TCA: ABC’s full line-up: Muppets, mayhem, and more

ABC_MeetingIt was ABC’s turn at TCA Tuesday and Wednesday:

– Some big breaking news took place at the TCA tour: Kermit and Miss Piggy are no longe an item. That’s right – the long-running couple, who have been dating each other since 1976 – or so – called it quits recently, shocking the entire world. So my brothers and sisters, let’s pour a 40 of Old English on the curb to remember their relationship…

Of course, this is the basis for ABC’s new Muppets series, the first one since Muppets Tonight left in air in 1998 (I’m keeping the malt liquor in the bottle, thank you very much.)

This version is far different from the original Muppet Show (which was syndicated by ITC) and Muppets Tonight (which aired on ABC and the Disney Channel)- this series is set at a fictional late-night talk show titled Up Late With Miss Piggy in a mockumentary view – similar in style of Garry Shandling’s The Larry Sanders Show (actually, it’s kind of a ripoff.)

The TCA panel for a little strange – Kermit and Miss Piggy even addressed the “applause issue…”

Showrunner Bill Prady said he pitched a version of this show eight years ago, but the timing wasn’t right.

Since their enthusiastic appearance at Comic-Con, buzz has built for The Muppets, and it could be the biggest hit on the networks this fall. ABC has not had a hit sitcom in the lead-off Tuesday night time slot since Home Improvement ended in 1999.

As for Kermit… he told reporters at TCA – yes, at TCA he was now dating a pig named Denise in ABC’s marketing department. For a minute there, we all thought he was dating Donald Trump.

– Paul Lee came out and talked to the press, about how television has changed in the the five years he had held the title of Entertainment President – notably how it has become more diverse (Lee spearheaded diversity on the programming schedule last fall), and the rise of on-demand viewing through subscription services – notably Scandal, which became a hit after viewers binged the show on Netflix.

Hey fellas... she's single now!
Hey fellas… she’s single now!

Lee touched on other subjects, including the success of Celebrity Family Feud, Patrick Dempsey’s departure from Grey’s Anatomy (“There’s no reason to expect that ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ won’t go on for many, many years to come.”, he said), and even touched on oft-forgotten sitcom Last Man Standing, which created a stir earlier in the week when Tim Allen said ABC execs were meddling in the show’s content due to its political humor.

As Bill Prady noted in the Muppets panel, he decided against making The Muppets topical or political.  “I’m not a fan of doing that,” said Prady. “You wind up in the “Murphy Brown” situation where the show becomes a thing of the moment….There’s no longevity. We want to be a thing of greater duration.”

So far, Last Man Standing has had trouble being sold in syndication, as Brown was one of the biggest off-network busts of the 1990’s. Interestingly enough, reruns of The Muppet Show was one of the biggest rerun busts of the 1980’s, despite its first-run syndication success in the 1970’s.

– Shonda Rhimes had a panel for her three shows and came off well, despite refusing to answer some questions critics had. She had some explaining to do after the controversial decision to kill off Patrick Dempsey’s character on Grey’s Anatomy, a jump the shark moment in a show whose history is filled with them: “The decision to have the character die the way that he did wasn’t a difficult one in the show,” Rhimes told critics at the tour.  “Either Derek was going to walk out on Meredith and leave her high and dry, but then that would say that the love wasn’t true over the last 11 years of the show. … That would be untenable. … He couldn’t be the bad guy and walk out. The only way to make Meredith and Derek’s magic remain true was to keep it frozen in time.”

Shimes went on to talk about Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, but when the subject somehow turned to Donald Trump, Grey’s cast member Ellen Pompeo just wanted to rip out his vocal cords. Don’t we all.

– Perhaps the most promoted show on ABC this summer has to be the Don Johnson/Chace Crawford vehicle Blood & Oil, in the vein of those 1980’s nighttime soaps. Johnson in fact, said his show isn’t a Dallas clone.  “The only thing we have in common, tangentially, is oil is part of it.” Johnson said. Oddly enough, the exec producer of Blood & Oil and Cynthia Cidre – who recently was the showrunner of the recent Dallas revival on TNT.

–  If you guessed Quantico was another FBI action show, you’re right – it is. The show is about a bunch of FBI recruits in Quantico, Va, and each of them harbors a dark secret – one of them is even accused of masterminding the biggest terrorist plot since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Star Priyanka Chopra – a former Miss World who made a profitable living starring in Bollywood films, said she didn’t know much about the script – and wasn’t given any information about the show; she was told her character’s name was Alex, her mom was Indian and her dad was Caucasian. “They tell me nothing – is that how TV works?” Chopra said at the tour.

Welcome to the American TV business.

– During the panel for Wicked City, the creator talked about the series’ setting, the early 1980’s in Los Angeles during the Valley Girl era. The series follows a serial killer, who prays women on the Sunset Strip. His girlfriend is also caught up in this.

Dexter this is not.

Some critics didn’t like the trailer shown – one even suggest their should be more men as victims. Even though this is a yet another period piece, don’t look for any parodies of the ’80’s according to show runner Amy Harris (that’s another show’s job on the network.) Yeah, and don’t look for yours truly to be watching this crap, either.

– On a side note, ABC also held a panel for The FABLife, a new syndicated talk show strip launching Sept. 14 on WLS-Channel 7 at 1 p.m., replacing Rachael Ray. Critics complained the panel was uneven and too bubbly, with Tyra Banks on stage with the cast of the show. And for course, the show revealed yellow as its primary color. In Chicago, FABLife competes against Maury on WGN, The Talk on WBBM and Meredith Vieira on WMAQ. Given the choices, let’s just say I’m glad I’m at work during this time.