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TCA press tour: 15 highlights from the Television Critics' Association panels

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Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

We sat through 18 days of Hilton ballroom press conferences so you didn’t have to. Here are the highlights from our 100 stories covering the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour:    

— Too much TV?: FX chairman John Landgraf declared “there is simply too much television,” noting that the number of scripted series is nearing the 400 mark, which makes it increasingly difficult for any given show to find an audience large enough to survive. That comment created a chain of discussion that echoed in other network sessions, with Showtime president David Nevins countering, “there is never enough great TV.” Okay, so who’s going to be the first to volunteer to make fewer shows? … Yeah, that’s what we thought. 

— Lady Gaga’s AHS: Hotel character unveiledCritics learned she’s described as “a very wealthy social doyenne who is consumed with art and fashion and people and she has a nefarious plan that is revealed in the first episode and plays out over the course of the season.” Also, there will probably be costume changes. Lots and lots of costume changes. 

— Britney’s back, bitch: Speaking of pop divas, Britney Spears is heading back to the small screen as a nemesis for Rogelio on The CW’s Jane the Virgin. No word yet on whether she’ll lip sync all her lines.

— Game of Thrones is expanding: HBO firmly declared for the first time that the fantasy sensation won’t stop at the oft-cited seven seasons, plus cast Ian McShane (Deadwood) in a mystery role and Max von Sydow (The Exorcist) as the Three-Eyed Raven for next season. We can’t wait to see how these acclaimed actors get horrifically killed.

 — Empire building: Fox ordered a musical drama pilot called Star from Empire creator Lee Daniels about the formation of a girl group in Atlanta, then Lee went rogue by declaring a spin-off from Empire was inevitable (though not yet ordered), and would focus on a younger version of Cookie Lyon. Given that Fox has only aired 12 Empire episodes, this sort of brand expansion must be some kind of, well, record.  

— Louie goes MIA … again: FX announced that the acclaimed comedy was going on “extended hiatus” because creator Louis C.K. needs a break — but also greenlit an unofficial spin-off starring CK’s Emmy-nominated costar Pamela Adlon. It’s official: Louis C.K. is the new Larry David. Also on extended hiatus: NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice — due to the network’s divorce from Donald Trump, C-list stars will have to find another way to pay the rent next season. 

— Celebrity breakups: First Gwen and Gavin, now this: Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy announced they had separated ahead  of ABC’s upcoming docu-style sitcom. Critics took this surprisingly seriously. While on Fox’s upcoming The X-Files revival, Mulder and Scully have also split since we last saw them and critics watched a clip of the duo yelling at each other. 

— X-Men multiplying: Because primetime apparently still doesn’t have enough superheroes. Fox is near a deal with Marvel for an X-Men TV series— though hopefully it won’t be like Gotham and we get a pouty 12-year-old Wolverine claw-puncturing his school lunch juice box.    

 Full House was too damn full!: John Stamos admitted that Lifetime’s upcoming unauthorized Full House biopic actually got a few things right, confirming a plot point from the docu-movie that purports he tried to get rid of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen at the beginning of their ABC hit.

— Stephen Colbert wants you to meet Stephen Colbert: An overwhelming sense of relief seemed to characterize Stephen Colbert when he showed up for his CBS Late Show panel as, finally, himself. Dropping his longtime “actively ignorant” persona from The Colbert Report, the Letterman replacement was visibly eager for a new chapter to begin. “The guy who can’t stop laughing, that’s the real Stephen Colbert,” he urged critics. “I can’t wait for him to be the only guy you see.” While Jay Leno mocked: “The idea of a white guy in late night — this will be revolutionary.” 

— Hulu had a ball in the ballroom: The streaming service knocked critics out with a surprisingly sturdy showing this year, between the laugh-a-minute panel for Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner’s Difficult People, palpable cheer around Jason Reitman’s buzzy comedy Casual, and the reboot of The Mindy Project explaining their changes in the move to streaming (“Full penetrative sex to open and close the episode,” said Ike Barinholtz). Hulu could have guessed?

— Derek’s death, explained: Months after Patrick Dempsey’s polarizing exit on Grey’s Anatomy, executive producer Shonda Rhimes offered up a pretty reasonable explanation as to why Derek simply had to die: MerDer was MFEO and he’d never walk out on his family. “That was the only way to make Meredith and Derek’s magic remain true and remain frozen in time,” she said. In other words, let it go.

— The Notebook — only happier! The CW confirmed EW’s report they’re working on a TV series version of Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook (only they’ll probably dump the sad Alzheimer’s storyline). 

— NBC’s best comedy chances return: Remember when 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation became the network’s new must-see TV on Thursday nights? Ah the good old days. After canceling every comedy — save for Undateable, which will now air live — NBC is looking to Tina Fey and Mike Schur to bring the glory days back. Details on the projects are scarce, but Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope should call their agents.

— Constantine resurrected (sort of): NBC’s Constantine may have been axed, but Matt Ryan hasn’t hung up his trench coat just yet. In a rare move, the Welsh actor will be reprising his titular role on another network for an upcoming episode of The CW’s Arrow in a post-cancellation crossover. Maybe now he’ll actually be able to smoke a cigarette.

MORE! Assorted panel coverage that’s worth a lookTrevor Noah’s panel, HBO defends True Detective season 2 (none of us really bought it, btw), Dwayne Johnson talked Hulk Hogan rant, the Evil Dead panelDownton Abbey cast movingly talked about the final season, sitcom legend Norman Lear’s speech made headlinesGoldbergs revealed the one show they can’t do, Fox explains that BonesSleepy Hollow crossover, and Prison Break reboot details, there’s that  promising Billions trailer for ShowtimeNBC’s Heroes Reborn panel and Showtime’s Homeland is going to take on ISIS

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