American television networks often stand accused of producing cookie-cutter content, but their deliveries and marketing strategies couldn't be more diverse.
That's one of the lessons learned during the network portion of the continuing Television Critics Association summer press tour, in which diversity coincidentally remains a hot topic.
The one network being praised for bringing people of colour to screens – kicked off its day with the offensively titled Black-ish. However, when star Anthony Anderson began riffing about owning the rights to the first ever bro-mitzvah and Laurence Fishburne answered questions in a high-pitched cartoon character voice, the room was charmed enough to look up from their laptops.
The tone quickly changed when the network tasked Viola Davis with teaching critics How to Get Away With Murder. ABC suffered some wrath from the show's other stars when the network forgot to bring in tall chairs for the stage's back row, hiding the supporting cast from view. That was nothing compared to the reaction from show creator Shonda Rhimes, who recoiled when one older gentleman asked her if the role was in any way autobiographical, even though she revealed someone else wrote the script.
"I don't know whether to be insulted," she shot back, assuming he asked because the leading lady is also black.
She wasn't the only one who didn't take too kindly to critics questioning the onslaught of new fall programming. Selfie's Emily Kapnek sarcastically pontificated on her love of vomit when asked why she showed a character losing her lunch in the pilot. Thankfully, star John Cho lightened the mood when he revealed his social media presence is limited to Twitter and Grindr. A few of the mic runners, in jackets and ABC/Disney-inspired white gloves reminiscent of Mickey Mouse, were so caught up with his charm they forgot to look around the room for the next question.
During CBS's portion of the tour another writer put himself in the grinder when he lost his temper with critics. Kevin Williamson, of Scream and The Following fame, hit the stage alongside Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott for Stalker, a show in which a woman is burned alive within the first three minutes. At first the writer attempted to defend the show, explaining that the violence in that scene was perhaps a flashy attempt at getting picked up, and that we've all "stalked someone at one time." But when the violence against women issue became a recurring theme, Williamson finally shrugged his shoulders and offered a simple, "change the channel," instead of an actual answer.
The following day he hit back at critics on Twitter, calling one reporter an "idiot," and a "loser," as well as telling him he needed a job throughout several posts.
TCA Awards and festivities
Perhaps Williamson was still annoyed at his shows' lack of recognition at the 30th TCA Awards on Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Terry Crews, a.k.a. Idiocracy's President Camacho and Brooklyn Nine-Nine's sergeant, hosted the awards and spoke to every critic's inner child when he and surprise guest star Miss Piggy sang a steamy duet to kick off the night. Matthew McConaughey, who won some hardware for his role in True Detective, also graced the stage during the non-televised event, as did fellow winners Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and James Burrows. Surprisingly, reality winner RuPaul opted not to attend the festivities, saying "hiiiiiiiiiii" via a taped message instead.
Few guests stuck around for postshow drinks and dessert, but critics occupied themselves by posing for plenty of pictures in their cocktail finest until a citywide power outage sent those who weren't stuck in the elevator to the hotel's basement bar, Trader Vic's, instead.
The party was better attended than ABC's attempts at a "showrunner" soiree, which was thrown on the hotel's rooftop. Critics grumbled that the network wasn't bringing any onscreen talent for them to interview, and balked when they were told some producers, such as Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth, doubled as talent.
The night stood in stark contrast to Fox's. The "fun" network blared Top 20 hits in between the day's panels and kept a candy bar fully stocked in the back, before shuttling critics to West Hollywood's exclusive SoHo House in the evening.
There, reporters noshed on fried chicken and kale salad alongside such stars as Ben McKenzie, David Boreanaz and Charlie Hunnam, who finally spoke out about his Fifty Shades of Grey exit, noting the reported scheduling conflict story was an accurate one.
The highest-rated network also took the consensus award for best soiree. CBS's annual all-stars party, this year held at the Pacific Design Center, boasted talent from Showtime, The CW and CBS. Liev Schreiber was there, if only to tell hopeful journalists that he didn't want to be bothered with a tape recorder in his face. Canadians Matthew Perry and Will Arnett were slightly more gracious, as was Matt LeBlanc, who stayed until the end of the night, chain-smoking and drinking with critics alongside the food trucks lined up for the event. Surprisingly, no one actually stopped to ask him, "How you doin'?"
The TCA press tour continues this week.