13 TV Press Tour Takeaways: Goodbye ‘Shameless,’ ‘Saul’ and Hank Azaria’s Apu – Hello ‘LOTR’ Cast, More ‘AHS’

TCA 2020: Plus, HBO says we’re getting the “Game of Thrones” prequel we deserve

Last Updated: January 19, 2020 @ 5:08 PM

After 13 days, the 2020 Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour has come to a close.

Below are 13 of our top takeaways from the never-ending TV media event occupying the Langham Huntington Pasadena ballroom. Thanks for all of the free coffee, but now we need some sleep.

Some Awards Shows Have Hosts, Some Don’t
The Oscars don’t need a host, and the Golden Globes got two.

ABC chief Karey Burke told those in attendance that the 2020 Academy Awards will have “no traditional host” again this year. Hey, it sure worked out last year — check out these TV ratings.

We also got this year’s Emmys date from ABC. Nominations for the Sunday, Sept. 20 show will come out on Tuesday, July 14, ABC said, and “Host(s) and producers for the telecast will be announced at a later date.”

TheWrap asked network reps if that sentence in the press release means there will definitely be a host this year, to which a spokeswoman replied, “Details are not yet firm.”

You know what will definitely not go host-less? The 2021 Golden Globes. NBC announced at TCA that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will return as hosts for the annual January kickoff to awards season.

Extra Reality
Thanks in large to its hit reality import “The Masked Singer,” Fox won the fall in Nielsen ratings. How do you keep that momentum going?

For starters, Fox is debuting “Masked Singer” Season 3 immediately following its Super Bowl LIV, which means it will be all of, like, a month and a half between runs. In case that’s not enough “Masked” madness, Fox and Ellen DeGeneres are going into business together on a spinoff: “The Masked Dancer.”

Yes, that one is literally being adapted from an “Ellen” joke.

Not to be outdone, ABC is also spinning off its key unscripted property. Because “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise” can’t consume all of primetime six nights a week, 52 weeks per year, ABC has ordered some kind of confusing new “Bachelor” installment: the music-based “Listen to Your Heart.” (Try to) Learn all about that here.

No Room for Cinemax at HBO Max
Despite the obvious name association, AT&T will not be bringing Cinemax to its upcoming streaming service, HBO Max. Not only that, but HBO Max chief Kevin Reilly said Cinemax will stop producing original content all together. We don’t know yet what that means for shows like “Jett” and “Warrior.” “Strike Back” debuts its eighth and final season Feb. 14.

Don’t worry, Cinemax will still be a channel. “I think it still serves an important value for its customers in terms of its movie offerings,” Michael Quigley, executive vice president of content acquisitions for HBO Max, said.

And though it wasn’t announced at TCA, we learned during TCA that AT&T’s Audience Network, home to “Mr. Mercedes,” “Condor” and “Loudermilk,” will also no longer be a home for original programming. Instead, AT&T is turning the premium network into a promo channel for HBO Max.

A rep for AT&T told TheWrap that “any future use of Audience Network content will be assessed at a later date.”

No Plans for ‘Modern Family’ Spinoff Yet (But, We Know Who Would Be Up for It)
Despite ABC chief Karey Burke’s hopes for some kind of continuation for the ABC series, which wraps up this spring, co-creator Steve Levitan told us nothing is planned

“The short answer right now is, there are no plans,” he said.

When TheWrap followed up by asking which cast members would be interested in seeing their characters continue, both Reid Ewing (who plays Dylan) and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (Lily) raised their hands. They’re two of the younger cast members in the large ensemble — “young” being relative on this family show, as Ewing is 31 years old and Anderson-Emmons is 12 — so at least there’d be a long runway for stories with their respective characters.

Julie Bowen, however, gave us her stipulations for continuing on as Claire Dunphy. “Is the spinoff as good as ‘Modern Family?’ Do we get to have the amazing writers? Do we get to have the amazing cast? The incredible hours? Do I get to work in LA and see my kids? Then yeah.”

Got all that, ABC?

We’re Losing Some Shows…
It just wouldn’t be TCA without hearing news that some of our favorite shows are ending, and the 2020s decade is apparently no different.

Showtime is finally bringing an end to “Shameless” after 11 seasons (and eyeing an end date for “Ray Donovan”), which will come this summer. Yes, that means that the William H. Macy-led drama will finish its 10th season and air its final run all in the same year. Why?

“We wanted it on earlier, because we wanted to strengthen our summer and we also wanted to provide a great lead-in for ‘On Becoming a God’ in its second season,” Showtime’s entertainment president Gary Levine explained to us. “Homeland” also ends its eight-season run beginning next month.

Meanwhile, AMC is getting ready to say goodbye to Albuquerque for the second time, announcing that its “Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul” will wrap up next year with its sixth and final season (it returns for Season 5 in February). That means that next year we’ll finally get that payoff for Gene Takovic, the alias that Saul — er, Jimmy, has been using for his post-“Breaking Bad” exploits.

…But There Are Still Too Many Shows
In his annual survey of scripted programming on TV, FX chief John Landgraf revealed that the number of shows on TV surpassed the 500 mark for the first time in 2019. The coming years will surely only see that number rise, and networks made the most of their time these past two weeks teasing what they’ve got in the pipeline.

Here’s just a taste of what’s coming and when to expect it:

Update on NBC’s Investigation Into Gabrielle Union’s ‘America’s Got Talent’ Exit
NBC boss Paul Telegdy told reporters that the network’s ongoing investigation into Gabrielle Union’s contentious departure as a judge on “America’s Got Talent” should wrap up by the end of the month. “We’re very confident if we learn something… we’ll put new practices in place, if necessary, and we certainly take anyone’s critique of what it means to come to work here, incredibly seriously,” the executive said.

Union’s exit was accompanied by multiple news reports describing behind-the-scenes clashes between her and the show’s producers over what was described as a “toxic” workplace culture. Former “AGT” judges Howard Stern and Sharon Osbourne have since spoken out against the “boys’ club” environment on the show, which they said was facilitated by executive producer-turned-judge Simon Cowell.

For her part, former judge Heidi Klum says her experience on the show was nothing short of “amazing.”

“I didn’t experience the same thing,” she said. “To me, everyone treats you with utmost respect.”

Amazon Finally Casts Two of Its Most Anticipated Shows
Amazon’s push into big-budget blockbuster programming has been in the works for years, but the streamer finally shared some casting news for both its highly anticipated “Lord of the Rings” TV series and its international spy franchise from “Avengers” directors Joe and Anthony Russo.

“Quantico” star Priyanka Chopra and “Game of Thrones” alum Richard Madden have signed on to star on “Citadel,” the U.S. installment of the Russo Brothers’ franchise, which will be accompanied by three other interconnected local-language series based in Italy, India and Mexico.

The streamer’s “LOTR” series, meanwhile, cast a whopping 13 series regulars: Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers and Daniel Weyman. They join previously reported stars Robert Aramayo and Morfydd Clark in the eight-episode series.

Multiplicity Is In
Multiple networks picked up multiple shows for multiple seasons during this winter’s press tour.

Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” is coming up on Season 10 — which TheWrap learned exclusively will feature the return of “AHS” staple Sarah Paulson — and has now been renewed for three more, meaning the anthology is guaranteed to run at least 13 seasons. (Isn’t that just poetic?)

Adding to the additional-seasons trend are NBC, which has ordered three more years of its Ryan Eggold-led medical drama “New Amsterdam,” TBS, which has picked up Seth MacFarlane’s “American Dad” for two more seasons, and Comedy Central, which has renewed “Tosh.0” for four more installments as part of the channel’s new first-look deal with creator Daniel Tosh.

Why HBO Picked Dragons Over Naomi Watts
HBO finally ordered one of its several potential “Game of Thrones” spinoffs to series last October — only it wasn’t the one everyone was expecting would get picked up. The pay TV channel scrapped its Naomi Watts-led “GoT” prequel referred to internally as “Bloodmoon” after shooting the pilot and opted to give a straight-to-series order to George R.R. Martin and “Colony” co-creator Ryan Condal’s “House of the Dragon,” which is a show about the Targaryens’ history.

When TheWrap sat down with HBO programming chief Casey Bloys, we asked why — and the answer wasn’t so simple.

“In general for a pilot, and this is very much the case in this one, there’s not one thing that I would say, ‘Oh, this went terribly wrong,'” Bloys told us. “Sometimes a pilot comes together, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes even the best aspects don’t totally gel, sometimes they do. That’s kind of the little bit of luck and magic in doing shows — and sometimes they come together and sometimes they don’t.”

“Bloodmoon” was co-created by Martin and “Kingsman” screenwriter Jane Goldman and set thousands of years before the events of the original “Game of Thrones” series. “House of the Dragon,” on the other hand, is based on Martin’s “Fire & Blood” book, which details the Targaryen family lineage, and takes place just 300 years before the events of “GoT.”

Bloys added: “One of the advantages of ‘House of the Dragon’ is you’ve got history and text from George in terms of the history of the Targaryens. So you had a little bit more of a roadmap. So that made it easier to say go straight to series on that. Also, in general with ‘Game of Thrones,’ one of the things going into it we knew — that we know from the development in general — is very few things you get right the first time. And so that’s why we did multiple scripts. And we would have been very fortunate had the one pilot worked and gone straight to series and that would have been that. But you also had to make plans for if that didn’t happen. So we wanted to have a lot of options, so that’s why we went in very deliberately trying to go at it a number of different ways.”

Seriously, Jussie Smollett Is Not Coming Back to ‘Empire’
Fox would love for us all to stop bringing this up, but since “Empire” showrunner Brett Mahoney hasn’t shut the door on the idea, we had to ask again: Will Jussie Smollett reprise his role as Jamal for this spring’s series finale of the hip-hop drama?

“He will not be coming back,” Fox entertainment boss Michael Thorn told TheWrap. “As you would expect when you’re finishing an iconic series like ‘Empire,’ that Brett, as the showrunner, along with his producing partners, would certainly have discussions about what’s the best way to finish the show. In this case, Jussie will not be coming back for the finale.”

Smollett left the show toward the end of last season, shortly after Chicago law enforcement accused him of staging a high-profile hate crime against himself. The producers, responding to intense public pressure, wrote Smollett out of the final episodes of Season 5 despite protests from Smollett’s supporters on the cast.

“Our hope at Fox — and I know the producers feel the same way — is that the show, to us, is much bigger than some of the personal stuff that’s unfortunately happened for Jussie, where we just want the ending to be as epic as the beginning,” Thorn said.

Hank Azaria Is Officially Done With Apu
The “Brockmire” star confirmed once and for all that he will no longer be the voice of the Indian American convenience-store proprietor Apu Nahasapeemapetilon on Fox’s “The Simpsons.”

“I won’t be doing the voice anymore, that’s all we know. Unless there’s some way to transition it or something,” Hank Azaria told reporters after the panel for his IFC series, which is ending with its upcoming fourth season.

“What they’re going to do with the character is their call, it’s up to them, they haven’t sorted that out yet,” Azaria said of “The Simpsons” team. “All we agreed on is that I won’t do the voice anymore. We all had made the decision together, we all feel it was the right thing and good about it.”

Apple TV+ Joins the Party
Apple TV+ had its first-ever appearance at TCA during this winter’s tour, landing the final day slot on Sunday, which isn’t exactly a coveted one, due to the fact you’re presenting to a room full of really tired journalists.

(We have to note here that before the new streaming service kicked things off in Pasadena, its direct competitor Disney+ started the morning with an interestingly timed investment in Twitter promotion. Now back to Apple, the belle of Sunday’s ball.)

The tech giant opened its presentations with a buff-looking Kumail Nanjiani and his wife and co-writer Emily V. Gordon, who appeared via satellite to discuss their series “Little America.” They and the other executive producers (Alan Yang, Lee Eisenberg, Sian Heder, Joshua Bearman) talked about how a show that depicts immigrants in an empathic light is inherently political, despite their efforts to focus on the character’s personal stories rather than the American immigration system.

Hilde Lysiak, the 13-year-old journalist who went viral with her exclusive report of a hometown murder in 2016, was on hand to discuss “Home Before Dark,” the drama series based on her investigative reporting in which Brooklynn Prince plays her and Jim Sturgess plays her father.

Diversity was a big topic throughout Apple’s day, particularly during the panels for upcoming doscuseries “Visible: Out on Television” and the Kristen Bell and Josh Gad-voiced cartoon “Central Park.”

When “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” creator Rob McElhenney and star David Hornsby showed up to talk about their gamer comedy “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” they were obviously immediately asked about “Sunny” — specifically, the similarities and differences between the two shows.

“The Morning Show” executive producer Michael Ellenberg said he has “no update” on the possibility of Steve Carell returning to the series for Season 2, but that they are “exploring” it — and everyone else remained tight-lipped about the next season, including Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Billy Crudup and director Mimi Leder.

Apple wrapped up its day with more eye-candy via satellite in the form of Chris Evans, who was on hand to promote his upcomign series  “Defending Jacob.”

Keep
Reading...

Looks like you’re enjoying reading
Keep reading by creating
a free account or logging in.