Diametric Intensity & Percolating Ideas: The 2011 Fox TCA Summer Press Tour – Feature

17 Aug

The cauldron of Fox brews with a diametric intensity of different possibilities which makes its line-up both surprising and engaging in its spectrum. With the fervor over “Idol” and “X-Factor”, sometimes the essence of some of the great dramatic shows (like “Fringe”) go unnoticed but the ideas are always percolating.

With the hopes of a network behind it, “Terra Nova”, the dino mythology tale backed by exec producer Steven Spielberg, journeys into fall with budget scrutiny but also the temptations of what the storytelling will venture towards in lieu of the many possible routes.

Brannon Braga, the “Star Trek” mastermind from the late 80s, brought in to oversee the implementation of this show, has had to transcend the different writers rooms and blogger criticism on what is an all-in large TV canvas protect. The key always with science fiction series, specifically ones using time travel, is the idea of “The Butterfly Effect” which he assures is addressed specifically in hour one of the series. Another concern is delivery of the episodes because of the effects rendering which Braga again speaks as being taken care of through forms of new software that needed to be created for the show.

Rene Echvarria, known for his exec duties on “Castle”, “Dark Angel” and “The 4400″, knows how to deal with deadlines. He relates that “a lot of visual effects houses said it couldn’t be done for the time and money”. He says 5 years ago they couldn’t have done this but “there is a pipeline that has been created” which includes “a specialized team for rendering”. The reality, he says, involved a learning curve but “they get better all the time”. In order to make the schedule cut-offs, they have to start production, if they get the go ahead, in the early spring, because their pipeline involves an extra six weeks of production more than most shows. A fact though Rene remains very proud of is that the “slashers” represent the latest thinking of what dinosaurs looked like.

Jason O’Mara, formerly of “Life On Mars” who plays Jim Shannon, the head of a brood heading to the Terra Nova colony 85 million years ago, jokes that “I call my family saying that I got a new show about a cop who travels through time, and they were like ‘We’ve seen that one'”. In terms of character comparison with his former and current show, O’Mara says that Sam Tyler on “Mars” was lost while his character here wants to get his family to Terra Nova without question. The challenges of Jim in “Terra Nova” are external versus Tyler whose problems were internal. The notion is that in creating a feeling so far from home in Australia where they shoot the series, they are trying to create an adventure, so much so “we already feel like displaced pioneer families”.

From around the bend, the intensity of “X Factor” rears its head. Simon Cowell emerges and will not be undone especially in his choice of both judges including Paula Abdul and Nicole Schlesinger of “The Pussycat Dolls”.

Cowell relates that “for me, it takes a certain breed to survive in this business” but in terms of his new show he thinks “we generally have a good working capacity” but “it feels completely different” from “Idol”. The reasoning in his mind for bringing the show Stateside is that “every one deserves a third chance” which is “why we have no age limit” which gives any person a shot. The challenge becomes that he believes the TV audience has become too savvy. For him it has to be “what you see is what you get” whether it be “the good, the bad or the ugly”.

Revolving back around to comedy, “I Hate My Teenage Daughter” visualizes a generation of young feeling mothers coming about face with their age as they are trying to maintain their own sense of being.

Coming off her successful run on “My Name Is Earl”, Jamie Pressly says she remembers “when I was that 14-year-old girl…and it runs the gamut”. She agrees that, at that age, “we all think we know everything” adding that “I had my own ideas and was outside the box”. Her thought is that “every kid’s different and every parent’s different”. Her reminiscence begins on the thought that “I was treated like dirt by the mean girls” when she was growing up in North Carolina. Most of her friends, she relates, were boys hence she was “a tomboy”. In terms of her return to television, she explains “if I am going to come back to TV, it has to be as far away from the Joy character on ‘Earl'” as possible. The problem when she was going up for other gigs, most people “for some reason, instead of me doing a great job [they actually] thought I was Joy”. Fox President Kevin Reilly actually put “Earl” on the air so he was open to the idea of her expanding. She was surprised “how easy it is to get pigeonholed in that role”. She says she and Wilmer Valderrama, who co-starred as Fez on “That 70s Show”, talk about it because people think he is the same as his character. This made her very scared that “I wasn’t going to be able to get another show for a long time”.

Katie Finneran, who plays Nikki, Jamie’s mother-partner-in-crime, says that in her last TV role ["Damages"] “I had a gun in my hand shooting serial killers”. She admits that she was always the designated driver but that she would get a Whitman Chocolate Sampler and eat. This she attributes to growing up in Miami and “hanging with the Cuban kids”.

The mainline of all decisions comes through the man on top of the chain which Kevin Reilly has served at Fox Television for the past couple years. The key in the position is both in fostering creative talent but also making the tough financial decisions that make or break a show.

With both “X Factor” and “Glee” causing high visibility creative shuffling, Reilly speaks that “I can’t even know the exact chronology of how everything went down”. “Glee” from his perspective is “a complete management undertaking” because “personalities always have difficulties”. He never said they wouldn’t do it again. The challenge is the only time “when I get worried as a programmer is when people say, ‘I am starting to get bored'”. He reiterates that, with “Glee”, they are focusing on their core characters and there will be a graduation at the end of the season. However, from his perspective, for the present time “the spin-off will stay in the wind” but says “we we are going to revisit that”.

In terms of “Terra Nova”, he says the results will be “sampled” but classifies it as “a unique property” that is “not usual for Fox”. They do have “real estate on our schedule that we can use to see it”. He says that he has seen 5 hours of the show so far and that “it raises expectations” in “what it brings to Fox”.

On a wider note, he says that “baseball has become manageable” but that “it is trickier with X-Factor” adding that “we are not going to do repeats”. He admits that TV currently is “a hard environment” because “we are increasingly in a less linear universe” where the broadcast networks “have to demand [the consumer's] attention”.

Using the structured examples of “Terra Nova” and “I Hate My Teenage Daughter”, Fox shows along with the intuit notions of “X Factor” and “Glee” that the continual progression requires a balance of both franchise shows and essential risk taking potential.

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