Degrees Of Balance: The 2019 Showtime, CW & Pop TCA Winter Press Tour

Balancing from the CBS and CBS All Access TCA Day, Showtime, CW and, by extension, POP all possess a degree of creative landscape on the cultural plain. Each has its own texture with a sense of identity, yet never stepping too far out of line thereby alienating viewers. Among all networks, it is this texture of focus that undeniably balances the shows

Black Monday [Showtime] Returning to the network that made “House Of Lies”, Don Cheadle takes on the 80s with aplomb with an undeniable texture of Wall Street from the other side. Cheadle explains: “Moe would probably be Marty’s unhinged id. He doesn’t have a governor’s switch in the same way [as that character]. [With this show] it is trying to make a magic trick work on top of a roller coaster. It is the clothes and the hair and the excess of the 80s. [And] Moe has no ballast. There is no family that is tethering him. He is more a live wire in that way. It is constantly finding ‘him’ and seeing who ‘he’ is.” Jordan Cahan, one of the showrunners who also worked on the Christian Slater FOX show “Breaking In” explains: “This show has a secret code…words that we find abhorrent now. So we had to be very careful who we allowed to say those words. The tricky thing for us…just because it is cable…do we go to a certain place?” Cheadle continues reminiscing about what 1987 was like for him: “There were more yeses than there were nos. [In] 1987 I had just got out of school. I was living in North Hollywood. I was running around trying to get work. [A group of us] we would bum rush these auditions together. I never really started think I was good. It took many years until I believed that I could calm down [with that pursuit].” In translating that energy into the times that Moe lives in: “One of the things that we were cognizant about was having this sort of rag tag group of traders who are the Bad News Bears…the misfits.”

City On A Hill [Showtime] This throwback element to 1990s Boston involving a corrupt but determined FBI agent, Jackie, played with grizzle by Kevin Bacon, harks back to his previous work like “Mystic River” and “Sleepers”. Bacon discusses the connection: “I wasn’t really comparing the two. But with ‘City On A Hill’, it immediately had Jackie’s voice…that is the one I heard. It is just this world of 90s cops and robbers. [For me] there was nothing on television that quite felt like this.” In terms of wanting to commit to this show after doing “The Following” at Fox: “When you go into this situation with time involved…it is interesting here because the characters [are going] home. They are outside of [their] world. [In the pilot] we have a scene where the D.A. Ward (played by Aldis Hodge) and I are sitting in a window. Usually when the weather is that bad, you call it. [And when] your face gets that cold, you start to slur your words. Unfortunately the mustache (laughing) doesn’t keep it warm. That was the last scene of the pilot so I wasn’t sure if I needed the mustache [anymore].” (smiling) But in terms of what Bacon wants in terms of a challenge: “I want something new to explore. With ‘The Following”, it was all about that internalized type of character who has secrets. Jackie [by comparison] just doesn’t shut up. It is this kind of verbosity he has,”

Desus & Mero [Showtime] This new late night show optimizing the podcast and VICE phenom of Desus Nice & The Kid Mero just keys into its own sort of energy which can only be experienced live on the show, considering how quickly the panel progressed. Desus relays that he and Mero “actually met in high school in summer school…because they had air conditioning.” Mero explain the possibilities of how they approach what they do: “No one is really going on Twitter and reading policy [on politics]. We want to show people in their natural element. The vernacular we bring to it pushes with hip hop. This is authentic. It is not factory made.”

Jane The Virgin [CW] The trajectory of this show has allowed Gina Rodriguez to transform while still maintaining a grounded nature within the story. Speaking for the final season, just days before her new movie “Miss Bala” opens, the mood is somber as the show’s production is coming to an end. Jennie Snyder Urman, the show runner and writer, speaks to the show’s evolution: “We would work really hard each year on a different part of the love triangle. A writer once told me that a telenovela is a pornography of emotion. We go through all the feels in the last season unfortunately. [But] we have shown that we will go to unexpected places.” Rodriguez balances this thought saying: “I have been blessed enough to do work in the space that Jennie has created. [And] I have been able to see where I can use my creativity. There is so much I have learned on ‘Jane’.” Urban does tease the next iteration of Jane with a new play on the story: “The spin off is a conceit since it is novels that Jane will write in the future.”

In The Dark Using the essence of the blind to propel a story is an exercise in identity, especially when the teen in question is rebellious. Like certain CW shows before, this drama/comedy approaches the subject with humor but it needed to be based in fact. Lori Bernson, who consulted on “In The Dark” actually walked onto the stage with her guide dog to practically show the perceptions that the dogs have which is key to the story. Bernson lost her sight at a young age but defers on the difference of being born blind: “The difference is losing your mannerisms after you lose vision. It is so conditioned in you to do those things. Often times you don’t have as much contact. People say that I am looking right at them. The greatest thing though is when somebody moves and they don’t tell me. The difference of not seeing ever is that you don’t know anything different.” Perry Mattfield, who stars as the blind Murphy, explains that “Murphy’s blindness is not the only aspect I deferred from Murphy. Obviously I did realize how much responsibility there was for this role. I went to Lori’s house and I was watching her to do her thing. When she is watching TV, she will still look down to the remote first.”

Roswell, New Mexico [CW] This reboot examines the textures of the lost nights and alien interactions for a whole new generation. The key is mixing up the performances but also the story archs in a meaningful way. Jeanine Mason, who won Season 5 of “So You Think You Can Dance” takes on the role of Liz Ortecho. She explains her approach: “I am a performer. We all are. I grew up admiring the showman. [But] existing as a Latin X lead on a network television show is a rarity. That is what I love about being in 2018…tbe able to play woman who is ignited….who is a fighter” Julie Prec, who serves as one of the show runners talks about filming the show in the desert near Santa Fe: “The elements in general are so unpredictable. We sometimes can’t get the lights higher than 10 feet because of the wind.”

Flack [Pop] This new series from the cable label that brought viewers “Schitt’s Creek” examines the publicity side of the business. Anna Paquin plays Robyn who runs a PR crisis management firm who has trouble maintaining sanity in her personal life. Paquin explains: “Was it complicated? The only major rewrites happen around location.” But in a more production based tone as she developed this with her husband Stephen Moyer as well: “Speaking for myself, we are not really looking for a specific genre or medium but [instead what] connects and is smart. The big lesson is that you really need to believe in what you are doing because you will be doing it for a really long time.” Moyer jumps in on finding the right material: “[When it was] first brought it to us, it was set in England. You read so much stuff and the [good ones] are rare.” In terms of her acting which also includes Sophie Okonedo, Paquin explains her work: “I use the word ‘coven’ a lot. I mean that in the best possible way. [For me] there was a sisterhood [on set] that was inclusive and protective.”

By Tim Wassberg

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