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TCA Winter 2016 Tour: Quick Takes from Hulu, Freeform and ABC Presentations

The Catch ABC MIREILLE ENOS, ROSE ROLLINS, JAY HAYDEN, ELVY YOST

Twice a year various cable and networks attend the Television Critics Association’s Press Tour where they promote new and returning television shows through a series of daily panels and exclusive preview clips spanning over a two week period.  The tour presentations provide a way for television shows to get traction and attention of the hundreds of TV critics who then in turn will hopefully write about and promote those shows to their various audiences via online and print media outlets.

This Winter’s TCA tour included presentations from a multitude of cable channels, including: Hulu, Freeform and ABC, who presented on the fifth day of the tour.  Here are some of the featured television shows and specials that caught our attention:

Hulu

One of the most exciting series being showcased so far this TCA Tour is the 8-part event series coming from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King, called “11.22.63,” which is about a man tasked with using a time-portal back to 1960 to save John F. Kennedy.  Unfortunately, that proves no easy task as Fate intervenes any time he comes close to changing the future and fights back.  James Franco stars as a seeming-average English teacher, who gets swept up in circumstances he never imagined when a friend shows him the time-portal that has been hidden for years.  For Franco, the show is about an extraordinary adventure for the everyman — and that made it extremely interesting for him.  In order to capture the feel of the era and to invoke some nostalgia, the show actually filmed in some of the most iconic locations for the show — such as, they shut down Dealey Plaza in Dallas to recreate the day that Kennedy was shot.  They also filmed a bit Lee Harvey Oswald’s real apartment.   The show also took pains to recreate some of the most the iconic scenes that people remember from Kennedy’s presidential campaign and images of John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie, who were at the time, the most photographed couple of any presidency — for John and Jackie were not only attractive and young, but they came into the public eye at a time when photography and television was just coming to the forefront and it gave the public access in way that had not been possible before.  Thus, the show made a distinctive point to recreated identical clothing worn by JFK and Jackie, as well as the wardrobe of every person  those seen in the iconic photos or who were depicted in the videotape of the day JFK was shot.  In fact, the show meticulously dressed over 500 people in vintage clothes just to make it all look exactly like it was back then.  While based on a book, the story feels that it has been faithful to the novel and should be prove to be satisfying to both the fans of the book and newcomers who just watch the show.  (Observation:  I found “11.22.63” extremely enjoyable and fascinating to watch, and suspect it is going to draw in a lot more subscribers for Hulu.)  “11.22.63” premieres on February 15th on Hulu.

Hulu’s second new drama series in 2016 is THE PATH, which stars Hugh Dancy, Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan. The basic premise is about a controversial cult movement, which is helmed by a charismatic leader portrayed by Dancy. Hugh said for him to kind of get into the role, he had to remember that that people who are in a cult do not think they are in a cult. Coming from Jason Katims (PARENTHOOD, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, ROSWELL), the story will focus more on relationships of the characters.  Described as part mystery-thriller, part romance, and part a story of mysticism, THE PATH peers through a lens into the world of this cult who holds its members in thrall — that is until cracks being to show.  (It should be noted that the show actually invented a cult religion because using a real one would mean too many restrictions on story.) THE PATH premieres March 30th on Hulu.

During announcements, Hulu has also greenlit production on two new series:  SHUTEYE, which is new comedy series starring Jeffrey Donovan about storefront psychics, and CHANCE, which is a new psychological thriller starring Hugh Laurie.

Freeform

Formerly known as ABC Family Channel, as of January 12th, the newly-named network Freeform takes over.  The name change was necessary as the “wholesome” brand did not seem to fit with the brand of content the network was offering any more.  The “Freeform” name just seemed like a better fit and better description of their content.  Current shows, like PRETTY LITTLE LITTLE LIARS, THE FOSTERS, SWITCHED AT BIRTH, BABY DADDY, YOUNG & HUNGRY, STITCHERS and new shows like SHADOWHUNTERS and RECOVERY ROAD, seemed to fit better under the umbrella of the “Freeform” name.
Nets scrambling to re-brand or re-identify in way that appeals to much younger audience. Alas, likely to confuse their core audience.

RECOVERY ROAD is a new drama series described as Romeo-and-Juliet meet in rehab.  The show will feature flashbacks that reveal the humanity of addiction.  For those wondering if the entire storyline is only about life in rehab, the first part of the show will take place over 30 days in rehab and then will venture out and look at how young people in recovery handle normal life issues use their newly learned coping mechanisms.  RECOVERY ROAD premieres January 25th on Freeform.

SHADOWHUNTERS is a new fantasy series based on the books by Cassandra Clare, about a young teen girl who uncovers a world of demons and demon-hunters and her powerful birthplace amongst them.  The first season will cover mostly the entirety of the story from “City of Bones” book with changes to expand the story and characters in the show’s first season.   Executive producer Ed Decter said that while show starts from the beginning of the Cassandra Clare book series that there are still some surprises.  (Observation:  I love books and enjoyed the film “City of Bones” from a few years ago, but I am not sure how I feel about the new Freeform series SHADOWHUNTERS.  I was not immediately hooked into their version.  As a side side note, the Cassandra Clare books “The Infernal Devices,” “The Mortal Instruments” and “The Shadowhunters Chronicles” are fantastic. Worth the read.  On the competition-side, MTV’s THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES has hooked me already and recommend watching that for those who enjoy fantasy adventure stories.  For those worried about Tuesday night TV conflicts, SHADOWHUNTERS airs Tuesdays at 9 pm on Freeform and THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES airs Tuesdays at 10 pm on MTV, after TEEN WOLF. So viewers can watch both new fantasy series without conflict.)  SHADOWHUNTERS premieres January 12th on Freeform.

ABC

I was immediately sold on ABC’s new series THE CATCH when I first saw the trailer for it last year.  After watching a special sneak peek from the newly-revamped version of the show, I am even more enamored by it.  Peter Krause (PARENTHOOD, SPORTS NIGHT) absolutely just kills it in his role and is smart casting him against Mireille Enos (THE KILLING).  Watching their characters engage in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game is perfectly engaging.  It has shade of a “To Catch A Thief” feel to it and that provides a fantastic, addictive hook to “catch” viewers.  THE CATCH also fits perfectly with ABC’s brand and  should perform well for ABC. I predict that viewers are going to eat it up. THE CATCH will air in HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER’s Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. timeslot, when HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER ends its season.  (Note:  One episode of THE FAMILY will play in that Thursday timeslot to get sampled before moving to its regular night on Sundays at 9:00 p.m.)  (Observation:  With THE CATCH joining ABC’s TGIT line-up, so grateful CBS moved ELEMENTARY to Sunday nights – although not happy that ELEMENTARY will now air against QUANTICO.)  THE CATCH will premiere in March 2016 on ABC.

Hoping to allay a few fan-fears, ABC president Paul Lee said there are no plans to end NASHVILLE this season and loves the passionate fan base, but emphasized that renewal decisions will be announced in May.  Similarly, he said he’d love to have CASTLE continue beyond this season and that there are lots of ideas about how to do that.  (Observation: ABC typically reserves announcing official TV show renewals for shows like NASHVILLE and CASTLE for the last weekend of April.)

OF KINGS & PROPHETS, a new series which films in Capetown, is the story based on the Old Testament Book of Samuel.  (Observation:  ABC excels in certain areas of television broadcasting, and it has proven to dominate with such shows as QUANTICO, SCANDAL, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER and GREY’S ANATOMY, so when it attempts to launch a new show outside of its brand, it feels very confusing.  One such deviation is the new Biblical drama series OF KINGS & PROPHETS, which will air Tuesday nights at 10 p.m.  The March 8th premiere date will tie in nicely to the pre-Easter holiday season in attempt to luge viewers, but since it is airing directly after Marvel’s AGENTS OF SHIELD, it seems like an odd pairing on Tuesday nights.  A sampling on Saturday nights or even on Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. might serve to launch the show more successfully.  Networks such as Starz, BBC America, AMC and Hallmark all program new TV shows on Saturday nights and do quite well.  It would be great to see more networks taking advantage of that programming night — especially in an era with so much delayed-TV viewing.)  OF KINGS & PROPHETS premiers March 8th on ABC.

ABC’s THE FAMILY is about a woman who is running for government office, whose young son that has been missing for over 10 years suddenly returns and there is a question whether the boy is an impostor and, if so, why is he trying to impersonate an abducted boy.  The DNA test and medical tests show that the boy could indeed be the missing son, but there is other evidence that throws that into question pretty quickly.  Starring alongside Joan Allen, who plays the boy’s mother, is Andrew  McCarthy, who plays a convicted sex-offender character who was sent to prison for the boy’s alleged murder — a conviction that is nullified if the boy is indeed determined to be the missing boy.  McCarthy explained: “Everyone has an agenda, a secret and their version of the truth, and that’s what I find interesting.”  While THE FAMILY initially draws out the question of whether the boy is the missing son, the show answers that question pretty quickly within a few episodes.  Executive producer Jenna Bans said that the show carefully weaves in multiple storylines that “spiderweb out” during the first season, and only half of those stories and mysteries will be resolved by the end of the season.  (Observation:  ABC’s new drama series THE FAMILY is kind of terrifying, and I think THE FAMILY should have easily been called SECRETS AND LIES Season 2 as it fits that world, tonally and storywise, perfectly.)   THE FAMILY premieres 3/6, airing at 9 pm on ABC.

ABC’s SECRETS AND LIES returns for Season 2 with another murder mystery to be solved.  The show has an entirely new cast except from Juliette Lewis, who returns to reprise her role as the intrepid Detective Cornell.  Season 2 feels very different than Season 1.  The show is now set in city, feels a lot “slicker” and is definitely more salacious. There is a lot more sex and lies. In addition, it does not set up as clear an “innocent” man as the character portrayed by Michael Ealy character may actually be guilty. So there is more of a “cat-and-mouse game” afoot.  Co-starring Juliette Lewis, Michael Ealy, Kenny Johnson Terry O’Quinn, Jordana Brewster, and Mekia Cox, the show brings in a strong cast to cast the suspicious eye upon in tracking down the killer or merely catching the killer.  (Observation:  By far, my favorite scenes of ABC’s SECRETS AND LIES Season 2 are with Michael Ealy and Juliette Lewis. Riveting.)  SECRETS AND LIES does not yet have a premiere date, but is expect to air this Spring on ABC.

That’s a wrap on the network and studio presentations from Day 5 of the Winter 2016 Television Critics Association Tour.  As a reminder: be sure to mark your calendars for the upcoming new series and specials as you do not want to miss out on the next great TV show that everyone will be talking about!

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