Hillary Atkin

ABC Previews Its Upcoming Shows at TCA

Aug 8, 2019

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel was up early in the morning to kick off ABC’s TCA day at the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom Monday, cracking jokes with abandon and riffing off of reporter’s questions fired at him.

His series with Norman Lear, “Live in Front of a Studio Audience,” will produce two more installments re-imagining classic TV shows, following on the success of “All in the Family and The Jeffersons” this past May, but the titles were not revealed. (The productions are slated for this December and next May.) He’s also branching out from late-night by teaming up with Mark Burnett for a new game show called “Generation Gap.”

“Will I remind him 15 times a day that Donald Trump is president because of him? Yes, I will,” Kimmel said about Burnett, who originally hired Trump to host “The Apprentice.”

Kimmel admitted he considered retiring from the grind of hosting “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” but said ABC brass made him feel appreciated and thus he signed on for another three years. “Also, a lot of my relatives would be unemployed if I quit the show,” he said.

Kimmel also talked about covering politics, lauding what Jon Stewart has done as an activist since leaving “The Daily Show,” and said he himself would not run for office.

Answering a question about the dominance of white males in late-night writers rooms, Kimmel said his staff was initially friends and relatives and that one way he’s diversified it is by finding new voices on Twitter.

Things took a more serious turn for the executive session with ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke. As her colleagues at CBS had done a few days before, she touted the advantages of broadcast television over streaming.

“Broadcast matters because our shows endure,” said Burke. “Shows like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ — 15 seasons in, this incredible show is as vital as ever, and in November we celebrate its 350th episode. That phenomenon is unique to broadcast television and certainly not to be found on our streaming competition, who tout hits one day and cancel them the next, usually around season three,” she said, in a clear dig at Netflix.

She didn’t stop there. “Most shows on competing platforms these days, sometimes they get a billboard on Sunset and sometimes they disappear into the sunset,” she said, in a memorable analogy. “We believe we offer creators the superior platform, big, broad audiences all year round. If you create that show for us, it will get launched, it will get marketed. We invest heavily in making people aware of our shows and actually knowing about their work.”

ABC’s new offerings this fall include “Stumptown,” “Emergence” and “mixed-ish,” each of which presented a panel later in the day, as did “Kids Say the Darndest Things” and “Tamron Hall,” a syndicated talker with the well-known journalist, which will be New York-based.

The network is also developing a limited series to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s bestselling book “Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11.”

Burke revealed a new creative direction for ABC, springboarding off the legacy of “The Wonderful World of Disney” — a live musical production of “The Little Mermaid.” The hybrid format will blend about 10 live performances from a theater on the Disney lot into the 30-year-old Disney animated film classic, using music from it and the Tony-winning Broadway stage version, written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken.

“The original feature will exist exactly as it always has, and we all love, and then when we come to a song, we will transition from the original to the new, and there’s a separation of everything there,” said director and executive producer Hamish Hamilton, who also enthusiastically described the visuals of the live production. “The entire movie is being scored again so there’s a continuity of musical flow.”

Auli’i Cravalho stars as Ariel, recording artist Shaggy plays Sebastian and Queen Latifah will portray Ursula in “The Little Mermaid Live!,” coming November 5.

A graphic novel by Greg Rucka is the basis of “Stumptown,” (September 25) starring Cobie Smulders, Camryn Manheim and Michael Ealy. Set in Portland, Ore., the procedural action-drama follows Smulders’ character, Dex Parios, a sharp-witted Army veteran whose military intelligence skills make her a great private investigator. Yet her take-no-prisoners style puts her in the line of fire of hard-core criminals and sometimes at odds with law enforcement. Meanwhile, she’s dealing with taking care of her brother, gambling debts and a complicated love life.

“I just fell in love with this character. And there are certainly aspects of Scherbatsky in there, but it is a departure,” said Smulders, referring to her role on “How I Met Your Mother.” “Certainly going from a multicam back to now a single-cam, that’s a very different process. It’s a different beast. But it was more about finding something that I think would always be challenging and always interesting and fun to play rather than finding something a polar opposite or a genre that I really loved. I just want to be her for a while.”

It’s the “ish universe,” as Tracee Ellis Ross called it, and now viewers get to live even more in it when “mixed-ish” hits the airwaves September 24. The newest spinoff of “black-ish” delves deeper into the mixed-race world, a narrative not often seen on television.

Mariah Carey, who is herself biracial, will write and perform the theme song and may even appear as a guest star in an episode, according to showrunner Karen Gist.

Set in the 1980s, the series recounts the origin story of Rainbow “Bow” Johnson (Ross) and her parents’ decision to move to the suburbs from a commune in order to provide their children a better life. Yet at school, the kids struggle to find an identity in a place where they are not considered either black or white.

“What we are aiming to do is to have a conversation about race in the ’80s that is relevant to what we are going through now as a nation,” said Gist. “We want this show to be about identity. What we hope to do is shine a light on those who feel othered. Hopefully, that’s all the audience.”

When asked if the show was autobiographical, Ross, whose mother is the legendary performer Diana Ross, said no — and joked with castmate Tika Sumpter that her mom is actually Mariah Carey.

Ross, who also serves as an executive producer, said “mixed-ish” still reflects some of her own personal experience.

“I remember when I first got ‘black-ish,’ I was so excited because it was truly my first time playing a mixed woman on television,” she recalled. “But even on ‘black-ish,’ we haven’t completely explored it. There’s been a lot of dialogue and a lot of episodes and conversations around the fact that Bow is limited to jokes being thrown at her about being mixed. And I think this is an opportunity for us to unpack that in a much larger way that I’m thrilled to be able to do.”

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