Hillary Atkin

NBC Wraps TCA With a Tearful Tribute to a Quirky Sitcom

Aug 14, 2019

Ted Danson was choking back tears. It was the final session of the final day of the Television Critics Association summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton and he was getting misty-eyed talking about the fourth and final season (September 26) of NBC’s “The Good Place.”

“It’s a gift,” he said when asked what he would take away from the Michael Schur drama, in which he stars with Kristen Bell. “We are all full of respect because Mike told the story he wanted to from the very first episode.”

It was an unexpected display of emotion from Danson, the Emmy Award-winning actor who is again up for the trophy for his lead role in the quirky comedy/morality tale.

Schur pointed to Fox’s “The Last Man on Earth” as proof that broadcast networks can make bold and challenging comedies and also noted “The Good Place” did not have to fill a traditional 22- or 24-episode order.

“We pitched this as an investigation on what it means to be a good person, and of course it’s a more complicated question but it was my hope that it was about what a good person looks like in this world,” he said. “That objective shifted a bit and what we found is that very smart people have had different opinions — so, OK, we will give you a bunch of options, but what’s important is that you try one of them. Even if you fail, and we all fail all the time at this, the argument is that we all ought to try harder and as long as you are, you are on the right path.”

Unlike the majority of the other broadcast outlets, cable networks and streamers that presented programs during the two-and-a-half week run of TCA, NBC’s did not include an executive session with entertainment chiefs Paul Telegdy and George Cheeks.

During its half-day of presentations last week, NBC presented panels on four other shows, including “Cash Pad” on CNBC with hosts and executive producers JoJo Fletcher and Jordan Rogers. They partner with homeowners to turn properties into short-term rentals.

Bradley Whitford stars in and executive produces “Perfect Harmony,” a half-hour musical comedy television series created by Lesley Wake Webster coming September 26.

The series also stars Anna Camp and marks Whitford’s return to NBC, where he is well known for his roles on the long-running “The West Wing” and in the short-lived “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”

He plays a music professor who moves to a small town and takes up directing a church choir.

For those not intimately familiar with New York City geography, Sunnyside is a neighborhood in the borough of Queens and also the title of a new comedy featuring Kal Penn and executive produced by Mike Schur and Matt Murray.

In “Sunnyside” (September 26), Penn plays Garrett Modi, a young NYC councilman booted from the position after a scandal who finds himself with no discernible job skills. Now he’s crashing with his sister and wondering how he lost his way after rubbing elbows with the city’s elite and powerful.

Murray said it was based loosely on disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, who sought the spotlight as a lawmaker but got much more of it after his online sexual peccadilloes were exposed. (Weiner, aka Carlos Danger, served time and was released from custody a few months ago after he sent explicit photos of himself to an underage girl.)

“The entire writing staff is made up of immigrants or children of immigrants,” Murray noted. “There’s a lot of comedy to mine in the stories of people who’ve gone through it.”

The cast also includes Poppy Liu, Samba Schutte, Diana Maria Riva, Moses Storm, Kiran Deol and Joel Kim Booster.

Perhaps with a wink and a nod to his 1980s-era character Victor Sifuentes — just one of his many memorable television roles — Jimmy Smits is an attorney again in “Bluff City Law” (September 23 after “The Voice”), set in Memphis and co-starring Caitlin McGee.

“This guy is a lot different. You try to take the best from the experiences you have and you are always being a sponge,” said Smits, who also lauded working with creators he called “my dear [Steven] Bochco” and “Lord [David] Milch.”

This legal skein is executive produced by Michael Aguilar, Dean Georgaris and David Janollari.

“We are not a courtroom procedural and not ripped from the headlines but we take on issues like free speech and privacy for which the definitions are changing. Sometimes we will take something on from a comedic perspective,” promised Georgaris.

“The great thing about the law is there are two different points of view,” Smits said. “We feel audiences will engage with the characters and take the ride, so it’s important to have a great springboard for character development and storylines that audiences will want to engage with — people and dilemmas who happen to be in the legal arena.”

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