The 10 Nerdiest Reveals of January’s TCA Press Tour Besides the Marvel and DC Shows (Mostly)

DAMN fine comeback! And HOT!

I’m really proud to be a member of the Television Critics Association. Television has some of the most amazing work being created today, and we get to spend two weeks straight with the people who make it. Oddly, the TCA Press Tour has shrunk from three weeks to two weeks, but there are more than twice as many networks now. The big four – ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox – used to take two or three days each (RIP UPN and The WB, but we have CW now). Now they’ve all shrunk to a single day for their whole slates, and crammed in a ton of days for cable networks. Now that HBO, Showtime, FX, AMC and even Netflix and Amazon make great shows, we get them all coming to talk to us, and we somehow lost a week due to consolidation.

You see these lists from me twice a year now ’cause the TCA meets in the summer and January. This was an especially productive TCA as we got two other lists out of DC and Marvel comic book shows alone! We also had returning cult favorites, science fiction comedies, real geek geniuses and more. Spoilers for, like, all of television follow.

10. New Community Characters And Yahoo Format Explained

Yahoo! brought Community back to a very appreciate TCA, who have supported Dan Harmon’s show from the beginning on NBC. Harmon told us about the new characters joining the study group, played by Paget Brewster and Keith David.

“Paget’s character, on the surface, her two-dimensional, first act of a John Hughes movie role, is that she’s a problem solver,” Harmon said. “She doesn’t like things that don’t make sense. She doesn’t abide nonsense. She is here to help. She’s a very effective person, and the likes of which Greendale’s never really seen, and she’s been specifically hired to wrangle the problems at Greendale and fix them. Keith’s character on the surface is a computer programmer. He wasted a lot of time on virtual reality technology in the ’90s, and he sacrificed a lot of his personal life at the sake of his career, and now he’s starting over.”

With no NBC schedule to worry about, Yahoo! Community episodes could be longer than 22 minutes, but Harmon hasn’t decided whether to extend them yet.

“I have the same question right now, because I’m looking at cuts that are 26 minutes or so, and usually then my job is, like, I absolutely have to get it down to 22, so what am I going to lose? Now the big question is do I have to or not. I haven’t had that conversation yet with the powers that be. I do know that I’m writing it as if, because as a writer, three act stories are what work for me. So NBC’s clock worked very well. You did a cold open, title sequence. You’ve got a first act where people realize they’re going to be in a new situation. Curtain. If they want to put a commercial there, that’s a good place to put it. Second act, everybody dresses in funny costumes. Another commercial. And third act, everyone apologizes and there’s less jokes and then maybe another commercial and then a tag where someone has a fern on their head.”

Gillian Jacobs had the best answer for what’s different about Community on Yahoo. “More fart jokes,” she said. “I would say 100% more fart jokes.”

Community launches on Yahoo! March 17.

9. Dating Trolls and Hitler on Man Seeking Woman

If you saw the first episode of Man Seeking Woman on FXX, I hope you’re as in love with it as I am. They had me at dating a troll, and when the ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend literally turned out to be Hitler, I knew someone finally understood me. This isn’t a joke where he feels like his blind date is a troll. This is a world where trolls exist and his sister thinks that’s a good match for her brother. And who hasn’t felt like their ex’s new lover is Hitler?

Series creator Simon Rich says we have a lot more to look forward to. “There’s time travel,” Rich said. “There’s various monsters. There’s a bunch of decapitations. There’s a Japanese penis monster named Tanaka, but at its core, I think it is a pretty simple show. It’s just about a guy looking for love, and I think in some ways it’s the simplest show on television, despite all its insanity.”

Jay Baruchel stars as all men, or at least the ones who admit that dating is awkward. He’ll be our avatar. “We’re all exorcising demons,” Baruchel said. “You can’t be on the set of this movie and not help but vent. It becomes group therapy. Let’s be honest, being single is a disaster. Dating is a disaster. But I think really we realized fairly early that we can only do the weird, crazy surreal stuff that we do if we keep it super intimate and small and play it incredibly real. I think our show wouldn’t be half as good if it was just a bunch a crazy nonsense, nor would it be half as good if it was just a bunch of people complaining.”

Man Seeking Woman airs Wednesdays at 10:30 on FXX.

8. Steve Wozniak Talks About Building His First Computer.

National Geographic
Edison versus Tesla on Nat Geo Channel’s American Genius

National Geographic Channel presented a show called American Genius, in which each episode will dramatize a different innovator. It will include “Edison versus Tesla” (pictured) and “Hearst versus Pullitzer” but representing the “Gates versus Jobs” story was Steve Wozniak himself, the late Steve Jobs’ number two. With a room full of more than 200 plus journalists with open laptops, 90% of which had Apple logos on the front, Woz shared old school stories about the early days of computing.

“I see what I wanted my whole life,” Wozniak said. “Whether they were Macintoshes or not, any computers. I grew up with goals that even though it cost as much as a house, I was going to give up a house to live in an apartment so I could own my own computer. I wanted a machine, but I didn’t want it for the purposes it’s used for today. I just wanted it because I was a computer geek. I could write programs and be more powerful and impress my friends with how many I could solve problems that they couldn’t solve, and that’s how it started.”

Forget our computers; we have devices more powerful than the original computers in the palm of our hands. “We didn’t think we’d ever have a computer that had enough memory to hold a song,” Wozniak continued. “We did imagine things like communication and you could type something on a computer, maybe move it around on a screen, and maybe someday there would be a printer. We had vacuum tubes when I grew up, and then we had transistors and then chips which made today’s computer world possible.”

American Genius will premiere this year on National Geographic Channel.

7. The New Syfy Show From the Writers of Iron Man, Starring the Punisher

Thomas Jane has played the Punisher on screen more than any other actor. That’s right, twice if you count his unofficial “Dirty Laundry” short. That’s more than Dolph Lundgren or Ray Stevenson can say. He stars on Syfy’s upcoming The Expanse, based on the novels by James S.A. Corey, about a future in which humanity has colonies on the moon and Mars, and mines on the asteroid belt.

“I’m a detective,” Jane said. “I have a storyline that takes place on an asteroid where there’s a port city, which I kind of think is sort of like a futuristic 1940s New York, if that makes sense. So it’s kind of a film noir storyline, at least the way I see it. So it’s sort of that future noir, I think, which is a great word. You guys should all write that down.”

Executive producing the show are Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby, who wrote the first Iron Man! Only Fergus was on the Expanse panel, though. He saw The Expanse as the story of what happens between now and when we have deep space sci-fi like Star Trek.

“We always felt that the great struggle of a lot of sci-fi we grew up on takes us into a story world that we’ve jumped over the interesting part, which is the first fumbling steps of us pushing off this planet, getting out into the solar system, sorting ourselves out as a race,” Fergus said. “All the struggle and the pain and the glory of that, usually sci-fi kind of hops over that, and we’ve got hyperspace way out in the galaxy. Everything is kind of done. And to us, we really got turned on by the books because they told of a world, ‘Here is the scaffolding. Here is how it got built. Here is who built it. Here is how humanity starting looking at itself differently and getting rid of old forms of racism and creating new forms of racism.'”

On The Expanse, as in the books, people who live on different colonies feud with, or even torture, people born in other gravities. “We pitched the show as quoting Jimi Hendrix that, when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace,” Fergus said. “That stuck because it was awesome, and that’s the DNA of our show.”

The Expanse premieres this year on Syfy.

6. Daredevil Dates and More Netflix Marvel News

Hard to believe this was the first session of the first day of TCA. Netflix began with their executive session and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos announced the premiere of Daredevil on April 10. You may have heard about that. Later on, he also told us not to expect Jessica Jones for a while.

“You should think of it about as roughly a year,” Sarandos said. “Some will roll in as early as eight months and others in 15?months apart. Basically what it is is we’re not trying to meet a fall programming schedule or trying to hit a grid number, so really, we want to give the shows enough time.”

Enough time not only to give each show space, but to make sure each show can be completed by the time it premieres. “Jessica Jones hasn’t started production yet, so a lot happens from the first day on the set to the last day of production,” Sarandos said.?”So we want to give them enough room and enough time to make a great show, so I don’t want to set up a rigid timetable and deliver a show every eight months or every twelve months, but you should expect them about a year apart.”

5. X-Files Is Coming Back… Eventually.

The new chairmen and CEOs of Fox Television are Gary Newman and Dana Walden. Newman is not the same guy that wrote the ’80s classic “Cars” that appears on every ’80s compliation. He’s still got some cool news though. They wanna bring back The X-Files, like they did for 24: Live Another Day and Netflix did for Arrested Development. It’s been a lot longer since The X-Files was on TV, though.

“I think it’s been reported and it’s true that we’ve had some conversations on the The X-Files,” “We are hopeful of being able to bring that back at some point.”

After the panel, Newman explained the scheduling nightmare of getting David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson back as Mulder and Scully.

“I guess what I can say is that if this happens it would be with David [Duchovny] and Gillian [Anderson] reprising their roles,” Newman said. “Chris [Carter] is interested. Both David and Gillian are interested. Scheduling it is very difficult. David has his show, Gillian is doing something in the UK so it’s a little bit hard. I really don’t know how fast it can happen because of that but there are ongoing conversations happening.”

As for the show that started it all, another day of 24 is still a long way off. “With 24, we have no current plans, although we’re in discussions with the creative team there: Howard Gordon, Manny Coto and Evan Katz. And we would love nothing more than than to do another 24, so that’s a constant focus for us.”

Beep, beep. Beep, beep.

4. Orphan Black Season 3 Scoops

Orphan Black is just so awesome and continues to get more impressive the more clones we see Tatiana Maslany play. The notion of a whole other set of male clones (Ari Millen) makes season three an even more exciting prospect. Maslany is helping Millen learn how to play clones.

“It’s amazing for me,” she said. “The first day he came to set was the diner scene in Season 2, the first day I had worked with him. So sitting opposite him and the sort of intensity he had and he was just so scary. He was so scary because he was so alive and compelling and had this amazing energy as Mark, that was new to our show, and really excited all of us, I think. So to have him take on this challenge, I felt like it was like a no brainer, and it also gave me a chance to have some three day weekends I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Series creator John Fawcett told us there would be some new characters who aren’t played by Ari Millen this season too. “James Frain joins us for Episode 1,” Fawcett said. “We’re very excited about that because he plays a really amazing, scary guy that’s coming from Topside and is a very dangerous threat to our girls. There is a new character in Alison’s world, a character by the name of Jason Kellerman, and we’re excited about that. He is interesting. That’s an interesting character because he kind of is an old high school flame of Alison’s and kind of gets in the way a little bit and causes a little bit of issues between Donny and Alison.”

We’ll also see Felix (Jordan Gavaris) spend more time with other clones besides Sarah and Alison. “We discovered this wonderful relationship between Felix and Alison,” Fawcett said. “We’ve kind of taken that further in Season 3 and developing Felix’s relationship with the other clones. Cosima spends is spending quite a bit of time at Felix’s loft.”

Orphan Black returns April 18 on BBC America.

3. The Apocalypse From MacGruber and the Directors of The Lego Movie

Fox’s The Last Man on Earth is created by and stars Will Forte as the lone survivor of a viral apocalypse. It’s produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who are heroes for turning Lego into a brilliant movie, and fixing both movies based on TV shows and sequels to movies based on TV shows. Forte named his character Phil Miller after them, and spends much of the pilot finding different ways to break stuff.

“There’s that scene in the first episode where he goes bowling and then has a bunch of bowling balls in a truck and knocks over a bunch of aquariums,” Miller said. “Aquaria? I don’t know. Anyway, that was what Will really wanted to do and he really wanted to do it himself. So it was him in the truck driving it, and there’s no special effects. We just literally set up a bunch of aquariums and a truck full of bowling balls to see what happens.”

Forte spoke as the auteur of the show. “I get to do a lot of wish fulfillment stuff because I guess I would imagine that men and women would have different ideas about what they would do if they were the last person on Earth,” Forte said. “I think I would just go around and break stuff. And it just has been really fun to break a lot of stuff.”

There’s a lot more to bowling for aquaria (thank you, Chris) than you may think. Lord explained, “One of the problems with the aquariums is that when you fill them with water, they’re incredibly heavy and they are not structurally very sound. So if you look at that, there’s a lot more water on the bottom ones than there is on the top ones, and we had to like figure out the arrangement a couple of nights before because we knew we were going to get out there and have to move quickly, and we didn’t want it to collapse under its own weight. So that’s just one of the many things.”

The Last Man on Earth premieres March 1 on Fox.

2. Star-Lord Doesn’t Read Your Comments

NBC held a farewell Parks and Recreation panel, which now acknowledges Chris Pratt is the biggest movie star in the world (Guardians of the Galaxy and Lego Movie combined box office!). When asked what advice the panel would give to new comedies filling their slot on NBC, or any other spot on the lineup, Pratt launched into a rant against Internet comments.

“Advice you could give to those new shows is: don’t read comments because it doesn’t mean anything,” Pratt said. “Faster is funnier and don’t be afraid to be sentimental, but don’t read the fucking comments and what everyone thinks. It doesn’t fucking matter. It really doesn’t, and if you change your vision to try to fit what some jackass online thinks or some group of fucking nitwits think as they’re fucking jerking off writing comments, you’re going to fucking lose your vision. So screw everybody who writes comments. Don’t read them. It’s just a crazy, toilet bowl that you stick your head in and you flush down for as long as you want to waste time, but if you have time to read comments, you should be rewriting your jokes. Don’t read comments. Faster is funnier, and don’t be afraid to be sentimental.”

Pratt was even careful to play to the room, but he already had us at crazy toilet bowl. “You guys are professionals,” Pratt conceded to the room full of hundreds of reporters. “Your opinion matters, but not some dickhead in fucking Ohio who’s probably 12 or some shit, I don’t know. I don’t read comments.”

After the panel, I went up to Pratt and told him, “I left you a comment. So I guess you didn’t get it.” He laughed.

1. Agent Cooper Brought Showtime President a Damn Good Cup of Coffee (or so He Claimed).

Showtime Presidetn David Nevins and Kyle MacLachlan

The biggest surprise appearance of TCA came during Showtime’s presentation. As Showtime President David Nevins rattled off some premiere dates and series pickups, including hints at the new Twin Peaks, he was interrupted by Kyle MacLachlan carrying a cup of coffee.

“I know you’re going to take some questions, but before you do that, I think you need a damn good cup of coffee,” MacLachlan said. “And be careful. Nice to see you. I’m very excited to return to the strange and wonderful world of Twin Peaks. We look forward to seeing all of you there. May the forest be with you. Give me back my coffee.”

Thus it was confirmed that Agent Cooper was part of the new series, although if it was coffee from the Langham hotel, I doubt it was damn good, or even palatable. Nevins shooed MacLachlan off stage before he could give anything away, but Nevins spoke about bringing the classic – but short-lived – show back.

“I was kind of begging them and hoping to pass muster with David Lynch,” Nevins said. “It felt like the only way that you could do it would be to have David committing to directing all of them, so that was sort of the thing that I was begging for. I think it’s something they had been toying with for a long time. And I think in David’s mind, 25 years was the magic number. There’s a reference in the original that ‘I’ll see you in 25 years.’ So he pays attention to that kind of numerology in a big way. So anyway, he came in. He apparently. I said this before, but he fixated on some of the artwork in my office. That was helpful. I have some very violent, weird imagery – in there’s a bookshelf falling on a young girl. It’s unclear whether it’s falling, which direction it’s going. And I think he liked that and we were off in business.”

Nevins also promised he’d be hands off so we see Lynch and Mark Frost’s artistic vision. “[I’m] more or less writing checks and leaving them alone. It’s David’s show. It’s Mark’s show. I am just the grateful recipient of it. Although, I will say they have been very specific in promising closure, and I think that’s exciting. And from what I’ve seen, I don’t want to even say what I’ve seen. But from what I’ve seen, I think this is going to live up to expectations and then some.”

Twin Peaks goes into production later this year.

Also by Fred Topel

The 10 Nerdiest Moments of the 2014 Summer TCAs

10 Things We Learned From CBS’s Summer Press Day About Extant, Under the Dome And More

The 10 Geekiest Moments Of The [January 2013] TCAs

The 10 Nerdiest Things At SXSW 2014

The Top 10 Geekout Moments of Sundance 2013