TV Networks Unveil Fall Lineup At Summer Press Tour

Aug 11, 2016
Originally published on August 11, 2016 6:46 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is the part of the summer when NPR TV critic Eric Deggans and pop culture correspondent Linda Holmes pack their bags, head to LA and watch a lot of video teasers of new TV shows. They also bring on the tough questions for network executives, producers and actors, and this has been going on since the end of last month. It's finally the last day of the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour. There's a lot to talk about. Eric, welcome back to the show.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.

CORNISH: And, Linda, how are you?

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Oh, I'm fine, Audie, just fine.

CORNISH: You sound a little tired.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: I understand you've been to a hundred and twenty-eight panels roughly.

HOLMES: That was - that's me, yes. That's my personal best - 128 panels. So I'll start with the first one, and we'll talk about all of the other - I don't know how long your show is.

CORNISH: But I hear you had a very interesting visit to the HBO panel.

HOLMES: Yes. On the first Saturday of Press Tour, Casey Bloys who is now in charge of entertainment at HBO had his first executive session with us, and I asked him about the fact that in light of "Game Of Thrones" and "True Detective" and the new shows "Westworld" and "The Night Of " - I asked him about the role that sexual violence against women plays at HBO and whether they were a little too reliant on it. He did not have much of an answer to that particularly at first.

DEGGANS: Yeah, and Linda asked him two questions about it. Another female critic asked a question about it. He didn't really answer, and then I asked him about it. And then he finally answered and that just looked terrible where he would answer a question from a male critic, but not from the female critics.

CORNISH: What was his answer in the end?

HOLMES: I would say in the end his answer was he does not think that they're overly reliant on it. He basically said, I hope not.

CORNISH: All right. CBS also had a difficult day with the press. Glenn Geller, the president of CBS Entertainment, was asked why the network's six new fall shows all starred white men. Here's his response.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GLENN GELLER: I'm really glad this question came up first because we're very mindful at CBS about the importance of diversity and inclusion, and I'm glad we're having this conversation first. We need to do better, and we know it.

DEGGANS: He did not sound like he was glad that this was the first question he had to deal with at Press Tour. But you look at CBS's schedule, and it's a flashback to almost 20 years ago in the 1990s when all the big four networks would regularly advance the slate of new shows that were mostly - are almost all cast with white people. And then, you know, they'd fill in a few people of color in the supporting roles. It's obvious when they do something like this, it is a deliberate strategy. And I think that's what critics were reacting to and what I asked him very deliberately about. When you go about casting your shows like this, there's a sense that it will be harder to reflect the diversity of America and to have that as a deliberate strategy is a little troubling.

CORNISH: Linda, is this the same approach at other networks? I mean, how did people talk about diversity elsewhere?

HOLMES: Well, CBS was unfortunate in that they followed FX which had gone the day before, and when FX had their presentations, the president of FX whose name was John Landgraf reacted specifically to a piece that Maureen Ryan wrote in Variety where she had audited, essentially, the directors at different places and how little diversity there was.

And he said that in response to having read that article, he had started a specific effort to increase the diversity of their directors, and he had some numbers indicating that they had made some real strides in that area. And that's what people tend to respond to more positively is, you know, here's what we are actually doing on a concrete level as opposed to we need to do better.

DEGGANS: And he made the difference in a matter of months. So this sense that, oh, it takes us years or it takes all this time to make a difference was kind of put to the lie, and it happened right before CBS came before us.

CORNISH: All right. This was a lot of serious stuff, but we are talking about TV. And I know you guys have seen a lot over the last couple of weeks. What's good? What can we look forward to this fall?

HOLMES: Well, I'm going to go with three that I really liked that come from three really different kind of comedic minds. One is Tig Notaro's show "One Mississippi," which is coming to Amazon. That pilot has actually already been available. And then Donald Glover has a show called "Atlanta" which is going to be on FX, and then Issa Rae has a show coming to HBO called "Insecure." And I really like all of those. They're all really interesting, and they're really specific. And I'm excited about all of them.

DEGGANS: And as much as I've criticized the broadcast networks, I feel like almost every one of them has had at least one pilot that's really promising this fall. So my two favorites are "Pitch" on Fox, which is a story about a woman who's the first woman to play against the men in Major League Baseball and a family drama called "This Is Us" on NBC. It's about three different people who are related in a way you might not expect, and the stories of their parents in the past. These are both really great shows.

CORNISH: All right. That's a nice mix to start. Eric Deggans, our TV critic and NPR's pop culture correspondent, Linda Holmes, thanks so much.

HOLMES: Thanks, Audie.

DEGGANS: Always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.