Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It's Official -- Will & Grace is back!!

l-r, Sean Hayes, Megan Mullally,
Eric McCormack and Debra Messing in
Will & Grace
This morning at the TCA press tour, NBC started off with an announcement they knew we'd love:  the brilliant 1998-2006 sitcom Will & Grace is coming back in the 2017-18 season, as a 10-episode limited series.

When Will & Grace premiered in 1998, it was only the second network show to feature an out gay leading character -- and that was after Ellen DeGeneres' Ellen Morgan character had come out only in the latter seasons of her eponymous show, in 1997.  Will & Grace went on not only to win 18 Emmys for its writing and all four of its principal cast members, but inspired a generation of men and women, including me, in their coming-out journeys.

In 2004, I was lucky to get the assignment to write Will & Grace: Fabulously Uncensored, a behind-the-scenes coffee table book about the show.  Getting to hang out with that fab foursome -- Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally -- plus the show's creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan and its amazing writers and crew -- was truly like going to fantasy camp.

Now, a whole new generation will get the same inspiration I did all those years ago.  And after all, there's plenty to talk about in 2017.  In fact, the whole revival talks began when the W&G cast and creators released their video, "Vote, Honey" this past fall, urging Americans to get out and vote.  That itself had been a feat of serendipity, because the set for Will Truman's apartment still existed intact, thanks to the preservation work of Mutchnick's alma mater Emerson College.   The "Vote, Honey" viral video proved so popular, it launched NBC into talks with Mutchnick, Kohan and the cast about the revival.

As Mutchnick notes, "Dave and I are absolutely thrilled about the opportunity to write what Will, Grace, Jack and Karen are thinking about in 2017."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Mick picked up for 4 additional episodes: Fox at the TCA part 2

l-r, Thomas Barbusca, Sofia Black D'Elia,
Jack Stanton and Kaitlin Olson in The Mick
Another announcement from Fox this morning:  new comedy The Mick, starring It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Katlin Olson, has been picked up for an additional 4 episodes, bringing this season's total to 17.

Fox touts the show as the "#1 New Comedy of the Season," which is a dubious claim to make about a show that has aired only 3 times, especially when some new shows such as ABC's American Housewife and Speechless have been pumping out popular installments since early fall.  Still, Fox brags that The Mick's special Jan. 1 "preview" of its pilot eipsode scored the season's highest-rated new comedy debut in Adults 18-49 in more than 15 months on any network.  Combining multiple platforms, The Mick's audience grew 35% to 11.6 million viewers, tying Lethal Weapon as Fox's highest-rated series premiere of this season (not too hard a feat, compared to underperformers like Pitch and The Exorcist, however.)  And in its regular time period premiere on Jan. 3, The Mick was Fox's highest-rated Tuesday entertainment telecast of the season.

The next all-new episode of The Mick will also air in a special time slot -- as Fox gives a special boost to this deserving comedy by running it on Sunday, January 15, following the sure-to-be-popular, first-ever hour-long episode of The Simpsons.

The show's creators Dave and John Chernin, director Randall Einhorn, and stars Kaitlin Olson, Carla Jimenez, Scott MacArthur, Sofia Black-D'Elia and Thomas Barbusca appeared today on a TCA panel in Pasadena, where we learned that the show has two episodes yet to film of its original 13-episode order, plus now four additional shows -- extra weeks that will stretch The Mick's season closer to those magic mid-May days when the network will make its decisions about pickups for the fall.

Empire renewed for Season 4: FOX at the TCA, part 1

Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon in Empire
Fox began its day of presentations at the Television Critics of America (TCA) conference in Pasadena with a flurry of announcements, one of which being that the network has taken the early step of renewing its hit soap Empire for a fourth season, ahead of the network's full fall schedule announcement in May.

Although Empire's ratings have fallen from their meteoric levels in season 1, the Fox press release brags that the show ranks as the #1 broadcast drama in Adults 18-49 for the third consecutive season, and is the #1 broadcast entertainment program among Adults 18-49, teens and young women.  And on a multi-platform basis, Empire averages almost 16 million total viewers this season, up 82% from its live+same day numbers.

A few hours later, Empire creator Lee Daniels appeared on the stage, along with the cast of his latest creation, Star.  And so Daniels will be quite a busy man if Fox proceeds with a possible Empire spinoff, which was announced in the press back in August.

After Empire's fall finale, Star has been occuping the show's Wednesdays at 9 time slot.  After Star finishes its own run, Empire will return for its spring premiere on Wednesday, March 22.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

7 Bits of Good News from the CW

Rachel Bloom co-created and stars in
the CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
If you're like me, a superfan of the CW network's fantastic musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (and if you''re not, I urge you to check it out) you'll be happy to hear that this morning at the Television Critics of America (TCA) convention in Pasadena, the network's president Mark Pedowitz announced the renewal of Crazy Ex for season 3 -- along with six other early pickups of the network's most popular hits.

So get ready for a 2017-18 season in September which is now set to include: Arrow season 6, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend season 3, DC's Legends of Tomorrow season 3, The Flash season 4, Jane the Virgin season 4, Supergirl season 3, and a whopping thirteenth season of the long-running Supernatural.

By the way, I've heard from reliable sources that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was intended from the start to run for a limited number of seasons.  And so with this pickup, it looks like creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna will be well on their way to carrying out their complete vision for this well-written, well-acted and incredibly inventive series.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

PaleyFest 2017 schedule announced

Today, the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills announced the schedule for the 34th annual "PaleyFest," to take place once again at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood from March 17-26, 2017.

Ticket pre-sales for some events begin this coming Monday, January 9, via TicketMaster.

Here’s the full PaleyFest LA lineup:
March 17: “The Walking Dead,” AMC
March 18: CW super heroes; “This Is Us,” NBC
March 19: “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC
March 21: “NCIS: Los Angeles,” CBS
March 22: “The Late, Late Show,” CBS
March 23: “Orphan Black,” BBC America
March 24: “Bob’s Burgers”
March 25: “Pretty Little Liars,” Freeform
March 25: “Westworld,” HBO
March 26: “Scandal,” ABC; “American Horror Story: Roanoke,” FX

Hulu premiere dates for Spring 2017

At today's Television Critics of America (TCA) convention in Pasadena, Hulu presented panels for its collection of shows, and treated critics to a few fun musical performances as well.

Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen in Nashville
First, Clare Bowen and fiance Brandon R. Young performed two songs from Nashville (which of course will air on Hulu this season following each episode's debut on cable network CMT) and also "Love Steps In," her new single which will drop next week, and the proceeds of which will benefit St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, inspired by her brother's battle with lymphoma.  Later, a musical duo performed inside the Langham Hotel's ballroom -- reimagined as the "Bluebird Cafe" -- and even played a country version of "Thank You For Being a Friend," in honor of Hulu's acquisition of streaming rights to all 180 episodes of The Golden Girls, starting February 13.

Below, the announced premiere dates for each of the spring's upcoming Hulu series:

The Golden Girls, l-r:  Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur,
 Rue McClanahan & Betty White
January 6, 2017:  Nashville, season 5  (22 episodes, released after each CMT airing)

January 7, 2017:  Please Like Me, season 4 (6 episodes)

January 25, 2017:  The Path, season 2  (season 1 was 10 episodes; season 2 episode count not announced)

February 13, 2017:  The Golden Girls, seasons 1-7 (180 half-hour episodes)

March 1, 2017:  National Treasure, season 1  (4 episodes)
Andrea Riseborough, Robbie Coltrane
and Julie Walters in National Treasure

March 29, 2017:  Harlots, season 1 (8 episodes)

April 26, 2017:  The Handmaid's Tale, season 1  (10 episodes)

May 23, 2017:  Casual, season 3 (13 episodes, released weekly)

The Girls Head to Hulu

Big news this morning out of the Television Critics of America (TCA) convention in Pasadena:  Hulu has announced the exclusive acquisition of streaming rights to The Golden Girls.  Starting February 13, all seven seasons/180 episodes of the show will be available for on-demand viewing anytime.

Now if only we can get them to throw in Golden Palace.  Stay tuned!

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Big Day and Night for the Cast of Will & Grace

L-r, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally
and Sean Hayes perform at a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton
at the home of  Michael Lombardo and Sonny Ward in L.A.
Yesterday, more than ten years after Will & Grace aired its series finale, turned out to be a big day for the beloved cast.

For one thing, news broke early in the day that NBC is interested in reviving the show, reportedly for a ten-episode season, which would effectively be the show's ninth.  And then last night, the cast was already scheduled to reunite for a special fundraiser for the Hillary Clinton campaign, held at the Los Angeles home of former HBO president Michael Lombardo and his husband, Sonny Ward.

Just before their surprise for the fans in attendance -- a musical performance about Clinton and Trump to the tune of West Side Story's "Gee, Officer Krupke"-- I asked Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally about the reports of a revival.  "We have no idea what's going on with that stuff," Megan said -- and indeed each cast member agreed, the project is in such early talks, the cast is unaware of the chances of the revival actually happening.  (Fingers crossed!)

Perhaps this is finally one good thing that has arisen from the vicious election cycle we've been subjected to for the past year (other than the possible fragmenting of the Republican Party, and its hopeful reorganization into something more inclusive and excluding the hateful alt-right.)  The renewed ardor for the groundbreaking and influential 1998-2006 sitcom comes after the cast reunited in secret last month, to tape a special ten-minute episode in character [see clip below], where they debated the virtues of the two candidates.  The project was filmed hush-hush, and incredibly, on the exact Will Truman living room set used by the series; it had been in storage at the show co-creator Max Mutchnick's alma mater, Emerson College, in Boston, and was shipped back to LA in time for the taping.

Below, a clip from the 1961 film version of West Side Story.  Picture brilliant spoof lyrics -- which today on Twitter Eric McCormack attributed to Randy Rainbow -- about Trump and Clinton.  One chorus became just "little hands, little hands, he has little hands...", so it's designed perfectly to get under Trump's skin.  And of course, the number ends not with "Officer Krupke, Krup You!" but "Hillary Clinton, we're with you!"

After the performance, Debra Messing spoke eloquently to the crowd about how she's so passionate about the Clinton campaign that she took a few months off from acting to concentrate on her activism.  And then, the four actors stepped down into the crowd, obliging us fans with photos.  Let's hope this is far from the last time we see them all together!  NBC, make it so!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Peek into the Future on Pure Genius

Benevolent billionaire James Bell (Augustus Prew)
recruits Dr. Walter Wallace (Dermot Mulroney) to
join the Bunker Hill team in Pure Genius.
In a lot of the medical shows we’ve seen and loved over the years, it’s all about the problems,” says Dermot Mulroney, who plays maverick surgeon Dr. Walter Wallace in the new Thursday-night drama Pure Genius.  “Our show is all about solutions.”

Created by Jason Katims, the man behind the acclaimed TV versions of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, Pure Genius is a cutting-edge medical drama set at Silicon Valley’s fictional Bunker Hill Hospital, which has been endowed by billionaire genius James Bell (Augustus Prew) and charged with using emerging technology to treat the trickiest of diagnoses – at no charge.  Recruited after failing to save a patient in his native Ohio with a risky operation, Mulroney’s Dr. Wallace journeys west to join Bell’s staff, which already comprises the best-of-the-best:  physician Dr. Zoe Brockett (Odette Annable), idealistic neurosurgeon Talaikha Channarayapatra (Reshma Shetty), gang member-turned-med technician Dr. Malik Verlaine (Aaron Jennings), Ivy League-educated neurologist Dr. Scott Strauss (Ward Horton) and 3-D printing programming whiz Angie Cheng (Brenda Song.)

“The show is set essentially ten minutes in the future,” explains Prew, adding that “because much of the technology it shows” – like ingestible monitors and virtual-reality patient environments, depicted in just Pure Genius’ pilot episode – “actually exists.”  In fact, Dr. Wallace himself is partly based on one of Pure Genius’ real-life medical consultants, Dr. Brennan Spiegel, a surgeon at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Hospital.  “Dr. Spiegel’s specialty is infiltrating medicine with technology, finding new ways and inventing new devices to track and monitor patients,” says Mulroney.  “I’m sure you’ll see his influence in my character, because when I met him, I noted how his body moved, and how he uses medical tools.  I tried to pick up a feel for the guy, and put it into the part.”

Amid today’s debates over privatization versus more government-sponsored initiatives like Obama-care, Pure Genius taps into “a very important part of the zeitgeist right now,” Prew enthuses.  “What if you could have the best minds in technology and medicine paired together?  How could we make the healthcare system better?  How could we change lives?  The show is about what could be, and we’re hoping to spur change.”

Mulroney, too, expects Pure Genius to bring an inspiring dose of optimism to our screens each week.  “There’s a little magic” in the show, he admits, because not all of the Bunker Hill doctors’ innovative moves are yet completely possible.  “But that’s one of its great appeals.  You’ll say, ‘Is that really happening?’ And instead of saying ‘No,’ we’ll get to say ‘Not yet.’”

Thursdays at 10 PM Eastern

Begins October 27

Joel McHale heads for The Great Indoors

Joel McHale (Center) and the cast of The Great Indoors
Mike Gibbons got the idea for the new sitcom The Great Indoors while working as the head writer for The Late Late Show with James Corden.  Working “with a bunch of millennials,” the fortysomething Gibbons soon discovered that in their eyes, “40 is the new 80.”  At one point, as he attempted to reimburse the show’s writers’ assistant for the group’s lunch order, “I reached for my wallet, and he recoiled,” Gibbons remembers.  “It’s not like I was going to write him a check – I had cash.  And still, he made a face.  Cash – legal tender -- was now inconvenient?  And by the way, just by the fact that I carry a wallet at all, he assumes I keep pictures of my grandkids in there.”

As his proxy on The Great Indoors, Gibbons recruited former Community star Joel McHale, who responded to the pilot script’s generational warfare.  “I’m a big fan of workplace sitcoms, and always wanted to do one with a live audience,” McHale avows.  “When this great cast came together, I knew this would work.”  McHale plays grizzled adventure reporter Jack Gordon, called in from the field and now stuck at a desk amid Outdoor Limits magazine’s decidedly indoorsy staff of tech-addicted twentysomethings: deadpan social media expert Emma (Christine Ko), hipster-lumberjack Mason (Shaun Brown) and sensitive nerd Clark (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). And if that weren’t enough to provide Jack constant conflict, he now finds himself reporting to a new boss – and his old flame – Brooke (Susannah Fielding) and Brooke’s dad, the publication’s larger-than-life founder Roland, played by the venerable British actor/comedian Stephen Fry.

As Chris Williams, whose character Eddie is both Jack’s favorite bartender and his sole peer and confidant, notes, the show is about “bridging the gap between older and younger, and finding a way to understand each other.  As my character and Joel’s are finding out, our age is old school now – although I like being old school.”  His young co-star Brown agrees, calling The Great Indoors “very relevant, tapping into the sense of guilt [the younger set has] about missing connections with people, and being so buried in our phones and social media that we miss what’s happening around us.”

As Gibbons is quick to point out, The Great Indoors “is not just picking on millennials – who won’t mind anyway, because according to them, they don’t watch TV.”  Besides, he adds, with technology uniting us all, both he and Jack are actually “much closer to the millennials than we care to admit.  I’m addicted to my phone.  I’m constantly binge-watching shows digitally.  Quite honestly, too often I’m thinking I’m the center of the universe.  All of that, we all share.  I think the audience overall will relate, because in the end we all have those ‘millennial’ qualities.”

Thursdays at 8:30 PM

Begins October 27