Credit: FX

Press Tour Live-Blog: FX Executive Session with John Landgraf

'Terriers,' 'Lights Out' and More...

Usually FX panels for the Television Critics Associations are love-fests, but Saturday (January 15) morning's panel with FX President John Landgraf could take on a different tone, with the quick cancellation of "Terriers" and a disappointing premiere for "Lights Out."

Click through for the full discussion...

9:33 a.m. The first big piece of news is that FX is in negotiations with the team behind "The League" to return as showrunners for a possible third season which will be ordered when negotiations are concluded.

9:33 a.m. Landgraf admits that the ratings for "Lights Out" were disappointing, but he remains hopeful that the show will find an audience. As he would be.

9:34 a.m. "Wilfred" will be paired on Thursdays this summer with "Louie," which will move from 11 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for its second season.

9:36 a.m. Question time. The first questioner thanks John Landgraf for doing a cancellation conference call for "Terriers" and asks if he'll handle future cancellations in the same way. Landgraf says that he thought the fans of "Terriers" deserved a clear explanation and for reporters, as representatives of fans, to be able to question the decision. He doesn't know why other networks don't do the same thing. [Probably because they cancel more stuff and would spend their whole lives doing cancellation calls.] He says that he's been doing this long enough that he's confident enough to explain his decisions.

9:38 a.m. Why was the "Lights Out" launch so soft? "Maybe we should have made a show about a zombie or a sexy vampire who's trying to regain the heavyweight championship of the world," Landgraf says, almost ruefully. On a more serious note, he says that the marketplace was too full -- 52 original shows premiering in January and February on cable and networks, many new. "It's obviously an intensely crowded field." He says, Comparing it to the movie marketplace, he says, "It really doesn't matter if your movie's good." He specifically references "The Game," "Tosh.0" and "16 and Pregnant" for taking away different segments of the demo on the premiere night. He says the question isn't whether the shows are good, but whether they're the first choice of the marketplace.

9:42 a.m. Landgraf seems to suggest that under some circumstances, FX could consider moving a hit to 9 p.m. so that FX could have a better launching pad for future 10 p.m. dramas.

9:44 a.m. Did viewers confuse "Lights Out" with "The Fighter"? Landgraf says he'd have to do a lot of research into the disappoint of the premiere, the kind of research he did on "Terriers." He says, however, that he doesn't anticipate doing that sort of research into "Lights Out." He points out that there's never been a successful TV series about boxing and it might have been a bad thing that there's a successful boxing movie in theaters now.

9:46 a.m. Is FX getting different sorts of scripts, things that aren't being offers to any other network? Landgraf says that broadcast networks often get into bidding wars with other networks, but that FX is rarely bidding against Showtime and HBO and AMC. He cites "Dexter" and "Walking Dead" as shows on other networks that could have been hits on FX. He uses an amusing drug study reference to explain why viewers are more patient with shows on HBO or Showtime, something about how people get more satisfaction from things they pay more money for.

9:49 a.m. What's the most important trait for a network boss? Landgraf says it's a combination of toughness and compassion. Landgraf says that like TV critics, network chiefs get jaded. Viewers, he says, just want networks to come to them with something great.

9:50 a.m. What's happening with "Powers"? Landgraf is very excited about it, noting that adapting a graphic novel into a TV show is tough. He says "Powers" is a different show than "Walking Dead" and they're on their third writer. Naturally, the most recent writer is a "Walking Dead" alum.

9:52 a.m. "I think there's always been a disconnect, unfortunately, between audience interest and critical acclaim,"  Landgraf admits. He says that the problem is that we're rarely unanimous and that we rarely stand up on a table to declare our positions. He says that critics have taken "Mad Men" from "a dismal failure to ratings mediocrity." ZING! He tells us that viewers want something different more than they necessarily want something good.

9:54 a.m. Landgraf says that the network went 6-for-6 in terms of *good* shows, but that despite "Terriers" and "Lights Out," he's not discouraged. He promises the next batch of projects will include some big successes. "We don't win 'em all, but we've got a good batting average," Landgraf says.

9:55 a.m.  Landgraf likes "Wilfred." He praises its heart. I liked "Wilfred." On Twitter, I said it was "Fight Club" if Brad Pitt were a dude in a dog suit and Ed Norton were Frodo.

9:57 a.m. What did Landgraf think of the most recent "Sons of Anarchy" season? Well, he read Sepinwall and thought some of his criticisms were valid. He says the story was sprawling and that it played better the way he watched the show -- the way people watch shows on DVD -- some of the criticisms will be valid, but most won't. [Landgraf is wrong on this. I watched seven episodes in a weekend and the pacing wasn't improved in the slightest.] He calls "Sons" epic and says that it isn't a purely episodic show. He supports creator Kurt Sutter. He points out that the "Sons of Anarchy" audience was identical to last season. He says that "Sons" is a three-act structure and that we just finished Act I.

9:59 a.m. It's telling that we had almost no questions for Nina Tassler yesterday and we could probably talk to John Landgraf for another hour. Unfortunately, we're done...

On to Louis C.K...

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<p>Timothy Dalton and Zachary Levi of 'Chuck'</p>

Timothy Dalton and Zachary Levi of 'Chuck'

Credit: NBC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 55 with 'Chuck' creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak

Dan and Alan also talk press tour and review 'Big Love'



Happy Friday, Listeners!
As promised, it's a special bonus installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast. And it's a big one! In addition to catching up on several more days of Press Tour talk and reviewing the Season 5 premiere of HBO's "Big Love," we have an epic, awkward, sometimes hilarious conversation with good-natured "Chuck" creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak.
We continue to be having tech issues. On Monday, the podcast was too quiet. So we tinkered with this one and it's possible that I over-compensated and this version is too loud. There was some softness in the Schwartz/Fedak part and we wanted to make sure you could hear the conversation.
Hopefully, you'll be able to find the proper volume to enjoy this week's podcast...
Here's the breakdown...
Press Tour Rundown - 00:00:00 -  00:20:40 
A candid conversation with Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak - 00:20:40 - 01:09:20
A review of the "Big Love" S. 5 premiere - 01:09:45 - 01:21:10

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.]

And here's the podcast...


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<p>CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler</p>

CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler

Credit: CBS

Press Tour Live-Blog: CBS Executive Session with Nina Tassler

What will the president of TV's most-watch network say?

For reasons well-documented by Sepinwall, NBC couldn't/didn't trot out an executive to chat with the Television Critics Association on Thursday morning. But on Friday (Jan. 14), CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler was in the house to discuss the challenges of being TV's most-watched network.

Click through for all of the "We're No. 1" cheerleading...

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<p>Conan O'Brien</p>

Conan O'Brien

Credit: TBS

Press Tour: The TCA visits Conan O'Brien

TBS' new star talks beards, Leno and his past year
Skimming through the transcript for Conan O'Brien's Wednesday (Jan. 12) meeting with the Television Critics Association, the three-word phrase "the last year" was only used nine times, but it felt like a more pervasive theme.
However eventful your past year was, Conan O'Brien has you beat. 
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<p>FOX Entertainment President Kevin Reilly</p>

FOX Entertainment President Kevin Reilly

Credit: FOX

Press Tour Live-Blog: FOX Executive Session

Kevin Reilly and Peter Rice discuss The State of FOX

After a fun-filled 45 minutes with the "American Idol" team -- Short version: Nobody's worried about lame winners, losing Simon or drooping demo numbers -- it's time for the Big Bosses: Entertainment President Kevin Reilly and Chairman Peter Rick.

Click through for the fun...

11:13 a.m. I guess we're expecting lots of questions about "Glee," "Idol" and "Fringe," right? Stay tuned, if FOX can ever clear the post-"Idol" scrum.

11:21 a.m. Kevin Reilly says that FOX ended the fall "No.1 among girls 12-14 who like musicals." Heh.

11:21 a.m. Kevin Reilly says that "Lie to Me" may still be back in the fall, despite the lack of back-nine. And he says it won't be either "Chicago Code" or "Lie to Me."

11:24 a.m. Nobody is worried about "Big Bang Theory" going against "Idol" on Thursdays. They figure both shows will do their numbers.

11:24 a.m. "We made a show that we really loved," Peter Rice says of "Lone Star." He adds, "It's the reality of the business we're in. It's intensely competitive." He says, "The truth is, it failed. It failed to meet the expectations we had... I'd much prefer to fail with a show we're creatively proud of..." Reilly says that FOX does not, in fact, have a crystal ball on what will succeed and what will fail. A hit and a failure are only a few strands of DNA apart he says.

11:25 a.m. They had about six more "Lone Star" episodes in the can. "We still own them and we're looking for a place to... they may very well play," Reilly says. He says that the episodes were good and they very well may end airing.

11:26 a.m. "I appreciate the support in this room and I beg you to not write the eulogy prematurely," Reilly says of moving FOX to Friday. He promises that they're excited about "Fringe" and that "the work is outstanding" and "they make a mini-movie each week." He raves about the "Fringe" DVR numbers and says he wants fans to stick with it and "I'd be heartbroken if it went away." 

11:28 a.m. More "Lone Star" speculation. Rice jokes that the best time and place to launch "Lone Star" would apparently have been anywhere other than where they did. Rice says they haven't learned any hard-and-fast rules or secrets for launching shows. "It was clearly not right, because it failed," Rice says of the "Lone Star" launch.

11:30 a.m. Peter Rice swears that "Terra Nova" is on-budget, that there have been no cost-overruns. Both execs are impressed with what they've seen. We're going to see a three-minute clip later today. Rice acknowledges, though, that "Terra Nova" is expensive, which is why they went straight to a 13-episode order, rather than shooting a pilot first. They're creating a world, but Reilly raves at the look achieved in Australia.

11:32 a.m. Reilly swears that if you looked at the cost of the "Terra Nova," it wouldn't be that much higher than other big pilots, though he admits that start-up costs were high. "It's the most expensive first year show that we've had, but it's not the most expensive show we have on our air," Rice says. Rice compares the pilot to "Deadwood," in the sense of having to create a world that doesn't exist, to explain the straight-to-series approach.

11:35 a.m. "It was a real bummer," Reilly says of seeing the initial ratings for "Lone Star." He tries to remind us that FOX has often struggled in the fall.

11:37 a.m. Rice and Reilly try desperately to reassure us that our reviews AREN'T meaningless. Awwwww. Thanks guys! 

11:37 a.m. We go back and forth on whether Peter Rice can convince us he actually watches TV. Today he's doing a better job.

11:37 a.m. Reilly's fine with our reviews, but he wants to make it clear that there's lots of good programming on networks, not just cable.

11:38 a.m. "We're going to do the same show," Reilly says of "Fringe." He says that if "Fringe" does Thursday numbers on Friday, it'll be a huge upgrade. He sounds OK with the idea that the show isn't welcoming to new viewers and that it could just play to its devoted fans.

11:40 a.m. Bizarre question suggests that critics hated "Human Target" when it premiered and that now we love it and that the show has gotten better and better. This is both factually inaccurate regarding the show's reviews and probably subjectively inaccurate regarding how fans have responded to the new season.

11:41 a.m. "I think I watered down Mitch's vision... No. Not really. That would have been an honest answer, though, wouldn't it?" Reilly says, kidding about both what went wrong with "Running Wilde" and Mitch Hurwitz's public comments about FOX watering down the vision. Reilly says the show found itself eventually but, "too little too late."

11:41 a.m. Rice isn't worried about singing competition saturation, at least not how it will impact "American Idol" and "X-Factor," reminding us that "X-Factor" is very different from "Idol."

11:44 a.m. Show's age-up. Reilly isn't worried that "American Idol" is getting older. He swears kids are still out there and they still like network television.

11:45 a.m. "It'll just make 'Glee' look that much better, most likely," Reilly says of the impact of any attempts by other networks to replicate "Glee." "I think it's always tough to chase something that's hot," Reilly says. He adds, "Are they stupid? Some of them are." It's a joke. Kinda.

11:47 a.m. FOX has "X-Factor" and "Terra Nova" already in place for the fall, so that's giving the network more focus as they approach development season. Rice agrees that "focus" is the right word. Both men say that revitalizing comedy on FOX is a primary goal. They say, however, that they aren't necessarily going to be ordering fewer pilots.

11:49 a.m. "I'd anticipate they're both going to be back," Reilly says of "House" and "Bones." He says, "We want them both."

11:49 a.m. "It's really cool," Reilly says of "Locke & Key." He praises the underlying vision of both the underlying property and of Josh Friedman's adaptation. "We like the idea of doing something scary right now." No matter what some people have reported, they've only ordered a pilot. They're no longer thinking of "Locke & Key" for the summer.

11:52 a.m. Reilly expects their first comedy pilot pick-up to be for a multi-camera sitcom. So no, multi-cams aren't dead on FOX. WHEW. Or something. "The form is unique to television and we love it," Reilly swears.

That's all, kids...

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<p>Ryan Seacrest and the 'American Idol' judges</p>

Ryan Seacrest and the 'American Idol' judges

Credit: FOX

Press Tour Live-Blog: Meet the new 'American Idol' team

What do Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and the rest have to say

FOX's press day started with a panel for the fine new Shawn Ryan drama "Chicago Code," but things are shifting into high gear first with the "American Idol" panel and then with FOX's executive session. I'll live-blog both... Click through...

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<p>Caroline Dhavernas of 'Off the Map'</p>

Caroline Dhavernas of 'Off the Map'

Credit: ABC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 54

Dan and Alan talk 'Lights Out,' 'Off the Map,' 'Harry's Law' and Press Tour



Happy Monday, Boys & Girls. It's Firewall & Iceberg Podcast time, now with Alan and Dan in the same room!
Alan is in Los Angeles for the Television Critics Association press tour, so that's the first order of business, followed by reviews of "Off the Map," "Lights Out" and "Harry's Law."
Here's the breakdown:
Press Tour - 00:00:00 - 00:21:10
"Off the Map" - 00:25:40 - 00:35:50
"Lights Out" - 00:36:00 - 00:50:05
"Harry's Law" - 0051:20 - 01:01:30

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.]

And here's the podcast...


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<p>ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee</p>

ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee

Credit: ABC

Press Tour Live-Blog: ABC Executive Session with Paul Lee

Renewals! "Wicked"! Who knows what will come up?

ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee will be chatting with the Television Critics Association press tour on Monday (Jan. 10) morning. Click through for a live-blog of the proceedings...

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<p>David Lyons of 'The Cape'</p>

David Lyons of 'The Cape'

Credit: NBC

TV Review: NBC's 'The Cape'

A bland lead performance by David Lyons is just part of the problem

We like to rub this in, but NBC is in the midst of an impressive string of failure. While a few of the network's fall shows got full-season orders, they were almost pity pick-ups. There's no way to spin the numbers for "Chase" or "The Event" as "successful," even if they'll both return in the spring. The network is practically rolling out an entirely new schedule in the spring, complete with a slew of new shows, none of which feel like inevitable hits to me.

But not all failures are created equal. 
As much as I dislike "The Event," I can see why the gamble was worth the effort. I can't say as much for "Outlaw" or for "Chase" or for the upcoming "Harry's Law," all shows that were built from a desire to work with a powerful producer or a powerful leading man and all of which arrived half-baked (I've heard "Chase" got better, but I stopped after two episodes). 
There are noble failures and ignoble failures.
I'm inclined to view "The Cape" as a failure, but it's the kind of failure that feels worth the effort to me. There's a passion to the story that series creator Tom Wheeler is trying to tell and there are fits of whimsy and inspiration that pop up all too sporadically through the two hours that premiere on Sunday (Jan. 9) night. 
As a whole? "The Cape" didn't work for me. I couldn't get past a bland central performance and a slew of tonal inconsistencies that undermined intended earnestness with unintentional comedy.
More on "The Cape" after the break...
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<p>The stars of FOX's 'Bob's Burgers'</p>

The stars of FOX's 'Bob's Burgers'

Credit: FOX

Watch: A long, strange interview with the stars of FOX's 'Bob's Burgers'

A not-safe-for-work chat with Eugene Mirman, John Roberts and Kristen Schaal
[WARNING: This video will not be suitable or funny for all viewers.]
FOX premieres "Bob's Burgers"  at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday (Jan. 9), the rare Seth MacFarlane-free addition to the network's Animation Domination lineup.
I liked the pilot for the comedy, which comes from Loren Bouchard ("Home Movies"), but I've struggled to find a way to explain my amusement in review-form. 
For now, this video will have to suffice.
It's an interview I did with "Bob's Burgers" vocal stars Eugene Mirman, John Roberts and Kristen Schaal at a FOX interview day back in September. Calling it an "interview," though, may not be exactly right. Basically, I walked into a room and sat down opposite Mirman, Roberts and Schaal and held on for dear life. They sang, did impressions and went to some utterly absurd comedic places. Occasionally I asked questions, but that was less about establishing a line of inquiry and more about pushing and instigating their material.
Attempting to edit this video down would be pointless. There's no real beginning. There's no real end. And I'm not sure how many "answers" there are. But large chunks of it are hilarious. Or bizarre. Or... something.
As it says above, this not quite safe for family or workplace viewing. 
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