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TCA Winter 2016 Tour: Quick Takes from the USA Network, Syfy and Esquire Presentations

Mr. Robot - Season 1

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 USA Network, Syfy and Esquire, who presented on the tenth day of the tour.  Here are some of the featured television shows and specials that caught our attention:

USA NETWORK EXECUTIVE SESSION

USA Network announced that it had greenlit the new drama series FALLING WATER for 10 episodes coming from executive producers Gale Anne Hurd (THE WALKING DEAD) and Blake Masters (BROTHERHOOD).  The series is premised on the idea of:  if you can control your dreams, you can control the world.  In FALLING WATER, the show follows three people who discover that they are dreaming common parts of the same dream and what power and ramifications comes from that revelation.  Look for FALLING WATER coming in late 2016/early 2017.

It also announced that the comedy series PLAYING HOUSE has been renewed for Season 3.

COLONY

USA Network’s new alien-occupation series COLONY comes from LOST executive producer Carlton Cuse, who smartly cast LOST alum Josh Holloway to lead along with Sarah Wayne Callies (who also coincidentally portrayed Josh Holloway’s wife in LOST).  While the aliens are not seen in COLONY, their presence is felt all around and, fortunately, the show’s “human-heart” is strong.  Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies portray a married couple who make difficult choices to protect their family. COLONY is a “collaborate or resist” tale — and the choice a parent makes to protect their family may not be the expected one.  The 10-episode series examines what it takes to survive in alien-occupied Earth.  It asks:  what would you do to get your son back? Would you align with the resistance? Or would you collaborate? (Observation:  While bit of a slow-build, COLONY sets up a gripping story of a husband and wife, possibly working against each other, in order to save their son. With a great cast, I am definitely watching to find out what happens.)  COLONY premieres Thursday, January 14 at 10:00 p.m. on USA Network.

(Note: Thursday nights are looking quite different these days with the CW’s new series LEGENDS OF TOMORROW premiering along with the Season 3 return of THE 100 on Thursday, January 21st in the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. timeslots, followed by COLONY at 10 p.m. on USA Network).

MR. ROBOT

Coming fresh off its Golden Globes wins for Best Drama and Christian Slater for Best Supporting Actor, MR. ROBOT returns for Season 2 in Summer 2016.  MR. ROBOT stars Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday.

What seems to have struck a chord with viewers is that MR. ROBOT ended up mirroring real-life events even more than the show had foreseen when it was first created and written.  The show was intended to simply be a tale of an “unreliable narrator” and Elliot’s internal struggle, but morphed into a touch-point that touched on our fears of corporate America and the government being vulnerable to hackers and whether that could topple our world and expose all our secrets.

In the sizzle reel made up of clips from Season 1, the voiceover asks: “Why did you do it?” And Elliot (Rami Malek) replies:  “I wanted to save the world.”  For all the altruistic reasons, as well as the deeply personal and selfish reasons that Elliot had, there were serious ramifications to Elliot’s hacks and his desire to take down EvilCorp.  So when he finally succeeds in taking down his greatest enemy in the Season 1 finale, it leaves the future uncertain.  So the tagline for Season 2 appropriately foreshadows:  “Our democracy has been hacked.”   And because of that, what is next?  So while the show was intended to be more about Elliot’s emotional journey and less about the plot of hacking and toppling corporate America, that is not necessarily what resonated loudest with the viewing audience.

Though viewers gasped with awe and shock as it was revealed to what extent Elliot was deceiving himself in his personal relationships and the conversations with Mr. Robot, portrayed by Christian Slater, and Season 2 will look at how Elliot struggles to reconcile his fantasy world with the actual identity of Mr. Robot.  Most telling was executive producer Sam Esmail’s response to the question whether Elliot sees anyone other than Mr. Robot:  “I love the question…and I’m not going to answer it.”  So there could be other fantasy people in Elliot’s life.  The other question to which Sam Ismail was just as evasive was to another key scene, “There’s a reason Darlene is not in the Times Square sequence where Elliot saw his family.”  This makes us wonder if Darlene could also be another fantasy-character in Elliot’s life and how much of what we are seeing is actually happening. Star Rami Malek said that for him, the way that he approaches Elliot going into Season 2 is: “I go through every possibility on what happened to a person like this to make him like this. . . where he actually has been and what he has actually has done.”  So Rami Malek is jumping right down into the rabbit-hole of Elliot’s psyche to try to understand him as he brings him to life in Season 2.

Another big question of Season 2 will be whether Angela is becoming part of the problem as she may be aligning with the enemy, or whether she will a resource that Elliot can exploit and use in his continuing crusade against EvilCorp.  The question of whether Angela is going to be corrupted by Evil Corp, star Portia Doubleday said:  “I think she wants what Fsociety wants and what Elliot wants.”  She also said that in Angela and Elliot’s friendships that they have different strengths, and working for is the fact that Angela is tenacious and somewhat manipulative.

MR. ROBOT returns for Season 2 in Summer 2016 on USA Network.

SYFY EXECUTIVE SESSION

Syfy announced that 12 MONKEYS returns for Season 2 on Monday, April 18th and its new drama HUNTERS premieres Monday, April 11th.  (Its new drama THE EXPANSE has already renewed for Season 2 and currently airs Tuesday nights on Syfy.)

THE MAGICIANS

Syfy’s new drama THE MAGICIANS is terrific re-imagining of the books by Lev Grossman, which offers an adventure story with quasi-horror elements about college students preparing to fight a villain known as the Beast.  Executive producer John McNamara explained that THE MAGICIANS delves into the fact that the true horror that happens in the world is what humans do to each other. Adding to that star Olivia Taylor Dudley said that in the show the characters learn that magic does not fix everything and it really is only a tool to support them on their path.  To which co-star Hale Appleman added, “magic is like the universe tapping you on the should to show you something”  and that the characters have a desire “to escape into fantasy, away from the hardships of their real lives.”   It should be noted that one key difference from the books is the dichotomy of Quentin’s journey is admitted to the school, and Julia, who is not admitted and how they have parallel journeys in season one.  The show examines the question of: what if student does not make the cut for school and follows darker path?  So Season 1 will feature a meddling of stories from the first couple books, including Julia’s origin story.  (Observation:  I recommend checking it out and stick around for the second episode which sets up the show’s mystery fantastically.)  THE MAGICIANS premieres Monday, January 25th on Syfy.

HUNTERS

Syfy’s new alien-drama comes from executive producers Gale Anne Hurd (THE WALKING DEAD) and Natalie Chaidez (12 MONKEYS), based on the book “Alien Hunter.” HUNTERS is a 13-part series for its first season.  It is premised on when the wife of FBI agent goes missing, he reaches out to a government organization known as the XO Terrorism Unit for help because his wife was abducted by aliens known as Hunters.  The show’s tagline is:  “We are many.  We are everywhere.  The end begins now.” The Hunters are aliens who look like us and live amongst us, but they do not want to simply live peacefully among humans.  As executive producer Gale Anne Hurd explained:  “We want to make aliens scary again . . . and there is a real mystery to solve.”  Adding to that, co-executive producer Natalie Chaidez said:  “It’s a secret world that we cannot see, but a conspiracy that touches you personally. . . that bad guys are hidden amongst us.” Elaborating, star Julian McMahon said: “The aliens come in human form . . .  It’s about looking in the mirror. . . and humans facing each other.”  Natalie Chaidez said:  “This is the next step of THE WALKING DEAD:  What if the monster is inside us?” And star Britne Oldford described the alien transformations from their human-facades to their natural Hunter state as “primal, brutal, beautiful.”  (Observation:  That’s right, they may look like us, but the Hunters are actually nothing like us.  So imagine just what they do look like.)  HUNTERS stars Julian McMahon, Nathan Phillips and Britne Oldford.  HUNTERS premieres April 11th on Syfy.

BEOWULF

The new drama series BEOWULF is premised on the classic poem of “Beowulf” with ogres, giants, supernatural creatures and monsters — and one man steps forward to stop them.  Beowulf is that hero.  In the preview clip, Beowulf says:  “Same say heroes are born, others are born.  I have been born.”  Wrongly accused of murder, Beowulf sets off on a journey to clear his name and find the true culprit, whether it be man or creature.  Taking place in a time a thousand years before, it is a time of swords and kingdoms to be fought and won.  BEOWULF stars William Hurt, Kieran Bew, Ed Spielers, Joanna Whalley, David Ajala.  (Observation:  BEOWULF is worth checking out if you love fantasy adventure tales. Looks to be exciting retelling of the classic tale involving tracking mythical beasts.) BEOWULF premieres Saturday, January 23rd at 10:00 p.m. on Esquire Network.

That’s a wrap on the network and studio presentations from Day 10 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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