TCA: Cable shows off the goods

imagesJanuary is yours truly favorite time of year.

Why? (No, its NOT the weather.)

This month is home to TCA Winter Press Tour and the National Association of Television Program Executives gatherings take place, with the latter being held later this month. Let the fun begin!

This edition – the Winter portion of the tour – is taking place over twelve consecutive days at the the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, Calif (the summer tour takes place in July and is usually held at the Beverly Hills Hilton.)

The first two days are devoted to cable, though not all cable networks are presenting in this portion of the tour (especially if they’re owned by companies who also own the broadcast networks.)

Here’s what was on tap the first two days of the tour:

Turner (TBS, TNT)

– Both networks have plenty of new programming initiatives to last year-around, said Turner president Michael Wright. Turner is launching a total of five new reality series (including King Of The Nerds) and several new scripted series, including dramas Monday Mornings (weird name for a show) and Cougar Town, which moved from ABC to TBS January 8 . And with the death of Larry Hagman last November, TNT also confirmed the character of J.R. Ewing has passed, and Dallas will air a funeral episode this upcoming season. Dallas returns with all new episodes January 28.


– HBO always has a huge presence at TCA, and with five panels, this one was no different. Its large slate includes seven new documentaries involving subjects ranging from the U.S. economy to sexual abuse from Catholic priests. All of them premiere in the first half of this year, starting with Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, which premieres Feb. 4.

– The panels were of course, not without star power. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon appeared on stage for Behind The Candelabra, an upcoming film about Liberace and his younger lover, adapted from the best-selling book by Alex Thorleifson. Also on the made-for front is a new film directed by Ryan Murphy titled The Normal Heart, adapted from the Award-winning Broadway Play and stars Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo.  Also in development is new mini-series The Normal Heart, based on four World War I novels by Ford Max Ford, set in the same era Downton Abbey is (but not inspired by it, according to the miniseries’ creator.)

– HBO is also developing a new series titled Family Tree and a new, “groundbreaking” magazine show called Vice.


– Like HBO, Starz always bring the goods at TCA and this one was no exception. Starz CEO Chris Albrecht addressed the critics in a brief executive session, and told the crowd he likes the independence of his network, given Liberty Media has now officially spun off the premium channel. From Deadline: “It is daunting and exciting. For this room what it means is we will now be in charge of our own balance sheet, and be able to accelerate our rampup into original programming.”

In other Starz news:

– The 1950’s-set drama Magic City is adding Cuba (before Castro) and Chicago as locales for its second season storylines.

In addition, DaVinci’s Demons, a new action hour following the untold story of Leonardo DaVinci growing up in Italy, premieres April 12, following the Spartacus: War Of The Damned series finale. The following week, the series moves into its regular 9pm (ET) time slot. Remaking this guy into some kind of superhero will be interesting to watch.

The series is not related to former Canadian procedural drama DaVinci’s Inquest, which is still running in syndication in the U.S.


– Can you believe a new series is being spun-off of a 53 year-old movie? Introducing Bates Motel, a new drama about the relationship between Norman Bates and his mother. The series premieres March 18 at 9 pm (CT) – in color – and in stereo where available – on A & E. In addition, the network ordered eight episodes of a scripted show featuring women on the pro rodeo circuit.

Sundance Channel

– The network in association with Entertainment Weekly, will air a six-episode unscripted series later in 2013 titled The Writers’ Room, which takes viewers behind-the-scenes look in the writers’ room of several TV series, and what viewers will discover is putting together and writing a TV show isn’t as easy as it sounds (trust me.)


– Comedy Central: The home to The Daily Show and South Park has greenlighted Drunk History, adapted from the web series of the same name. The show features historical re-enactments narrated by drunk celebrities. Wow, what will they think of next? Also at TCA was a panel for Nick Kroll’s Kroll Show. He said the series “will feature about 46 percent characters he has created before.” With 100 percent of the laughs, I’m sure.

-VH1: From the “why do these idiots keep hiring this person” file, VH1 announced a new talk show featuring former Playboy Playmate and current Sun-Times “columnist” Jenny McCarthy, which airs Friday nights beginning February 8. Guests won’t be pre-interviewed and so far, there is no set format for the show and no word on where the show would be taped, though Chicago could be a possibility given her Sun-Times duties. VH1 also announced a new reality show titled Black Ink, which follows a dysfunctional family running a tattoo popular in Harlem. Wow, this has got to be the most original program ever.

– CMT: Remember Duane “Dog” Champan of Dog the Bounty Hunter fame? Well, he’s back…for CMT. Tentatively titled Dog, Champan and his wife hunt down dangerous criminals.

And the rest….

OWN. No TCA Appearance from Oprah Winfrey, but the network that bears her name announced the May 29 premiere of two new Tyler Perry series: new sitcom Love Thy Neighbor and new drama The Haves And The Have Nots, inspired by Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. OWN also announced four new reality series, including Blackboard Wars and one featuring comedienne Kym Whitley.

Hallmark. The network announced June 1 as the premiere date for its first-ever, regularly scheduled scripted series titled Cedar Cove. The new drama stars Andie MacDowell and Dylan Neal.

Nat Geo. Announced new reality series Combat Rescue, which follows a group of rescuers with the Air Force.

Discovery Networks. Among the attractions: Investigation Discovery plans to air two specials as part of Black History Month: On February 13, The Injustice Files: Head Of Suspicion, which profiles three cases of self-defense practices against African-Americans, and on February 25 will air March to Justice, which features individuals reflecting on the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.  Also: the Science Channel launches a TV version of its popular Stuff You Should Know podcast on January 19.

BBC America. Finally, at a panel for The Nerdist (which debuts this spring), Chris Hardwick (of Singled Out and Shipmates fame) discussed how podcasting (of which there are many from Nerdist) had been a survival mechanism of comics such as himself. But eyebrows were raised when he talked about his Singled Out days with Jenny McCarthy, who was at an earlier panel with VH1 (see above.) One of the stories he told was on the first day of taping: Hardwick was waiting for his co-host to come out of the dressing room, then McCarthy came out asking if anyone had a plunger – she was battling a clogged toilet. “She spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to unstop a toilet without asking anybody” he said.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise the toilet won.