After 17 days, the 2019 Television Critics Association (TCA) Summer Press Tour has come to a close.
Below are 17 of our top takeaways from the never-ending TV media event occupying the Beverly Hilton ballroom. Thanks for all of the free coffee, but now we need some sleep.
ABC Is Getting Into the Live-TV Musical Game With “The Little Mermaid” After All
Despite delaying original plans for production two years ago, ABC is back in business with Ariel and friends under the sea — not long after Disney announced its own live-action project for the big screen. But this “live-action” musical won’t be anything like the other TV-musicals we’ve seen of late, like “Peter Pan” and “The Sound of Music.”
ABC’s “The Little Mermaid Live!” will involve watching the original movie, except all the musical numbers will be replaced with live actors singing and dancing in costume surrounded by a full set — plus puppets. Auli’i Cravalho has been cast to play Ariel, with Queen Latifah playing Ursula and Shaggy playing Sebastian.
Mass Shootings Loomed Large
Over the course of TCA, two mass shootings took place in the U.S. Networks weighed in, both by TV critics’ prompting and of their own accord. “Unfortunately, many of us woke up to news of another mass shooting, the second in 24 hours. So the real world is kind of interjected itself into our world of fantasy and make-believe, and it really puts things into perspective,” Paul Hewitt, The CW’s head of communications, said at the start of Sunday’s panels. The next day, Jimmy Kimmel was asked to address the tragedies as well. “I think there’s now an expectation that late-night talk shows will address these horrible things. I wish we didn’t have to, but nobody is doing anything about it at all,” Kimmel said at ABC’s event. “We seem to forget about these tragedies nationally four days after they happen.”
Finally, Those AEW Details
We finally — FINALLY — got more details on upstart WWE competitor All Elite Wrestling’s (AEW) upcoming weekly series on TNT. Mark your calendars for Wednesday, Oct. 2, when the still-untitled show will premiere from 8/7c to 10/9c.
“Homeland” Is Actually Returning – We Have a Date and Everything
After a nearly two-year wait, “Homeland” will finally return for its eighth and final season next February. While that’s later than expected, Showtime executives assured us that there have been no setbacks on the show. The final season was mostly shot in Morocco, which co-president of entertainment Gary Levine hinted was the reason for the later-than-expected premiere.
“We would rather have it good than fast,” Levine said. That’s better than the other way around, we suppose.
Amazon Is Keeping Its Secret Ratings Secret
While Netflix may be (selectively) sharing viewer data, don’t expect Amazon Studios to follow suit. “Our company doesn’t embrace that strategy. We agree that it’s not a strategy for us. We know what the numbers are,” Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke told us, though she added Amazon’s guarded stance regarding its internal data may “change over time.” When we asked if the company has started to share viewership tallies with its showrunners, Albert Cheng, Amazon’s co-head of TV, said it still doesn’t share “absolute numbers.”
Ryan Murphy Changes His Mind, Will Do Monica Lewinsky Scandal for “American Crime Story”
FX found its focus for the next installment of “American Crime Story” (no Katrina is still never happening), and it’s one that Murphy previously said he wouldn’t do: The Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal. Beanie Feldstein will play Lewinsky, while Murphy veteran Sarah Paulson is on board as Linda Tripp. It will air just ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, which FX chief John Landgraf had to spend time during his executive session assuaging critics’ fears that it wouldn’t affect the outcome of said election.
Emmys Follow Oscars Lead In Getting Rid of Its Host
Proving that Hollywood is a copycat industry, the Emmys will follow the Oscars in not having a host for this September’s broadcast on Fox. Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier explained the network’s reasoning for going without a host was to give more time to honor the shows that ended this year (or will end) including “Game of Thrones,” “Veep,” “Big Bang Theory” and its own “Empire.” Or maybe they saw the lackluster energy from last year’s hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost and figured an empty stage was better.
“Black Lightning” Finally Enters the “Arrowverse”
At long last, CW’s “Arrowverse” will finally include the folks from Freeland, adding “Black Lightning” characters to its upcoming mega-crossover “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” which will run for three consecutive days in December, before returning with a two-hour closer in January (which will also include the series finale of “Arrow”). If that’s not enough, “Batman: The Animated Series” voice actor Kevin Conroy will appear as Bruce Wayne himself – from the future.
We’re Getting Even More “Atlanta” – But TBD If It Will Shoot in Atlanta
FX opened its day by announcing it had renewed Donald Glover’s surreal comedy for a fourth season over a year after picking it up for a third — which has yet to premiere, let alone go into production. The cable network said both upcoming installments of “Atlanta” will begin filming next spring, but didn’t reveal how Georgia’s anti-abortion law may or may not affect the show’s decision to continue to film in its namesake city.
“That would be Donald’s call. He hasn’t opined on that yet,” Landgraf told TheWrap later that day. He also said he is unaware of a backup plan or different location, should the creator/star decide he no longer wants to shoot in Georgia. “The artist makes the decision on that. We’ll support Donald in whatever he decides.”
And speaking of Georgia…
TV Chiefs Say It’s Your Move, Georgia
Across the board, TV networks are maintaining their wait-and-see approach to the looming Georgia production boycott as the state’s abortion ban makes its way through a series of legal challenges. The heads of both ABC and The CW said they’d wait for the outcome of those legal battles and consult with their parent companies before deciding how to proceed with the shows that film in the state.
“It’s an open issue right now,” ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke told reporters. “This law is being challenged in the courts, so I can say that we’ll just wait to see what is decided and then make a determination at that time.”
We Lost Some Shows
It wouldn’t be TCA if we didn’t get a few cancellations and announcements about series that are about to come to an end. During this tour we learned that The CW’s “100” will wrap up with its upcoming seventh season; Amazon won’t be bringing back “Patriot,” “Too Old to Die Young” and Matthew Weiner’s “The Romanoffs”; Starz has canceled freshman comedy “Now Apocalypse”; and Nat Geo is scrapping its previously announced Mary Shelley installment of “Genius.”
Everyone Wants More “Fleabag”
Phoebe Waller-Bridge had previously said the second season of her critically-acclaimed Prime Video comedy “Fleabag” would be its last, but Amazon is not ready to give up just yet — and neither is anyone else.
“I’m basically her stalker,” Salke said. “Anything Phoebe wants to do we are signed up to do. Nothing would make us happier than to have her bring another season of that show or anything else she wants to do. I’m forever the optimist. I remain always hopeful until it’s really over.”
The proof that everyone is a “Fleabag” fan came during the 35th annual Television Critics Association Awards when the show was the evening’s only multi-trophy winner taking top comedy, the top acting award in that genre for Waller-Bridge, and the ultimate program of the year honors. And PWB charmed the pants off the critics who had awarded her those honors with her sincere and witty acceptance speeches.
“Power”-Full Future at Starz
Starz entire day at TCA — and we do mean entire day — was all about the sixth and final season of “Power.” A pair of panels led by creator Courtney Kemp and executive producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson revealed the last year of the drama will be split into two parts, that it’s getting an aftershow, “Power Confidential,” and that Starz has set the series’ first spinoff, “Power Book II: Ghost,” which will star Mary J. Blige.
“We have alluded previously to various spinoffs, prequels and other expansions of the ‘Power’ Universe,” Kemp said. “Today we are pleased to announce that we are in pre-production on the first of what we know will be a collection of series inspired by the dynamic world of ‘Power.'”
According to Kemp, the follow-up will “continue the journey of some of ‘Power’s’ most controversial characters” in addition to introducing new characters, including the one played by Blige.
We Dragged Out as Many “Westworld” and “Game of Thrones” Spinoff(s) Details as We Could From Casey Bloys
Despite the fact “Game of Thrones” came to an end in May, HBO’s TCA day was still heavy on the “GoT”-related Qs and As. First, HBO Programming chief Casey Bloys revealed production has wrapped on the untitled Naomi Watts-led prequel pilot, which began filming earlier this summer.
Then in a sitdown with TheWrap, the pay-TV channel’s exec confirmed that George R.R. Martin hadn’t actually been getting your hopes up when he said additional “Game of Thrones” spinoffs were still in development. “I think we have one or two more scripts,” Bloys said. “But we’re gonna see what happens with this one.”
He also told TheWrap “Westworld” Season 3 will debut in the first half of 2020 and that there is a deal in place with co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy for a potential fourth and fifth season.
Fox Confirms Jussie Smollett Will Not Be Back on “Empire”
Charlie Collier finally put any ongoing speculation to bed this week, confirming that neither Jussie Smollett nor his character, Jamal Lyon, would reappear on “Empire’s” upcoming final season.
But TheWrap did get an explanation about how the hip-hop drama will address his absence.
“[Jamal’s] on his honeymoon and working on some projects abroad… that’s how we hear about him at the beginning of the season,” Fox Entertainment exec Michael Thorn told us, with the caveat that the writers have not finished planning the season beyond the first handful of episodes. “I think [showrunner] Brett [Mahoney] and the team have done a great job of creating a very realistic story for why he’s not in the day-to-day lives of the Lyon family.”
Fresh (Spin)off the Boat
ABC has already turned two of its most successful sitcoms into franchises with last year’s “Goldbergs” spinoff “Schooled” and the upcoming “black-ish” offshoot “mixed-ish” set to hit the air this fall, but the network is already eyeing another. Burke told TheWrap that a “Fresh off the Boat” spinoff is currently in the early stages of development. Rachna Fruchbom is set to write, with the project likely to center on a different immigrant family.
We Will Miss “The Good Place”
The cast and creator of “The Good Place” closed out the tour on Thursday with what was potentially their final TCA panel for the critically beloved sitcom. The emotional farewell panel saw tears from stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson as the rest of the cast sang the show’s praises ahead of its final season and showrunner Michael Schur called on us all to do our best to be better humans.