood
and the residents inside will break your heart.
The series is written, directed and stars Ricky Gervais.

"It's very funny, it is a sitcom," Gervais told TV critics, adding that it also has a dramatic component. "It's set in an old people's home. They die sometimes."

This show is more improvised than "The Office" (UK version) or "Extras," but it's mostly scripted.

"Everyone thinks all my shows are improv, they thought 'The Office' was improv and it wasn't," he said.

Now, onto more serious fare: "Hemlock Grove." There will be 13 episodes. It's essentially a 13-hour film adaptation of a mystery novel.

Netflix's description: From executive producer Eli Roth and based on Brian McGreevy's novel of the
same name, "Hemlock Grove" is a riveting one-hour murder mystery that revolves
around the residents of a former Pennsylvania steel town. When 17-year-old
Brooke Bluebell is brutally murdered, any of Hemlock's peculiar inhabitants - or
killer creatures - could be suspect. Through the investigation, the town's seamier
side is exposed, revealing nothing is what it seems. Beautiful, terrifying and
graphic, "Hemlock Grove" is unlike anything else in its genre.

The series kicks off when a high school girl is murdered in the town of Hemlock Grove. The murder happens at the same time a gypsy character moves into town.

The trailer looks intriguing but they often do. Looking forward to checking out an actual episode.

And now, for the main course: the long-awaited reunion of the Bluth clan in Netflix's 14 new episodes of the former Fox comedy "Arrested Development." It will premiere -- all 14 episodes at once -- some time in May.

Netflix's description: The highly anticipated fourth season of the Emmy Award winning comedy
"Arrested Development" comes to Netflix and will premiere in spring 2013. The
entire cast and series creator Mitch Hurwitz have reunited for brand new
episodes. Arrested Development centers around Michael Bluth (Jason
Bateman) and his eccentric family comprised of his son George Michael (Michael
Cera), his father George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), his mother Lucille (Jessica
Walter), his brothers George Oscar Bluth II (Will Arnett), Buster Bluth (Tony Hale)
and sister Lindsay Funke (Portia de Rossi), and Lindsay's husband Tobias (David
Cross) and their daughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat). Mitch Hurwitz, Troy Miller, Ron
Howard, Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo are executive producers on Arrested

Creator Mitch Hurwitz and the cast (minus David Cross and Tony Hale) were being extremely spoiler-sensitive and coy about what to expect in what has been misinterpreted as "season 4."

"We're telling a complicated story that jumps around in time and intersects," Hurwitz said.

Episodes will be around a half hour each and be told from different characters' POVs. They can be watched in any order. Portia de Rossi said in one episode she takes something her mother said as sarcasm, for example, and viewers will find out in another episode that she misunderstood her.

Hurwitz said he always knew there would be 14 episodes released simultaneously, not 10. Thought it would be a fun surprise for fans to deliver more than expected.

Netflix has become the poster child for the increasing trend of binge viewing -- something Portia de Rossi is a fan of.

"I spent the entire summer watching 'Breaking Bad,' from the first episode to the last one," she said.

In some ways, the panel raised more questions than it answered. But they did leave us with an outtake, which was pretty damn funny: Lucille Bluth smoking a cigarette but she's not allowed to, so she exhales into the open mouth of Buster, who repeatedly blows said smoke out the French doors.

FX-TheAmericans-2_Keri-Matthew-Hallway_0869_865_COMPOSITE_CMYK_F (1).jpg

FX's TCA panel on its upcoming drama (Jan. 30) "The Americans" got off to a good start, with waiters passing out caviar on blinis to TV critics in keeping with the Russian theme.

The show focuses on a married couple (Keri Russell and Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, who's fantastic) who are Soviet spies -- sleeper agents -- living in America as a typical Washington, D.C. suburban couple with two kids.

"We want you to root for the KGB," laughed creator/executive producer Joe Weisberg, who worked for the CIA from 1990 to 1994.

The show has a cloak-and-digger thriller element to it, but it's every bit as much a domestic drama.

"It's a show about marriage, which is an allegory for international relations," executive producer Joel Fields said.

The show is set in 1981 at the height of the Cold War.

"If you tried to tell a story like this about al-Qaeda now it would be impossible," Weisberg said. "Enough time has passed" where we can view Soviets more as people than enemies.

There are several compelling facets of the show, not least of which is seeing how this couple deals with living in -- and raising children in -- a capitalist country that represents everything their homeland abhors. Rhys' character seems far more amenable to the American way than his more strident wife, played by Russell.

"We thought a lot about who was going to be the more stalwart, tried and true KGB agent," Weisberg said. "Something about it seemed a little fresher and more powerful if it was Elizabeth (Russell)."

"She scares the sh-- out of me," Rhys joked.

The '80s soundtrack delivers a great blast of nostalgia. So does the '80s fashion, even if it's limited largely to high-waisted jeans.

"Putting a gun in her waistbelt makes it incredible difficult," Rhys joked about his co-star's wardrobe.

Nice to Chicago's mark all over this TCA panel: Evanston and Winnetka native Jake Johnson from "New Girl," North Sider Ike Barinholtz ("Mindy Project") and South Sider Echo Kellum ("Ben and Kate").

Mindy Kaling and Ike (now a series regular) are here on behalf of "The Mindy Project," which has really hit its stride recently.

Kaling said Seth Rogen will guest star in an upcoming episode. He'll play her first kiss at Jewish summer camp.

"New Girl's" Johnson and Zooey Deschanel talked about their will they/won't they dynamic.

"I think it's a lot of fun. The writers are putting us together a lot more this season," Johnson said.

Nat Faxon of "Ben and Kate" is enjoying the increased exposure the show has brought him:

"I've been the super hot guy's fourth friend in a lot of things," Faxon said about life before the show -- and his "Descendants" Oscar.

While Kaling is focusing on making her show a hit, she says she'd love to go back to "The Office" before it wraps its final season...

Fox's singing competition returns Jan. 16 with a new panel of judges designed to shore up the show's eroding (but still massive) ratings.

Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and veteran Randy Jackson talked to TV critics Tuesday morning about what's in store for the show's 12th season. (More singers than usual got the golden ticket to Hollywood, for one. A total of 276 go to Hollywood -- and roughly 50 of them came from the Chicago auditions.)

Much has been written about the Mariah/Nicki feud, and the panel was asked about whether it's trumped up for ratings or authentic. (As if they'd admit it's fake...)

Mariah: "This is a very passionate panel. I think there are a lot of strong personalities. The fighting is what it is. This is American Idol. It's bigger than some trumped up stupid thing."

Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment for Fox, said "This panel has reinvigorated the show." He acknowledged there are too many singing shows on air and they're cannibalizing each other, but this is still the king of them all.

Producer Nigel Lythgoe admitted the show has had a "real spate of White Guy With Guitar" winners, but Jackson said this season is "the girls' to lose."

Mariah said she had a hard time learning how to say "no" to hopefuls. She said she would duck her head when doling out rejection.

"As a kid you get turned down a lot," she said, referring to her start in the music industry. "It's tough to get that rejection."

Nicki Minaj said she had no problem sending hopefuls on their way if they didn't have the chops.

"I don't feel the need to send a person through just because of a great story," Minaj said.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Television Critics press tour category.

TCA Winter 2013 is the previous category.

The Bachelor is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.