TCA Summer Tour 2014: Crash course in cable

TCA_Logo_FINALThe Television Critics Association’s Press Tour got underway last week at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Beverly Hills, Ca. For the next two weeks, TV and media critics will be listening to executives talk a lot of BS, see actors whining, and asking tough questions while tweeting away.

But there is also the potential for some fun moments (remember a Downton Abbey cast member revealing a Free Bates T-shirt during a panel a few years ago?)

Without further ado, here’s a cliff notes version of the cable portion of the press tour (independently -owned cable networks)

Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s sessions were pretty much straight out of Bizarro World. There were panels for Discovery’s Naked And Afraid (which featured no nudity at the panel), an Animal Planet show called Pitbulls and Parolees, and a parade of out-of-work ’90’s stars pimping Investigation Discovery programs such as Heartbreakers. Only thing missing was Sex Sent Me To The ER (and yes, that’s a real show.) And you had women dressed as mermaids hanging out the Hilton’s pool, thanks to BBC America (you try walking in that costume.)

On Friday, Starz CEO Chris Albrecht addressed reporters at TCA and talked about his new drama, Outlander. Albrecht also addressed numerous issues at his session, including early renewals, black viewership, and the lack of buzz for his shows in this new “Golden Age Of Drama” at the cable networks. Albercht defended renewing series early (pointing out HBO does the same thing), though some series such as Boss and Magic City, were canceled after two seasons.

Albericht also noted about the composition of his new drama, Power, a hip-op drama created by Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent, saying the series has a predominantly African-American audience: “The not-so-surprising secret about Power is that white people don’t watch a lot of shows that don’t have a lot of white faces in them,” he said. Sure is a far cry from the past when predominately black casted shows like The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show, and Family Matters also appealed to white audiences.

A lot was talked about regarding AMC’s Better Call Saul, the much-anticipated spinoff of Breaking Bad. Vince Gilligan was at TCA, explaining how he was putting the series together. The Breaking Bad creator pointed out Saul won’t dwell on cameos from the parent series, though he didn’t rule out cameos from Walter White himself. Despite the premiere being months away, Saul has already been picked up for a second season.

Meanwhile, AMC announced it has picked up mixed martial-arts drama Badlands as a straight-to-series (no pilot) order.

It’s not TV, it’s too damn good: armed with 99 Emmy nominations, HBO executives Richard Pleper and Michael Lombardo were sounding pretty smug at their session. The duo talked about the addition of new cast members to True Detective and more, but seemed annoyed about the constant questions regarding Game Of Thrones, saying the series was renewed through season six.

One of the more notable panels at TCA was for HBO’s The Comeback, with Lisa Kurdow and co-creator Michael Patrick King – whose last appearance at TCA a few years for 2 Broke Girls was a complete disaster. The scribes were kinder this time around to King, who was there to discuss the revival of the 2005 series, a mockumentary of a former sitcom star played by Kudrow.

TCA Quick Hits and Bits:

WGN America held its second TCA panel ever with the introduction of Manhattan, a new drama focusing on the development of the first Atomic bomb in a New Mexico town. Creator Sam Shaw said the straight-to-series order actually helped its creative structure, saying “it was creatively liberating.”

The first TCA panel for WGN America was just-renewed Salem, which debuted April 20 and became an instant hit.

BBC America announced renewals for Orphan Black and Broadchurch for 2015, and has picked up two new dramas: Tatau and The Last Kingdom, the latter from the producers of Downton Abbey.

Turner announced it was picking up four new series for TruTV and renewed the network reality western, Way Out West.

In addition to picking up exclusive streaming rights to South Park, Hulu announced a second season renewal for original series East Los High.

Newcomer El Rey Network announced two new unscripted series: Lucha: Uprising and Cutting Crew, and what is now becoming standard practice in cable TV, renewed Matador, Robert Ori’s spy thriller for another season ahead of its July 15 premiere.

In the no one cares department, LeAnn Rimes and hubby/leech Eddie Cibrian “want to take their life back” via VH1 with a reality show. Good luck with that.