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Best of TCA 2015: Biggest news, fights, trailers, snark

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TCA MAD MEN

That’s it. That. Is. It—for another round of the Television Critics Association press tour. After more than 100 TV show panels across 13 days and posting 79 stories, we’re about ready to wrap our coverage. Below are some of our favorite news, castings, trailers and moments from the winter tour. (Yes, there are a few more PBS panels left today, but we’re boldly dodging Nova: The Great Math Mystery and electing to take a coma-nap instead.)

The most abused word at TCA—”Love”: All 46 times the Big 5 executives threw around the l-word on stage with decreasing convincingness to heap praise on various shows (and the one network executive that never used it once). Runner-up: You’d think with the amount of F bombs dropped during FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll panel that Denis Leary hated critics, but really he was just trying to make them happy before “two days of f—ing PBS.”

Fresh off the Boat‘s contentious fight: It just wouldn’t be TCA without a combative panel fight, and ABC’s first Asian-American sitcom in 20 years didn’t disappoint (“Chopsticks”? Really people?). Those are the show’s shocked producers at the panel below. Runner-up: NBC getting testy after critics wouldn’t stop yapping about that sitcom star who allegedly sexually assaulted 30 women (two, 15, 30, whatever!).

TCA KASDAN KHAN

Discovery vows: No more fake sharks and uncooperative anacondas! New programming chief Rich Ross declared that the network was getting away from sensationalistic stunts, which pleased fans who turn up their noses at such programming. Only problem: Those ratings-grabbing stunts grab ratings.

Analyzing the success of ‘Empire’ (and that one thing that could hurt it): Empire has been a surprise success for Fox, but critics are wondering about Terrence Howard’s allegedly violent past—even if he does compare himself to Jesus while sitting next to Lee “Yeah, I’m wearing pajamas, so what?” Daniels.

TCA EMPIRE

Homeland’s patriotic pickle: Showtime’s cautious admission that the espionage show might be moving away from a focus on Muslim extremists next season is either a case of lousy timing or quiet network caution given recent terrorist attacks in Europe. But since Homeland delights in making bold narrative shifts, and has explored this subject for four seasons, reflexive cries of “cowards!” seems unfair (no show has a patriotic duty to have a Muslim villain every year).

Blame Allison Williams: That’s what NBC did when talking about Peter Pan Live‘s lackluster ratings, noting that their most recent live production failed to live up to The Sound of Music because Pan didn’t have the same star power Carrie Underwood provided back in 2013. As one tweeter pointed out, under that rationale, Justin Bieber should headline NBC’s next musical, which is either The Music Man or The Wiz (our poll says The Wiz).

CBS talks Supergirl: Yep, the network’s first new comic book drama in 24 years is going to be a crime procedural — because that’s what CBS does! There’s a lot of curiosity behind this still-not-cast series and its heroine (can you make a costume that’s sexy without being deemed sexist?), and whether the network can really pull off NCISupergirl. Meanwhile, ABC defended the ratings of its super-girl series Agent Carter while Fox plans to fix vaguely super-hero-ish Sleepy Hollow. 

TCA AGENT CARTER

Carbon copies: Several networks used their panels to assure critics that despite very clear similarities, their new shows are very different from what we’ve already seen on TV. Seriously, NBC’s Allegiance is not The Americans. ABC’s Secrets and Lies only has one detective investigating the death of a child, instead of two like Broadchurch and Gracepoint. Unlike The New Normal, NBC’s One Big Happy isn’t just about gay jokes. Oh, and A&E’s The Returned promises to put a twist on the French version… after six episodes.

Trailer park: Plenty of new video came out of TCA. Check out the new trailers for the return of Starz’ Outlander, Lifetime’s graphic Born in the Wild (warning, NSFPWK—Not Safe For People Without Kids), AMC’s Better Call Saul, Lifetime’s Lizzy Borden and Syfy zero-gravity-sex space opera The Expanse.

Zero Gravity Sex

Casting net: Kyle MacLachlan is returning to Twin Peaks, Fox’s live Grease found its two female leads, Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens added a familiar Glee name, Starz’ movie is combining two big screen legends, The Walking Dead’s Emily Kinney has found her next gig, Heroes Reborn casts an NBC favorite, Last Man on Earth adds Mary Steenburgen and Eva Longoria is going to stretch and play a diva TV star. And finally Fargo is looking to cast Ronald Reagan (?!) for its second season.

The comebacks (that would be renewals): The CW had a bunch of renewals. CBS had some and Fox had a few too (including the surprising super-early pickup of Empire). And Fox is looking to revive The X-Files and 24 (one way or another, Jack). MTV is reviving America’s Best Dance Crew now that Randy Jackson has more free time. And E! has already renewed The Royals.

Spoiler alert: Spoilerphobes may want to look away–though critics weren’t given that option when The CW confirmed that The Flash‘s Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) is the Reverse Flash, and Steven R. McQueen is leaving The Vampire Diaries. Justin Chatwin will also be Alison’s high school sweetheart on Orphan Black. Meanwhile, ABC did everything in its power not to reveal what The Whispers is about.

TCA THE FLASH

The farewells: The cast of AMC’s Mad Men waxed poetic about working with Matt Weiner. CBS’ Two and a Half Men co-creator Chuck Lorre surprised by getting nostalgic for Charlie Sheen (and hinted the ousted actor might show up in the finale). NBC’s Parks and Recreation cast–at least Chris Pratt–was very vocal about “dickhead” online commenters. Wonder how those “jackasses” will feel about Parksswan song? The CW’s Vampire Diaries isn’t ending yet, but the final episode’s concept makes the creators cry. More final season panels: FX’s Justified, Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and ABC’s Galavant (tee-hee).

Premiere dates: Netflix shows, Game of Thrones, Bates Motel, Mad Men, Hannibal, Showtime’s lineup and FX comedies.

And finally: Reality TV super-producer Mark Burnett’s Moses beard. We know he’s had it for awhile now, but we couldn’t stop looking at it.

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