TCA: Cable Time

The Winter TCA Press Tour concluded last weekend with many panels dedicated to cable. Here is a brief roundup of what went on, grouped in alphabetical order:

AMC

To the delight of critics (and fans), AMC announced it was extending the third season order of hit series The Walking Dead from thirteen to sixteen as the second season with thirteen new episodes premieres on February 12. Also: Mad Men begins its fifth season on March 25. Meanwhile, fans seethed when The Killing ended its freshman without solving the murder that basically was the main plot. AMC’s senior vice president of original programming (Joel Stillerman) told critics at TCA the murder would be solved on the second-season finale. A tip for writers out there – don’t make promises unless you can really deliver on them.

Current

Current co-founder Al Gore addressed the press at TCA and said despite recent troubles, the network is not for sale. Meanwhile, Current president David Bohrman confirmed that Keith Olbermann will anchor its election coverage, despite Olbermann clashing with his bosses regarding the issue. Asked why he wasn’t at the panel at TCA, Bohrman told the audience “Keith is on vacation”. Since this is Keith Olbermann we’re talking about, I’m surprised he wasn’t sent on a permanent vacation.

FX

At the FX panel, network president and GM John Landgraf said the decision to pick up Anger Management with former Two And A Half Men star Charlie Sheen attached to the project is not a “cynical publicity stunt”. In the new show based on the 2003 theatrical, Sheen played a person trying to set back on track and re-establishing a relationship with his thirteen year-old daughter. Production on the series hasn’t begun yet (thus the lack of a panel), but Landgraf is confident in the project, with debuts this summer with a ten-episode commitment.

Other panels included Wilfred, Justified, and Archer, which debuted its new season Thursday. FX also revealed it was planning a new late-night talk show for Russell Brand.

GMC

Before you ask, this cable network is not about trucks – no, GMC originally stood for Gospel Music Channel – but in the last few years, the little-known cable channel has diversified its programming lineup. In addition to its Gospel Music programming, the network has comedy-themed movies, gospel-based stage plays, and reruns of classic sitcoms Amen and Cosby (the 1996-2000 CBS version.) No monster truck rallies, though.

HBO

The premium channel’s announcements include the return of the critically-acclaimed Game of Thrones on April 1; and the premiere of two comedies: Judd Apatow’s new series Girls on April 15 and Veep on April 22, featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. On March 10, HBO premieres the new film Game Change, which is about the 2008 Republican presidential ticket and John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as her running mate.

Meanwhile, HBO trotted out the principals behind the new drama Luck to promote its January 29 premiere. From director Michael Mann and creator David Milch, the series stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, and set in the world of horse racing. All four men had to set some things straight about tensions on the set, which they promptly dismissed.

Hulu

For the first time ever, an Internet streaming service has made an announcement at TCA, and with good reason: Hulu announced its first original scripted series, Battleground. But before you guys in the sci-fi/geek community jump up and down with joy, here’s  the premise: It’s a drama that explores the chaos behind the scenes in a Wisconsin Senate race. Sorry, no monsters vs. aliens. Then again, this is politics…

Investigation Discovery

It looks like what Erica Kane did on the daytime soaps she’ll examine in real life: former All My Children star Susan Lucci has signed on to host a series on Investigation Discovery (a spinoff of Discovery Channel) as host and narrator of Deadly Affairs, a new ten-part series which focuses on real-life love triangles, infidelity, and runaway grooms.

On a more serious note, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Werner Herzog is producing a short-term series for Investigation titled On Death Row, where he plans to interview death row inmates in Florida and Texas. It debuts later this year.

Nat Geo

Oh brother, what will they come up with next? The National Geographic Channel (or Nat Geo for short) greenlighted two new projects: Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout? which pits adults against real Boy Scouts for merit badges (let’s see how the adults start a fire) and Wicked Tuna, which follows fishermen in the Northeast. Both series are expected to premiere later this year.

OWN

The struggling network helmed by Oprah Winfrey (who was absent this time around)  introduced three new series at TCA: new dating/reality series Lovetown, Ga. where matchmakers enists a whole town to find mates for local singles (huh? Well, its sounds better than Excused); Lives On Fire, another reality documentary series following the lives – and dangers – of four female firefighters; and a game show from Harpo Productions called Are You Normal, America?

Starz

Executive session: Starz held an executive session at TCA to discuss the future of Boss and discussion of new series Magic City and returning Spartacus: Vengeance. Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht said stood behind the Chicago-based and shot drama, in which Kesley Grammer plays an unscrupulous mayor of Chicago (though nothing like the current Chicago mayor in real life, who is an even bigger douche.) Albericht gave Boss a second season before it premiered, but will have to prove itself more if it wants to see a third season.

Starz had a new series announcement at TCA: It will launch Marco Polo, a series based on the 13th-century explorer and produced by The Weinstein Company with John Fusco as showrunner. Albericht said he sees no problem with Spartacus existing side by side with Marci Polo since both series are time-period pieces, given both shows are financed differently.

Sundance

Sundance Channel announced it was launching new original documentary series Push Girls, which chronicles four women who are paralyzed from the neck down. Fourteen episodes have been ordered, and it debuts in April. Sundance also renewed existing series All On The Line With Joe Zee and Iconclasts.

TLC

Remember when TLC stood for The Learning Channel? This doesn’t help: The network ordered eight episodes of Leave It To Niecy, where former Reno 911 star Niecy Nash goofs around with her family. Someone should have left this in the pilot reject pile. Well, at least she doesn’t have eight kids.

TNT

(The Dallas panel will be covered in an upcoming, separate post.)

TNT unveiled the sequel to The Closer as the series closes out its seven-year run. In Major Crimes, a spin-off due to premiere this summer is basically a continuation of the series with a different kind of feel, according to creator and showrunner James Duff. Mary McDonnell takes over top billing  from departing regular Kyra Sedgwick, who is moving on to other projects. Can Major Crimes match The Closer? Or will it become the next Sanford Arms? We’ll see by the end of the year.

TV Land

Original Kings of Comedy member Cedric The Entertainer once again headlines a TV show: this time, he’s a minister in Cleveland in Have Faith, a spin-off of Hot In Cleveland, which was recently renewed for a fourth season and picked up in off-network syndication by CBS Television Distribution. Appearing in WB’s The Steve Harvey Show, Cedric The Entertainer headlined a short-lived sketch comedy for Fox during the 2001-02 season.

Weather Channel

Curious on why this wasn’t announced during NBCUniversal’s portion of the press tour (Weather is owned by NBCUniversal.) But the cable channel announced it had declared Hurricane Hunters a firm go. The series follows Air Force pilots and quest to gather data from the eye of a hurricane.

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