This is gonna be a big year for television. Three new comic book shows, Game of Thrones catching up to the books, and digital platforms giving us more new shows in an instant are things I never would have imagined growing up programming my VCR to record The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and taping a note on the TV warning my parents not to change the channel. We're going to get a peak at a lot of these shows this weekend at Comic-Con, but for an even more in-depth television preview, I spent the last two weeks with the Television Critics Association.
Fox Gotham, Det. Jim Gordon vs. Batman Villains
I've only been an official member of the TCA for two years but I've been covering it since 2006. Even before the TCA accepted me, the networks would invite me to attend their sessions. The Television Critics Association is made up of some 200 North American journalists who write about television. Twice a year, they have a press tour in Los Angeles where each network presents a day of panels on their shows, and the creators and stars mingle afterwards. Comic-Con is four days of nerd overload, but TCA is two weeks of pure TV.
And it's not just comic book shows and Syfy Channel. PBS gets in on it too and there are tons of reality shows these days. Sorry, The Situation, you did not make my top 10 list. But the 10 other awesome moments of TCA get me really excited about staying home on weeknights this fall. You can even check out some of these shows this weekend at Comic-Con, but some were total once-in-a-lifetime surprises even for me. Spoilers for new fall pilots follow, including some easter eggs for The Flash. Sorry, I just had to.
10. Doctor Who's Companion Learns Twitter
Karen Gillan stars on ABC's comedy Selfie. The show is named after out tendency to take self portraits, and refusal to say the entire phrase "self portrait." Gillan is quite good at comedy, portraying this social media egotist who is terrible at getting along with people in real life. She is so adorable, we just have to forgive her.
On the panel for Selfie, I asked Gillan if she's learning new words from the show, and she confirmed that "jelly" and "doof" have now entered her vocabulary. After the panel she talked about Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy. You may be intrigued to learn that the glorious red hair you see on Selfie is actually a wig Marvel made out of Gillan's actual hair, which they shaved off for her to play Nebula.
Of course she loves Peter Capaldi as the new doctor. She was even there to film Matt Smith's last episode and see Capaldi take over. "I was actually there when Peter Capaldi walked onto the set for the first time with the costume on and it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen," Gillan said. "It's in safe hands."
9. The New Immortality Show Makes More Sense Than Highlander
Forever stars former Mr. Fantastic Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced Yohan Griffith if you're wondering) as a man in present day New York who can't die. That does sound awfully familiar, but where Highlander made its relatively simple premise more insane over four sequels and two TV serieses (three if you count the cartoon), Forever has a clear set of rules.
Every time Dr. Henry Morgan (Gruffudd) dies, his body (and all the clothes/possessions) disappear and his living self reappears in the nearest body of water. Unfortunately, that's the East River. That might be some convenient nonsense, but at least they've thought about it and decided this is how it's going to go for the rest of the series.
"I had a muscle suit on in Mr. Fantastic," Gruffudd said. "[Executive producer] Matt [Miller] has me stark naked coming out of the East River in this one."
8. Games of Thrones Will Stick to the Books, Even if George R.R. Martin Hasn't Written Them Yet.
So HBO has caught up with author George R.R. Martin. We knew this would happen. We all called it. They're making seasons five and six of Game of Thrones, and then Martin may not be finished with book seven by the time they need it. HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo said not to worry.
"We're not off on our own," Lombardo said. "Obviously, George is an integral part of the creative team on this. So at least with respect to next season, every step, every move is being choreographed very closely with him. Certainly after next year, we will have to figure it out with George if his book's not finished at this point, but we're in conversations with him. We're not concerned about it."
HBO CEO Richard Plepler emphasized that GOT show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are also in constant touch with Martin. As for Martin's comments that he wants the series to end with a movie, Plepler said he's got to finish the books first.
"I can only tell you this," Plepler said. "In my conversations with George, and I think Mike would corroborate this, he is 100 percent focused on his books and the series and has only held out the movie concept as something way down the road. So their fundamental focus is him finishing the book and then getting to the next season of the series. Would you agree with that?"
Lombardo slew hopes for a Game of Thrones movie, at least for now. "No, there's no conversations going on about a movie," Lombardo said.
7. Miss Piggy And President Camacho Host The Awards Show.
TCA Miss Piggy and Terry Crews backstage at the TCA Awards
Oh yeah, in addition to spending two weeks inside a living television Dreamatorium, the TCA also gives out awards. It's not exactly the Emmys and we certainly don't televise it, but when the TCA gives awards to our favorite shows and actors, they do show up to accept and put on a good show for us. Last year, Amy Poehler mimicked Bunheads star Kaitlyn Jenkins pirouetting across the stage. Following the comedy rule of threes, Carl Reiner then imitated Poehler. Last year's hosts Key & Peele brought the house down with their riffs on Netflix's secretive ratings, so that's the kind of room it is.
This year, Terry Crews, Idiocracy's President Camacho, was our fearless leader. He even surprised us when he brought out Miss Piggy for a duet about binge-watching that name dropped Mad Men, The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, all the Netflix series and the quickly canceled Rake. The best lyric had to be, "Kiss this television critics ass... ociation."
Crews accused Miss Piggy of having an affair with the TCA president, but Piggy thought she was co-hosting the airport security awards anyway. It all built to a live martial-arts demonstration when Piggy karate chopped Crews off the stage.
Guess he was expendable after all.
6. South Park Is On Hulu Because Their Tech Is Better Than Comedy Central.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone gave a surprise panel to announce the complete run of South Park episodes will now live on Hulu. They explained that they chose Hulu over the Viacom owned Comedy Central and South Park Studios sites simply because Hulu had a kickass video player. This is all very techie from the guys who created the Human Cent-iPad.
"The Viacom team had their own their own video player," Stone said. "It was in the early stages of the technology of a video player back then, which we had nothing to do with what the Viacom team did. It was pretty rough, you know. I mean, we would go to our own site, and there would be glitches and bugs. Hulu right out of the gate, like, had a really better technical experience than anybody. I think that we were always looking at Hulu's player kind of with jealousy, with envy, that we were, like, 'Man, we want our show to always have the best possible presentation.' Even though I think South Park translates really well to phones and screens and everything else, we always like it to look the best and play the best."
Hulu also gave out bags of Cheesy Poofs at their evening TCA party. Yeah, I want Cheesy Poofs, mom!