10 Things We Learned From CBS' Summer Press Day About Extant, Under the Dome and More

By Fred Topel in Daily Lists, Movies, TV
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 6:00 am

Under the Dome Season Two

The networks are finally learning that people actually do watch TV during the summer - I wish they had figured this out back when I actually had summer vacations off and had plenty of time to watch TV! Nowadays I work full time, but it's cool because I work in the media so having more new shows on is a good thing.

This week, CBS held a press day to introduce their summer shows to the press. Two of those new shows are relevant to our interests, Extant and Under the Dome, which you'll see below, but I found out about even more - like Sleepy Hollow, Scott Bakula's thoughts on a Quantum Leap reboot, and even the upcoming Spider-Man spinoff Venom movie - from the stars and producers in attendance...

It was like TCAs in that the shows gave a panel and then further interviews, but this wasn't an official Television Critics Association event. Those are only in July and January. It's still a day of news though, and for an evening party, they also brought all the stars of their fall series to mingle, so I was able to find out 10 juicy tidbits of entertainment news: not just TV and not just CBS. Spoiler alerts for any show or movie mentioned below, although don't worry too much about the pilots because those are all just setting up future episodes anyway.

10. Halle Berry Loves E.T.

Halle Berry and Steven Spielberg on the set of Extant

Easily the most anticipated show of the summer is Extant, starring Halle Berry as an astronaut who comes home from a 13 month stint on a space station... pregnant. More on Extant below as it's our number one pick, but in discussing the show, Berry revealed her own childhood nerd-out. Of course she's been an X-(Wo)Man and a Bond girl, but she grew up phoning home like the rest of us.

"I was a big E.T. fan," Berry said. "That's my version of science fiction, which is why when I heard Steven [Spielberg] was involved, I was really excited because that's the kind of science fiction I think I really like. It has a lot of heart but it is sort of supernatural. That's what hooks me."

Oh yeah, Spielberg is producing Extant, though it's not like he showed up to shill the series. He didn't even send a video, which he has done for shows like Smash and The United States of Tara. Anyway, Berry's costar Goran Visjnic is a fan of literary sci-fi: he's a big reader of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and a new author named Peter F. Hamilton.

9. Where Mary Jane Would Have Been in Amazing Spider-Man 2 + Venom Update

Last year, it was big news when Shailene Woodley was cut out of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This is an Oscar-nominated star playing a well-known character in the Spider-Man universe, Mary Jane. Even if it was only a cameo, how do you cut both Woodley and Mary Jane out? Well, if you saw the cluttered Amazing Spider-Man 2, you know it could only have been worse if they'd set up another character. Screenwriter Alex Kurtzman told me where Woodley's three scenes would have fit into the original cut of ASM2

"The Mary Jane scenes were runners that came in the first act, in the middle of the movie and one at the end," Kurtzman explained. As he was attending the CBS party as producer of Scorpion and Hawaii Five-O, I got to ask Kurtzman about his prep for the Venom movie he is writing and directing, without his longtime collaborator Roberto Orci.

"I'm about to start writing it with Ed Solomon so I'm very excited about it," he said. "I think that going on a deep dive of the Venom comics has been really a great joy. There's a lot of iterations. It's gone on for a while, leading all the way up to the new lethal projector series. I feel like we've come to a really, really compelling story that I'm very excited about."

Kurtzman also confirmed he is focusing on Venom, not writing Amazing Spider-Man 3 at the same time, though he wouldn't say whether Venom falls between Spidey films or after the third. Whatever you think of the blockbuster duo of Orci and Kurtzman, I was shocked to hear that they were ending their screenwriting partnership to go solo. I will still defend their script for Transformers: it has the Spielbergian heart of a boy's coming of age, in this case getting his driver's license and a new car. I even love the backyard scene. Of course the first Star Trek is pretty universally beloved. However, if the end of their partnership means we never get another The Island, Cowboys & Aliens or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, that's fine by me.

When movies start coming out that are just by Orci or just by Kurtzman, will we be able to tell the difference? "That's a great question," Kurtzman said. "You're going to have to give me the answer to that question over time. I think it's inevitable now that we're not writing movies together anymore but we are still working on television together and we're still producing a lot of movies together."

8. Under The Dome Still Looks Stupid

I watched the first few episodes of Under the Dome last year and gave up. I don't care that it departed from the Stephen King book. Art does that, and I'd rather not see exactly the same thing done again. However, I still want the new version to be good. When CBS proudly premiered the opening of the new season of Under the Dome, I was only reminded why I don't watch this show anymore.

So, Dale Barbara (Mike Vogel) is standing in the gallows about to be hung by Big Jim (Dean Norris). White lights and weird sounds start coming from the dome, causing half the town to pass out (really?), and Junior (Alexander Koch) says the dome is talking to him. It all leads to the trio going to the edge of the dome and seeing a magnetized dome sucking metal objects towards it. This includes tricycles, wheelbarrows and grills, as well as Barbara's handcuffs and the cops' guns.

Just imagine grown adults mimicking being sucked towards a wall, and dodging flying grills. It's embarrassing. Plus, a character is killed by getting crushed by a truck pulled towards the dome, and they had PLENTY of time to get out of the way. It's just to blatantly serve up a character death, and producer Neal Baer says we might see the dead characters again because anything's possible under the dome. They can't even commit to it. They're hedging.

Still, it's a hit show so I don't want to shit on the people who do like it, and we got some promising tidbits about the upcoming season. The biggest one is that Stephen King himself is directing the season premiere. Yes, that means he shot that ridiculous scene of grills and tricycles sticking to the dome, but it also means that he's endorsing the series' departures from his book, and he makes a cameo. While they may not be permanent, Baer promised two character deaths this season, one of which you'll see in the first episode back. Eriq LaSalle is directing episode 10 with an appearance from his old ER costar Sherry Stringfield. Dwight Yoakam is also coming on.

Under the Dome is introducing a character via Twitter: in episode three you'll hear about the character Hunter online, but he won't appear on the show until episode eight. Baer suggested someone either getting out of the dome or coming in, and promised ecological disasters of biblical proportions like pestilence and bloody rain. Somebody tweet me if it rains frogs, and then I might give it a second chance.

7. CSI Is Going Online

First, there was CSI. Then, there was CSI: Miami. Then, there was CSI: New York. Then and CSI: NY were cancelled. One CSI is not enough for producer Jerry Bruckheimer, so it's time for a new one, and I have to say I like the direction this one is going.

Cybercrime is such bold new territory, CSI: Cyber has a good chance of being a CSI show we'll actually watch. But, how much of it will just be actors staring at computer screens? "Hopefully not a lot," Bruckheimer told me. "Not any more than we have on CSI."

Patricia Arquette headlines CSI: Cyber and you've already seen her in the backdoor pilot episode on CSI this year. "You watch it and you tell me if it was too much of the computer screen," Arquette said. "It didn't feel like it was that much of that. Crimes happen online but then you've got to play them out in the real world. They don't just stay there. If they did, they wouldn't hurt anybody."

Maybe I should clarify. I'm not complaining about a detective show on a computer screen. We love computers, so the more computers the better. "It's kind of in a way a departure a little bit from CSI because we live in our own countries, but when we're on the Internet, we're actually a new country," Arquette continued. "We're this cyber country. People are dating from Russia to China and all points in between, meeting each other and becoming friends. It's kind of mind-boggling, this whole world and how it's connected and how our governments are connected. So I was excited about the franchise because they know what they're doing, they do it really well but it was also a new spin on it that was really different. They also know how to entertain people and I was excited about the whole combination."

6. New Monsters Coming to Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow is a Fox show, so how did I find out anything about it at a CBS event? Well, as you saw above, television mogul Alex Kurtzman produces two CBS shows, Hawaii Five-O and the new cyber thriller Scorpion. More on Scorpion below. But first, an update on the Fox show entering season two.

Kurtzman said they are five scripts into season two, and creating some new monsters for Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) to face. "We wouldn't be Sleepy Hollow without new monsters," Kurtzman said. "Some [we created] out of whole cloth, some references [to classic monsters]. Some you'll recognize, others no. Like last season, all of our demons are physical manifestations of the characters' inner demons. So they're not random. They're there for a reason, so we pick the right monster that feels like it connects to a particular thing that one of our characters is going through and that's why they end on the show. It's never random and it's never just to throw a monster in."

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