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TCA Winter 2015: Quick Takes From CBS and Showtimes’s TCA Presentations

CSI: CYBER Cast

CSI: CYBER Cast

On Day 6 of the 16-day biannual Television Critic’s Association Winter 2015 Press Tour,  CBS and Showtime introduced their featured programming, and the following are quick takes of their new and returning series.

CBS

During the executive session, chairman Nina Tassler said CBS’ overall ratings are up 2% from last year and CBS currently airs 7 of the Top 10 shows in the ratings on television and 12 of the Top 20.  Ratings no longer about 18-34 year olds, it is about reaching ALL viewers.  Overnight ratings continue to disappear in relevance as the number of ways people watch TV changes and how networks get paid for that multi-platform viewership.  So for CBS, the value of the single viewer has never been higher.  CBS is no longer looking exclusively at the 18-34 year old demo for advertising dollars.  Instead, they are looking at the value of 100% of their viewing audience, whatever age and no matter how or when they are watching CBS shows.  In Fall 2014, CBS launched three new TV shows and all three were out of the gate ratings success.  CBS happily announced that “NCIS: New Orleans,” “Madam Secretary” and “Scorpion” have all been picked up for 2015-16 television season — effectively giving them early Season 2 renewals.  She was cautiously optimistic about the fourth freshman series “Stalker,” noting that additional scripts have been ordered.  As far as the big late night switch-off occurring in 2015, Tassler said, “For everyone at CBS, it will be very hard to say goodbye to David Letterman” and that Stephen Colbert debut his new late night talk show on September 8th.  Also making his big debut onto CBS late night will be “The Late Show With James Corden” scheduled to premiere March 23rd.  Tassler also said that she expects to see the new Greg Berlanti series “Supergirl” on the CBS schedule for Fall 2015.  Given the success of shows like “The Good Wife” and “Madam Secretary,” CBS is looking to add more strong female characters to its roster and feels that “Supergirl,” who embodies many characteristics of classic female heroines, would be a good fit for the network.  She also noted that, “We’re watching an evolution with the way superheroes are portrayed . . . They’re flawed. There’s a relatability”– two qualities audiences are looking for.  Acknowledging the success of its sophomore series “Mom,” Tassler said that thanks to “Big Bang Theory’s” lead-in, “Mom” is now the fastest growing show on CBS.  Another show that CBS is excited to debut in 2015, is the new series “CSI: Cyber,” which Tassler said has its finger on the pulse, being both relevant and topical — especially in the wake of the Sony hack.  Finally, when asked about the fate of the flagship series “CSI,” Tassler stated, “We have not determined yet what’s going to happen with CSI.”

Coming March 31st is the new 2-night mini-series “The Dovekeepers,” brought to the screen by the producing duo Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett.  While filmed in Malta, the show focuses on the story of three woman with extraordinary destiny on that fateful last stand at Masada.  The mini-series stars “NCIS” star Cote de Pablo, “Finding Carter” star Kat Prescott and “House of Cards” star Rachel Brosnahan.  Roma said that “The Dovekeepers” appealed to her because it showed that courage was greater than fear and the power of sacrifice greater than war.  She noted, “At its heart, Dovekeepers is a love story set against this historical backdrop, in the face of tragedy.” Cote added: “The Dovekeepers is a story of love and hope and I think we can all relate to that.” Co-star Brosnahan added, “The passion the people have for their history is unparalleled.”  Talking about the appeal of casting Cote in “Dovekeepers,” Roma Downey wryly admitted, “We were thrilled to get Cote. It’s no accident that our air date is a Tuesday night and we will come on after ‘NCIS’.”  As to the significance of doves in the story, Roma said that, for doves, the lure of freedom is never enough to take the dove away, it always returns to its mate.   This is a key element of the story of “The Dovekeepers.”  In its essence, “The Dovekeepers” inspires, elevates and is provocative on many levels. “The Dovekeepers” March 31st, concluding April 1st.   (Observation: As  CBS’ “The Dovekeepers” offers two strong female roles: a witch and a warrior — both shown with awesome special effects. I am totally in.)

Also coming in 2015 is the new CBS comedy series, “The Odd Couple” starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon.  When asked why attempt to remake such an iconic television series, executive producer Bob Dailey said, “Oscar and Felix, they’re so iconic, they’re so timeless.  It’s time for a new iteration for a new generation.”  Matthew Perry added, “It’s been a dream come true to play Oscar Madison.” In updating the series for today’s audience, look for  Leslie Bibb to guest star in two episodes portraying a potential love interest for Perry’s character Oscar.  Perry noted that in updating the show that it is funnier if Oscar’s single and goes on a bunch of dates.  Look for “The Odd Couple’s” premiere on February 19th.

The third big debut coming this Spring on CBS is its new drama series “CSI: Cyber.”  In trying to explain how this version of “CSI” stands apart from the other “CSI” franchise series, creator Zuiker talked about how there is a digital world that has taken over in place of physical forensic evidence.  Instead of blood spatter at crime scenes, the key to solving crimes is relying more and more heavily on metadata and tracking criminals through their digital footprint.  He gave a chilling example of how in the past someone would just burn your love letters and now they hack your smart house.   Charley Koontz explained that in today’s world, “You have to solve a crime where two people aren’t linked. There’s no jilted lover.”  As a cyber-psychologist specializing in forensic psychology,  Mary Aiken examines effect of technology on human behavior and looks at the impact of human behavior manifested in a cyber context. She explained, Cyber is a space. It’s not just a transaction medium. It’s an environment. It’s a place people go.” So, essentially in the show, “CSI: Cyber” will encourage people to be mindful of what they make available over the web and the potential dangers and security issues. Chiming in Patricia Arquette said, “I feel like we’re in the dawn of a new time. This is like the industrial revolution, and there is an explosion of the way we’re going to live our lives.  Accordingly, “CSI: Cyber” features a lot of younger people because those are the people who are really adept at the interwebs.  Co-star Peter MacNicol added that he has had his identity stolen twice, and said “It was a nightmare, and what did I learn? To be scared.”  His word of warning and advice: don’t sign up with UPS’s My World.  Only somewhat facetiously, co-star Charley Koontz noted, “My computer and I have broken up.”  He is the first to admit that he has been scared by what he has learned on show.  Arquette added, “There’s a lot happening in the deep web that we’re just discovering what it is.” For example:  “Does your coffeemaker need to be wifi enabled? We might want to support products that keep us safer.” Co-executive producer Pam Veasey said while they do not want to induce paranoia, they want their audience to be aware of the dangers, and to also embrace what is so great about all of today’s available technology and devices.   So as one final word of advice, Anthony Zuiker reminded everyone, “Do your updates and practice proper network hygiene.” (Observation: Scary.  As with other crime dramas, I worry that these shows are educating hard-core and wanna-be criminals on how to commit smarter crimes.  Thinking I may have to watch CBS’ “CSI: Cyber” just so I know how feel more safe on the web – or at least how to escape from it.)  “CSI: Cyber” premieres March 4th. Tune in to find out just how much of your everyday life is vulnerable to being hacked.

Showtime

Prez David Nevins said the long promised digital future is now upon us and television has finally become the most exciting storytelling medium than ever before.  He announced that “Shameless” has been picked up for a sixth season and the new series “Happish” starring Steve Coogan and Bradley Cooper will premiere April 26th.  Look for new seasons of “Nurse Jackie,” which returns April 12th, and “Penny Dreadful,” which returns April 26th for its second season.

As previously announced, Showtime has resurrected the television series “Twin Peaks,” ordering 9 new episodes, picking up with the characters and story 25 years later.  This timeline honors one of the Easter Eggs that creator David Lynch threw into the mythology back in 1991 when the series first aired on ABC.  Also specially announced, star Kyle MacLachlan will return to “Twin Peaks” reprising his role as Agent Dale Cooper in the new episodes.  (Kudos to Showtime for having Kyle walk out on stage with the original “Twin Peaks” theme music playing.  Great flashback moment for everyone who watched and loved “Twin Peaks” when it first aired.)  Currently, the new 9-episode limited continuation of “Twin Peaks” is tentatively scheduled to air sometime in 2016.  The finale 9-episodes are promised to provide closure which the 1990-91 television series did not since it was canceled before it could film any kind of proper end to its story.  As   Nevins noted, executive producers David Lynch and Mark Frost have been very specific in promising closure.  In addition, they expect to bring back members of the original cast. (Observation:  This is a good sign that virtually any television shows can be resurrected if fans remain diligently passionate for decades, if necessary).

As a point of clarification, Nevins also stated that when “The Affair” returns in Season 2, it will continue with the story and characters introduced in Season 1.  It is not an anthology series, and will not feature a new couple to follow.  Showtime recognizes that the fans like spending time with the characters that they have fallen in love with and he looks forward to seeing where these couples (Noah/Hele and Allison/Cole) go in coming seasons.

He also clarified that for “Homeland,” the shows writers have not yet decided where in the world the show will go in Season 5.  The show is not limited to stories strictly in the Middle East.  It is an intelligence series and the story follows the established characters no matter what country or conflict they find themselves embroiled with.

“Penny Dreadful’s” Season 2 trailer offers Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) spookily saying:  “When Lucifer fell, he didn’t fall alone.” That makes for a chilling tagline.  The preview clip is also visually stunning with newcomer Helen McCrory sitting in an actual bath of red blood — giving new meaning to the widely-used term “blood bath.” Executive producer John Logan promised that Season 2 would be more fluid and with liberated sexuality.  When asked if the audience will ever see exactly what happened between Ethan and Dorian, Logan only teased, “Perhaps.” As to the big revelation that Ethan is a werewolf, Josh Hartnett admitted that he knew he would be playing a wolfman from the very beginning. So, as will be seen, Ethan is relieved to find out what he is and to have a name and image for it. Accordingly, Season 2 features a big storyline about lycanthropy. Then, asking about Evelyn Pool, Logan said, “She believes she is on the side of the angels, even though she’s serving the devil.” As a word of warning, Logan said, “Last season our heroes were the hunters, this year they’re the hunted,” talking about the introduction of the character played  by Helen McCrory.  To which Helen McCrory observed, “John’s monsters all have vulnerability. He sees everything as a search for love.”  Logan added that while it was a hard goal to hit, “Penny Dreadful” has delivered a horror show that would break your heart. Mark your calendars! “Penny Dreadful” returns with its second season on April 26th.

That is a wrap on Day 6 at TCA Winter 2015.  Look for more upcoming snapshots from TCA on the new shows and TV specials coming up for Winter/Spring 2015 here at Seat42F.com.

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