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TCA 2017 Travel Log #6 - The best and worst of the Television Critics Association summer tour

August 9, 2017 Updated: August 9, 2017 at 12:15 pm
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On the set of "The Goldbergs" with some of the cast.

Today is my seventh and final day at the Television Critics Association summer tour. Before I Uber to LAX (Don’t I sound like I’m from California?), I want to share some thoughts on this year’s TCA tour experience so you get a feel for what my time here has been like. 

Best moment at a panel - It’s a tie between two quick one-liners I heard at two separate panels. At the panel for “The Good Doctor” Freddie Highmore, known for his role as serial killer Norman Bates on “Bates Motel.” was asked about the differences between that character and his new one as a doctor. He deadpanned, “It’s nice to save people after years of killing them,” which got a laugh from critics. 

The second one-liner was from “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” creator Tara Butters. When asked about the overall theme of the show she said, “Don’t be an a$%hole.” Sound advice for anybody and a pretty clear theme. 

Second best moment during a panel - I got a kick out of the panel for “Marvel’s Inhumans” but not because it was good. Marvel Television honcho Jeph Loeb was rapidly losing his cool after being repeatedly asked challenging questions by critics. Loeb had recently come from San Diego Comic Con, where panels are filled almost exclusively with adoring fans. The TCAs is not the same crowd yet it seemed to be what Loeb was expecting. Just to be clear, Loeb wasn’t being badgered. He was being asked legitimate questions about a show that most of us in the room just didn't get. Critics don’t come to TCAs to kiss butt, we’re here to get information. I was proud of the group not bowing down to a powerful person. 

Most promising new show - This is a tough one. I’ve watched so many shows but few truly stood out, but if I had to choose just one new pilot that I enjoyed the most it would probably be the CBS comedy “Me, Myself and I.” It stars Bobby Moynihan and John Larroquette and tells the story of a man over three different periods in his life. It was funny and had a lot of heart.  

Show that should be cancelled before it even airs - That’s easy, it’s the CBS show “9JKL.” This sitcom has a strong cast (Mark Feuerstein, Linda Lavin, Elliot Gould) but is completely unfunny, with jokes you can see coming from a mile away.  

TV trend that’s going to happen whether you like it or not - I said this last year but let this serve as a reminder. We’re all familiar with the big three streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu) and their popularity is driving major TV trends. Companies you wouldn’t necessarily expect (YouTube) are jumping into the subscription streaming business, as are major networks. Disney, which owns ABC, will be launching an ESPN streaming service next year and one for Disney the year after that. NBC has also said its working on developing its own streaming service.

CBS All Access is leading this trend currently, however, with two different series (“Star Trek: Discovery” and “The Good Fight”) that premiere on CBS but then are only available through the network’s subscription service. A lot of people, many of my non-TV critic friends included, are not happy that shows like “Discovery” are going to All Access and won’t watch it at all. While it makes complete sense not to pay for something twice, networks are out to make as much money as possible and don’t seem to care about double dipping if they can get away with it. 

Best one-on-one interview - I’m working on a piece where I ask actors some random question I think of before I come out to LA. I then compile the answers into a column. I do this every year. This year my question was, “What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?” There were a lot of great answers but probably the best was from Stephen Moyer ("True Blood," "The Gifted"). You’ll have to wait until my column comes out to find out what he said. 

Nicest actor I met - It’s a tie between Nicholas Gonzalez who’s on the upcoming series “The Good Doctor” and Kyra Sedgwick, who’s in the new series “10 Days in the Valley.” I spoke with Gonzalez for about 15 minutes and he was friendly, had great answers to my questions and was very personal. Sedgwick was the same. What struck me about both was that they took the time to ask me some questions about myself. It’s refreshing when actors make polite conversation to get to know you a bit, especially considering how many people are chatting with actors during the TCAs.

Actor who has mastered the art of the brush off - I’m a big fan of Laurence Fishburne’s work and while he certainly wasn’t rude, he clearly doesn’t care much for interacting with the press. I had a couple of different interactions with him, the first was one-on-one and then again in a small group on a different day. I want to reiterate that he was never rude, but he was abrupt and not interested in talking to the media.

Best set visit - I really enjoyed the set of “The Orville.” It was a massive, two story tall structure that was so well designed it made for a completely immersive experience. The bridge, in particular, was impressive. With a front screen with greater resolution than an IMAX film, and lit up panels with changing displays, it just felt like I was on a real starship. I sat in the captain’s chair and stayed there as long as possible. I didn’t want to leave. 

Best moment at a set visit - During the visit to “The Goldbergs” set, Jeff Garlin went on a 30 minute rant while standing in the Goldberg family basement. It was wide ranging and absolutely hilarious. 

Best party - Fox has a rooftop party every year at the Soho House. It’s a bit loud but the venue is unique and the food is good. Best of all, Fox always makes sure to bring out all their talent so there are tons of actors, producers and showrunners to talk to. Fox does a great job, unlike…

Worst party - NBC had a poor TCA showing. Most of their new series won’t air until 2018 so they spent half of their day on current NBC shows and the second half on CNBC series. Their cocktail party, while pleasant, was lacking the talent from their shows. This might not seem like a big deal, but these are opportunities to talk to actors, showrunners and producers one-on-one in a more relaxed atmosphere. These are invaluable to a journalist but NBC didn’t offer critics that opportunity. 

Well, that’s it for me. If you’ve been reading along for the past week I thank you. I’ve enjoyed my time here in this unnatural environment but now its time for me to head home. See you back in the Centennial State!

Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.

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