8 Burning Questions for TV’s Summer Press Tour: Where Are the Execs? How Much Footage Will We See?

Plus: Why do we need another “Genius: Aretha” panel? And TWO for “The Boys”?

ctam questions
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The Television Critics Association (TCA) 2020 Summer Press Tour may have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but c’mon, this is Hollywood — the show must go on. For PBS and two dozen other networks and streaming platforms, that means participating in a virtual version of the twice-annual multiweek press conference, one that somewhat unceremoniously will start today. It’ll be a weird year without many new assets, but the live panels should prove more worthwhile than the prerecorded Comic-Con@Home. Plus, this one will include Q&A, and we’ve got some burning questions for these guys. See below. 1. We love you, PBS, but what are you doing? PBS is kicking this whole thing off on Tuesday morning (PT), but we can’t help but feel like there’s something else important going on in TV today. OH, RIGHT, EMMY NOMINATIONS. A proper TCA often does its best to avoid conflicts in television coverage, but this weird one is starting with PBS’ main panel a mere 75 minutes removed from when we expect the 72nd Emmys nominees to wrap up. Doesn’t PBS know we need to argue over snubs and surprises and take elated reactions for the next few hours? Viewers like us just got REALLY busy… 2. What is CTAM and what happened to TCA? First things first, this is technically not the Television Critics Association (TCA) Summer Press Tour. The Summer 2020 TCA was technically canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, though a nearly identical virtual version has been set in its place. CTAM, which stands for the somewhat outdated Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing, normally occupies several days of a TCA press tour. This year, they’re (kind of) going out on their own, with seven business days dedicated to presentations and press conferences by cable and streaming networks. Outside of PBS, which just wrapped its own not-TCA, broadcast networks are not participating within the typical TCA window. They’ll likely do their own individual virtual days closer to the actual launch of new programs. We already know of one premium cable network, Starz, that is holding a day outside of the CTAM schedule. On Aug. 13, the day after the CTAM press tour ends, Starz is hosting a virtual press day for new “Power” sequel series, “Book II: Ghost.” 3. How much new footage will we see? Television production has been shut down for four months now — so what, if anything, are we going to see at CTAM? Ordinarily, at an actual TCA tour, we get screeners of new and returning series or at least trailers. There’s bound to be fewer sneak-peek videos during these virtual panels, but still a decent chance we’ll see a decent amount of new footage. That’s because there are several shows on the schedule — mostly streaming series — that managed to get all their episodes in the can before COVID-19 shut things down, some well before. And there are a few more that completed good portions of their seasons before filming was halted. But chances are how ever much footage we get, it won’t be nearly as much as we’re used to. 4. What the hell is VENN? OK, so we gave this exact same treatment to BYUtv a few TCAs ago — it only seems fair to repeat the question for VENN, research what it is, and provide that information to readers ahead of the penultimate CTAM panel. (Only Court TV/Bounce follow.) We’ll officially meet VENN on Tuesday, Aug. 12 at 9:50 a.m. PT. Until then, here is VENN’s self-description:
VENN is a new kind of TV network for the streaming generation, aimed at gaming, pop culture, and esports audiences. Beta launching August 2020 live from Los Angeles, and later Three World Trade Center in New York, VENN will be distributed across a broad range of media platforms and offer original programming produced in-house and in partnership with some of the biggest names and creators across industries.
Timing was always VENN’s thing — welcome aboard! 5. Why does “The Boys” need two panels? Amazon’s “The Boys” got a Season 3 at Comic-Con@Home. It will get two panels at CTAM. Why? It could be because the Prime Video superhero series has a super large ensemble cast that’s gotten even larger for Season 2. Yeah, getting all of those stars, plus showrunner Eric Kripke, on just one Zoom panel might seem too challenging due to the logistical and technical issues we’re all used to at this point, so they might be splitting them into two groups for back-to-back panels. Or Amazon could have just decided to give “The Boys” two panels because it really, really loves “The Boys,” as is evidenced by that early Season 3 renewal and the aftershow it was given for its upcoming second season. 6. How will HBO Max and Peacock’s first (not) TCA appearances go? WarnerMedia’s HBO Max (which launched May 27) and NBCUniversal’s Peacock (which rolled out nationwide July 15) will make their TCA– er, CTAM — debuts virtually this year rather than having their first appearances at the press tour be, well, at the actual press tour. This obviously means the newbie streaming services need to take into account different things when they are setting the stage (minus the stage) to show off their original series. The new kids on the block also have some regulars like Hulu and Amazon to compete with, plus Netflix, which is returning for its first TCA — er, CTAM — since Summer 2018. We don’t yet have a list of panels for Peacock, which is flying solo Aug. 10, but we do know HBO Max has five planned presentations sandwiched between HBO and TNT’s turns on parent company WarnerMedia’s day Aug. 5. 7. Welcome back, “Aretha”! Why are you here, exactly? So this is kind of an unusual case. Last TCA, in January, when things felt normal, we had a “Genius: Aretha” panel. This summer, at not TCA, we have a “Genius: Aretha” panel. Now, we know the latest installment of the anthology series’ premiere was pushed from Memorial Day 2020 to “later this year” (the CTAM schedule lists a “Fall 2020” debut) — but why exactly would we need another panel for it? To be fair — and we suppose, to provide some clarity — this version is titled “Genius: Aretha – Behind the Scenes with the A-Team.” On the (virtual) stage will be Suzan-Lori Parks, executive producer, writer and showrunner; Anthony Hemingway, executive producer and producing director; Jennifer Bryan, costume designer; Terence Blanchard, composer; Raphael Saadiq, executive music producer; Dondraico Johnson, choreographer; and Tim Galvin, production designer. That means no Cynthia Erivo, which makes it different — but does it make it necessary? 8. Where are the execs? A key aspect to a normal TCA press tour is the executive sessions, when network heads sit in the hot seat and answer questions from reporters for 30-60 minutes. There appear to be none of those currently scheduled for CTAM — what gives? (Well, almost no executive sessions: We’ve still got PBS’ Paula Kerger and the VENN co-founders.) While the journalists that ordinarily occupy the Beverly Hilton or Langham Huntington ballroom will surely be bummed about that lack of an opportunity, the CEOs and presidents probably are not. In recent years, Kelly Kahl, Paul Telegdy and Casey Bloys — to name just a few — have faced a particularly fired up firing squad, fielding tough questions about Les Moonves, Gabrielle Union’s firing from “America’s Got Talent,” and the divisive final season of “Game of Thrones.”