Unlike the summer, when bi-annual The Television Critics Association Press Tour focuses on the barrage of new network series (not to mention cable, digital and PBS), we attend The Winter Tour in Pasadena, California already knowing which platforms and shows are hot… and not. So, the moral of the story is to take everything you hear with that proverbial "grain of salt." Most new shows in today’s environment of "Peak TV" face an uphill battle.
If you happen to be a fan of long-running Showtime drama "Shameless," let me begin with some good news. Despite the pending departure of Emmy Rossum as Gallagher sibling (and surrogate mother) Fiona, "Shameless" will return for a 10th season. Comparably, this is the longest running scripted drama on cable in television history, and the new season will feature the return of Cameron Monaghan as long-suffering Gallagher son Ian.
In 2011 when "Shameless" began - a time when the subject of homosexuality was still a bit taboo - the character of Ian broke barriers, as did Showtime 2004-09 drama "The L Word." That groundbreaker will be revived in an eight-episode continuation, featuring original stars Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig and Leisha Hailey in a late 2019 entry.
Also returning is Netflix comedy "Fuller House," the continuation of "Full House," which will be featured in a final fifth season. Combined with the parent series, the fictional Tanners will close at 13 seasons. You got it dude! If history repeats itself (and I predict it will), TV’s most vanilla family will probably be back in a similar format when the Tanner grandkids are adults. All together now… Oh Mylanta!
The CW, meanwhile, has announced the early renewals of 10 scripted dramas for 2019-20… deep breath… "Arrow," "Black Lightning," "D.C.’s Legends of Tomorrow," "Dynasty," "The Flash," "Riverdale," "Supergirl," "Supernatural," and freshman entries "Charmed" and "Legacies."
Over at ABC, "Modern Family" will officially conclude in the spring of 2020 after 11 seasons. Also officially picked up for next season are dramas "The Good Doctor" and "A Million Little Things" and veteran "Shark Tank." But the planned reboot of classic sitcom "Bewitched" has been pushed back and will not be in contention for next season.
Elsewhere, animated Fox granddaddy "The Simpsons," the longest running scripted series in the history of television, has been renewed for seasons 31 and 32 (taking it through at least spring 2021). PBS has confirmed a second season of "No Passport Required," hosted and executive produced by chef Marcus Samuelsson. Once again, Samuelsson will explore six different American cities, visiting with both professional chefs and home cooks. NBC has green-lit medical drama "New Amsterdam" for season two. Freeform is bringing back "Black-ish" spin-off "Grown-ish" for season three and drama "Good Trouble" for season two. And, midway through its first season, CBS is already prepping a potential spin-off from drama "FBI" called "FBI’s Most Wanted," which is centered around the division of the FBI tasked with tracking and capturing the notorious criminals on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Given producer Dick Wolf’s track record (think the "Law & Order" and "Chicago"-set franchises), this won’t be the only hybrid from successfully generic "FBI." Trust me on that.
Also at CBS, network president Kelly Kahl hinted at… no surprise… a potential new spin-off from "The Big Bang Theory," which signs off after 12 seasons this May. "The ball is squarely in their court," said Kahl about production company Warner Bros. when asked about keeping the show alive in some format. "If they want to talk to us about it, we are here to listen."
Translation: CBS and Warner Bros. will absolutely find some format to spin-off with whatever actors want to continue.
Kahl also hinted at the return of "Murphy Brown," which did not exactly impress in this 13-episode reboot season. "Creator Diane English and Warner Bros came to us with a vision for the show," he said. "We were excited for the vision and put it on very true to what Diane wanted to do, and it remains in contention."
Recently, CBS announced renewals of four of its six new series from last fall: sitcom "The Neighborhood," dramas "God Friended Me" and aforementioned "FBI," and the reboot of "Magnum, P.I."
New series orders
Also new (and confirmed in this case) is Showtime drama "Your Honor," from "The Good Wife"/ "The Good Fight" creators Robert and Michelle King. The 10-episode legal thriller stars Bryan Cranston as a respected judge whose son is involved in a hit-and-run that leads to a high-stakes game of lies, deceit and impossible choices.
FX has ordered drama "Y," the television adaption of the post-apocalyptic science fiction comic book series "Y: The Last Man" headlined by Diane Lane. The series is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a cataclysmic event has decimated every male save for one lone human.
Freeform is moving forward on the reboot of serialized family drama "Party of Five," which originally aired on Fox from 1994 to 2000. In this new version from the original creators, Amy Lippman and Chris Keyser, the series will follow the five Acosta children as they navigate daily life struggles to survive as a family unit after their parents are suddenly deported to Mexico.
In the not returning department is Netflix drama "Travelers," headlined by Eric McCormack, which had a relatively quiet three season run. But don’t worry about McCormack. His other show, NBC’s "Will & Grace," has already been confirmed to return next season (despite its waning performance in the traditional Nielsen ratings this season). Be honest… are you really watching this?
One upcoming drama I am optimistic about is an entry on Pop called "Flack." Pop, mind you, is a small cable network where even its biggest show, "Schitt’s Creek," does not exactly get much of an audience. But the Eugene and Daniel Levi comedy has warranted critical acclaim, and what I find interesting about "Flack" is Oscar winner Anna Paquin as a publicity maven in a business that can be, well, pretty damn dirty.
Another interesting show panel at the Winter Tour in a three-hour mini-seriees on PBS’ MASTERPIECE called "Mrs. Wilson." Fresh off Showtime’s "The Affair," Wilson stars as her grandmother Alison, who in later life realizes her husband Alec had at least four different families during their marriage.
"It’s been an amazing, profound experience and a very difficult, in many ways, experience and something very hard to play," said Ruth Wilson. "But an amazing privilege to step inside my grandmother’s shoes and tell this story for the family."
"There were weird moments as well, like giving birth to my dad and kissing my granddad, which was really bizarre," she joked. "I thought what is this? I need to get to therapy now. This is going to really mess with anyone who watches it in my family."
Then there is upcoming FX drama "Fosse/Verdon" from Ryan Murphy, which recounts the romantic and creative partnership between Broadway legends Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). Like Murphy’s "Feud: Bette and Joan" before it, which followed the combative collaboration between actress Bette Davis and Joan Crawford" in theatrical "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?,"
"Fosse/Verdon" is fraught with blunt writing, exceptional performances and a production value that takes you back to those early days of The Great White Way.
"Bob Fosse is a very complex guy," said Oscar-winning actor Sam Rockwell, who plays Bob Fosse. "I think he was a very kind man; a very charming man, but I think there was an addictive thing with him. And Gwen Verdon was obviously his muse."
I also enjoyed the two-episode preview of "What We Do in the Shadows" on FX, an adaptation of the documentary of the same name set in Staten Island, New York that follows three kooky vampires that have been roommates for hundreds of years. Since the topic of vampires always seems to resonate, I am willing to bet this silly nonsense will keep you coming back for more.
Since The Winter Press is actually 15 days in length, look for a part two review in the next column.