TV con­fi­den­tial: Signs of sea­son to come

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - LYNN EL­BER

BEV­ERLY HILLS, CALIF. — The star­dust has set­tled from the just-ended Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion’s an­nual sum­mer meet­ing, re­veal­ing a lot, if not ev­ery­thing, about the 2017-18 TV sea­son. With a posh ho­tel as stag­ing cen­tre, a two-week pa­rade of ac­tors, pro­duc­ers and ex­ec­u­tives dished in Q&A ses­sions about their projects and TV in gen­eral.

Should we be ex­cited about what’s in store for the next chap­ter of the cur­rent golden age of TV, as brought to us by ca­ble, stream­ing plat­forms and, on rare oc­ca­sion, broad­cast net­works (read: “This Is Us”)? The play­ers and con­cepts tell the tale, ab­sent the fi­nal word from the most in­flu­en­tial crit­ics of all, the view­ers.

New faces

•In ABC’s “The Mayor,” Bran­don Micheal Hall plays a young rap­per whose run for mayor is in­tended solely to garner pub­lic­ity for his mu­sic, but then he’s elected. Hall won the role af­ter a se­ries of au­di­tions, prov­ing he could hold his own with TV veter­ans Yvette Ni­cole Brown (“Com­mu­nity”), who plays his mother, and Lea Michele (“Glee,” “Scream Queens”) as his cam­paign man­ager.

•Alice En­glert is work­ing for her real-life mom, Os­car-win­ning film­maker Jane Cam­pion (“The Pi­ano”), and op­po­site pow­er­house ac­tors Elis­a­beth Moss and Ni­cole Kid­man in “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” Sun­dance TV’s fol­lowup to “Top of the Lake.” Kid­man warmly vouched for En­glert, whom she’s known from birth, say­ing she han­dles her role “beau­ti­fully” and not­ing the in­grained ease and af­fec­tion they share.

•Iain Ar­mitage, who stars as the ti­tle char­ac­ter in CBS’ “The Big Bang The­ory” pre­quel “Young Shel­don,” is eat-him-with-a-spoon cute and so poised that it’s easy to see why pro­duc­ers are bank­ing on the 9-year-old. Asked about his favourite shows, he po­litely said he doesn’t watch much TV and spends most of his time read­ing, play­ing — not video games — and be­ing around peo­ple. He’s al­ready got a role in a buzzy movie, “The Glass Cas­tle.”

Old faces

•Will and Grace and Larry David are re­turn­ing to TV af­ter ab­sences of var­i­ous lengths. “Will & Grace” stars De­bra Mess­ing, Eric Mc­Cor­mack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mul­lally, who re­united last year for a video sup­port­ing their pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of choice (hint: she lost), de­cided to keep the fun go­ing and ad­vance the 1998-2006 sit­com’s ground­break­ing treat­ment of sex­u­al­ity. NBC has al­ready or­dered a sec­ond sea­son.

David, whose last “Curb Your En­thu­si­asm” aired new episodes in 2011 on HBO, ex­plained why he’s back as “TV Larry” in match­ing “real Larry” blunt fash­ion: “I was miss­ing it (the show), and I was miss­ing these id­iots,” he said, in­di­cat­ing his co-stars in­clud­ing Jeff Gar­lin and Susie Ess­man. The charm is in­tact!

•Fred­die High­more, 25, is un­de­ni­ably fresh-faced. But he’s a vet­eran ac­tor, from last decade’s “Find­ing Nev­er­land” and “Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­tory” to his re­cent TV work on “Bates Mo­tel” as Nor­man Bates in his for­ma­tive years. With “The Good Doc­tor,” High­more can plumb new depths of his tal­ent as a sur­geon with autism and sa­vant syn­drome, which prove both a gift and a chal­lenge.

Miss­ing faces

•Stream­ing plat­forms Ama­zon and Net­flix go their own way with pub­lic­ity as well as con­tent. They skipped the TV crit­ics’ meet­ing that net­works and ca­ble out­lets rely on as a pro­mo­tional op­por­tu­nity. Granted, the idea of a mak­ing a splash with new fall pro­gram­ming is out­side stream­ing’s busi­ness model, but that ap­proach also is di­min­ish­ing with tra­di­tional out­lets as they seek au­di­ences year-round. Bot­tom line: Net­work and ca­ble ex­ec­u­tives were will­ing to field ques­tions about their busi­nesses and shows; stream­ing ser­vices weren’t.

•Speak­ing of broad­cast, which in­cludes ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, it ap­pears largely in­tent on avoid­ing the cre­ative vi­brancy and dar­ing of ca­ble and stream­ing as ex­em­pli­fied by the likes of FX’s “At­lanta,” Net­flix’s “Master of None” and Ama­zon’s “Trans­par­ent.” In­stead, net­works are mostly bring­ing forth a mul­ti­plex-style crop of comic book­based se­ries, rote pro­ce­du­rals and re­boots of “Roseanne,” “Dy­nasty” and, yes, “Will & Grace.” Will au­di­ences keep buy­ing it?

•Peo­ple of colour and es­pe­cially women con­tinue to find it hard to break into the top ranks of CBS star­dom, and this fall isn’t mak­ing much of a dent with shows in­clud­ing “SEAL Team” star­ring David Bore­anaz and sit­com “9JKL” with Mark Feuer­stein. Net­work ex­ec­u­tives said they tried, with six shows in de­vel­op­ment star­ring women that didn’t turn out as ex­pected. They chalked it up to the “cy­cle of busi­ness.” Re­cy­cling is more like it — how about a fresh ap­proach from the ground up, in­clud­ing writ­ers and di­rec­tors?

MARK METCALFE, GETTY IMAGES

Alice En­glert, Jane Cam­pion and Ni­cole Kid­man of “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” Sun­danceTV’s fol­lowup to “Top of the Lake.”

CHRIS PIZZELLO, CHRIS PIZZELLO/IN­VI­SION/THE ASSO

Jeff Gar­lin takes a photo as Larry David, Susie Ess­man and J.B. Smoove talk about "Curb Your En­thu­si­asm,” re­turn­ing af­ter a lengthy ab­sence.

FRED­ER­ICK M. BROWN, GETTY IMAGES

Fred­die High­more can plumb new depths of his tal­ent in "The Good Doc­tor."

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