9 TCA Burning Questions: Will ‘Empire’ Get Its Due? Is Netflix an Impossible Act to Follow?

TheWrap asks and attempts to answer lingering queries about the upcoming Summer Press Tour

Last Updated: July 28, 2015 @ 8:35 AM

Before the barrage of television premieres come this fall, producers, executives and stars face critics for one more round of questions, answers and announcements at the annual Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour.

Big questions linger as high profile presentations prepare to be unveiled. For example: Will the TV critics reward “Empire”? How does fourth-place Fox plan to wine and dine TCA members this year? Is PBS revamping its approach now that it’s scheduled in the middle of the tour?

Below are those and others that TheWrap is eager to find out the answers to.

empire finale cookie fight anika

Will Emmy-Snubbed ‘Empire’ Take Home the Critics Top Program Trophy at TCA Awards?
Like all awards shows that aren’t the Main Event, TCA tends to recognize achievements by artists who may be on shows that get snubbed by the more traditional Academy. This year, for example, shows like “Empire” and “Jane The Virgin,” beloved by critics and passionate fans, are nominated in categories in which many were hoping to see them pop up on Emmy nomination morning.

“Empire” has its passionate fans who were upset about the show’s lack of Emmy nominations, but they should feel validated in its many TCA noms, including for the top prize, Program of the Year, where it’s up against “The Americans,” “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men” and “Transparent.” That said, don’t pencil it in for a win.

“I think ‘Empire’s’ struggle with us, with the TCA, is the same struggle that it has with the Emmys,” NPR TV critic Eric Deggans told TheWrap. “In that, there are some people who are big fans of the show, but there are other people who will never see the soap opera-level storylines as quality television.”

Deggans seems to think that “Mad Men” — particularly since this is the last time the TCA will have a chance to honor the show — would be the frontrunner in the main category. “Game of Thrones” is another with a much better chance, as he sees it.

Is “Transparent” Going to Clean Up at the TCA Awards, Setting the Stage for Emmys?
Speaking of which, don’t expect “Transparent” to steal that Program of the Year trophy either, Deggans foreshadowed.

“It’s entirely possible … that Jeffrey Tambor might get [Individual Achievement in Comedy], but ‘Transparent’ might not, because Jeffrey Tambor is considered the strongest element of ‘Transparent,'” he explained. “I don’t know for sure that it would knock it out of the running … [but] my hunch would be that Tambor is a stronger candidate than the show.”

Both “Transparent” and “Empire” are also up for Outstanding New Program.

downton abbey

Will PBS Up Its Game in TCA Prime(r) Spot?
Previously, PBS has been relegated to the last few days of TCA, prompting some journalists — especially out-of-towners — to skip the event — up until now. The Public Broadcasting Station is now scheduled Aug. 1 and Aug. 2 — a Saturday and Sunday … so … upgrade?

“We’re happy to return to the middle of the tour, and plan to make the most of it with what we think is one of our most stellar TCA lineups-to-date,” a PBS spokesperson told TheWrap. “Not only do we have returning phenoms like the final season of ‘Downton Abbey’ and an enigmatic ‘Sherlock’ special from Masterpiece, but there’s also the new Civil War ensemble drama ‘Mercy Street’ — our first American drama series in more than ten years; Jack White presenting his roots music miniseries, ‘American Epic'; hard-hitting documentary filmmaking from ‘Frontline’ and ‘Independent Lens'; and entertainment legends like Norman Lear and Chita Rivera.”

PBS will also have a special performance by Grammy-winner Vanessa Williams.

Is ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Ready to Take Over As Cable’s Top Show?
“The Walking Dead” battles with NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” for most-watched show on nearly every Sunday they share — so can spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead” carry that torch? Spinoffs are a tricky thing, as is the fact that the new zombie series will have fewer zombies than “Walking Dead” fans may be used to — set before and during the onset of the virus that brings about the apocalypse and all.

With “Mad Men” over and done with, and “Breaking Bad” way in AMC’s rearview mirror, “Fear” has quite a bit riding on it. The new drama kicks off about a week after TCA technically ends, so the timing is extra important.

Will Trevor Noah Win Over the Critics?
Incoming “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah will both be a panel participant and a featured performer this July. Noah will do a stand-up set for TV critics Tuesday, July 28 at 8 p.m. at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. “An Evening With Trevor Noah” will be followed by a meet-and-greet, which entertainment journalists love.

The following day, Noah will be a key part of the Viacom Networks portion of the event, his first TCA. Noah’s “Daily Show” run begins on Sep. 28, while Jon Stewart’s legendary one ironically ends during TCA, on Aug. 6.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Will Netflix on Day 1 Prove an Impossible Act to Follow?
As streaming giants continue to pour into original programming — and good original programming at that — broadcast and cable networks may find themselves playing catchup on more than one aspect.

Netflix is one of the first providers to get its turn in the spotlight this summer, and with Emmy favorites like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” headlining, along with anticipated new series like “Narcos,” the rest of the field will have their work cut out for them to wow the crowd.

On the direct question posed above, MediaLink Senior Vice President Howard Homonoff told TheWrap: “I don’t think so, because I don’t think that as powerful as Netflix is and as great a financial story as Netflix is, it’s not like there’s no room for other great content. TCA is about content.”

“Certainly the pressure is on, but there’s other room to impress,” Homonoff concluded of Netflix’s competitors.

Will “The Leftovers” revamp prove to be a comeback for Damon Lindelof?
“The Leftovers” is getting a major makeover for its second season, cutting half its original cast and moving locations altogether, but is it enough to get Damon Lindelof back in critics’ good graces? There are certain people who have never quite forgiven him for “Lost,” and his subsequent projects — including big budget films like “Prometheus” and “Tomorrowland” — haven’t helped much in course correcting that image.

The news of “The Leftovers” revamp was met with mostly positive reactions after a divided response to the first season, and it’s an unusual step for an ongoing series to take, which could be a breath of fresh air, if nothing else.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

How will half-hour pilot “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” fare as an hour-long series?
Showtime ordered a half-hour all-singing, all-comedy sitcom about a girl who follows a high school crush across the country – unbeknownst to him – but now it’s an hour-long dramedy series on The CW. The network has paired it with “Jane The Virgin,” banking on a Monday night of quirkiness, but it might be tough to match the lightning-in-a-bottle magic of the former.

Is there a reason why Showtime decided not to move forward with the series in the first place? Expect answers during the show’s first TCA panel.

Will Cosby or Trump Be the Butt of More Panel Jokes?
Topical humor has regularly been dominated by two topics as of late: Bill Cosby’s awful past and Donald Trump’s silly present. As some of the best comedians and writers on the planet will be present at TCA, which pop culture material machine will get more mentions over the next three weeks?

The smart money is on Trump, as his candidacy continues, while Cosby’s behavior only really arises when a new alleged victim comes forward. Plus, Cosby’s crimes are heinous, while Trump’s buffoonery is far funnier and more light-hearted. And let’s be honest, this is liberal Hollywood — GOP candidate Trump is a much easier and more prevalent target than the former TV dad who one can argue helped build this town.

TCA technically kicks off with a Nat Geo party Monday evening; the panels begin in earnest on Tuesday morning.