PASADENA, CALIF. “Thank you for being here,” said actor Boyd Holbrook as I walked past him at a cocktail reception, having just buttonholed Emmy-winning TV producer Graham Yost to say hello, one Toronto native to another.
It was a sentiment repeated often during the week I spent earlier this month at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, most often from the stage of the Langham Huntington hotel ballroom where actors, producers, directors and writers (and one chihuahua, “Betty” of ABC’s “Will Trent”) answered TCA members’ questions about their latest projects. (Holbrook and Yost were there to talk about “Justified: City Primeval,” coming to FX this summer.)
Truth be told, I was the one who felt grateful.
In January 2020, I attended my first TCA press tour and revelled in spending entire days listening to people talk about television. I left looking forward to the next one in the summer and then, well, you know …
Three years later, at the first in-person tour since the pandemic, some things had changed — proof of COVID-19 vaccines was required, masks had to be worn in the ballroom, some networks and streamers were absent, and the informal, up-close, post-panel Q&As known as scrums were abandoned — but it was no less enthralling to be among people as fixated on TV as I am.
Over 10 days, six of which I was able to attend, there were presentations about more than 70 programs, some new, some returning. Based on first impressions of the ones I had time to watch, I have singled out 10 new shows I think are worth a look. Note: this is not a comprehensive list nor are these reviews.
In this comedy-drama series, Billy Crudup (“The Morning Show”) stars as a salesman hawking time-shares on the moon in a futuristic version of the 1950s. Lucas Jansen, who created the show with Amit Bhalla, said it has something to say “about the psychic realities of capitalism.” It co-stars Hank Azaria, Haneefah Wood, and Canadians Dewshane Williams and Alison Pill. Crudup’s character Jack, he said, is selling hope. “And he wants to have people imagine a world that’s better.” Feb. 17, Apple TV Plus
Following his stellar performance in the final season of “Better Call Saul,” Bob Odenkirk returns to series TV as Hank Devereaux, a disenchanted English professor in a middling Pennsylvania college. Mireille Enos (“The Killing,” “Big Love”) co-stars as his school vice-principal wife, Lily. The series, based on Pulitzer-winning novel “Straight Man,” was created by Paul Lieberstein (“The Office”) and Aaron Zelman (“Bloodline”). Odenkirk said he likes Hank — “as crabby as he is” — because he isn’t as alone as Saul. “He may think he’s unlucky, but the more you watch it the more you think, wow, you got lucky, man.” March 19, AMC and AMC Plus
In this “paranoid thriller” from “This Is Us” producers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Canadian Kiefer Sutherland (“24,” “Designated Survivor”) plays John Weir, a corporate espionage operative who becomes a victim of the manipulation at which he’s so skilled when he’s framed for murder. Rob Yang and Meta Golding co-star in the Toronto-shot show. “To be able to play the character that was using (misinformation and technology) to manipulate other people and have it finally be turned on him, you can’t ask for more as an actor,” Sutherland said. March 26, Paramount Plus
Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies
In this musical series set four years before the events of the 1978 movie “Grease,” four young outcasts at a Southern California high school band together to create a girl gang. The Vancouver-shot show was created by Annabel Oakes (“Minx,” “Atypical”) and stars Marisa Davila, Cheyenne Isabel Wells, Ari Notartomaso and Tricia Fukuhara. Notartomaso, who like her character Cynthia is gay, called the show “a love letter to all the people who were not given screen time in the 1950s.” April 6, Paramount Plus
Tiny Beautiful Things
This comedy drama from Liz Tigelaar (“Little Fires Everywhere”), executive-produced by Reese Witherspoon, is based on the book of essays by Cheryl Strayed (“Wild”) about her “Dear Sugar” advice column. Kathryn Hahn (“WandaVision,” “Transparent”) is Strayed stand-in Clare, a wife and mother whose own life is falling apart when she agrees to take on the column. “I am a huge fan of anything that is not strictly, you know, good, bad, this, that; that takes into account the complexity that we all are as human beings and that finds compassion in that,” Hahn said about why she took the role. April 7, Disney Plus
This docuseries from Emmy-nominated director Allen Hughes (“The Defiant Ones”) is about both late, legendary hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur and his mother, former Black Panther activist Afeni Shakur. It weaves together their stories with archival footage, music, lyrics, poetry and fresh interviews. Jamal Joseph, a Black Panther veteran who executive-produced the series, said the aim was to “get a sense that you’re talking to people who are saying how they really felt at the moment, and their sense of how Tupac and Afeni really felt at those moments.” April 21, FX
There are two timelines in this show from Leila Gerstein (“Hart of Dixie”) based on the bestselling book of the same name: the one in which a teenage girl is found dead during a Caribbean family vacation and the one in which her now adult younger sister, played by Alycia Debnam-Carey of “Fear the Walking Dead,” revisits what she believes to be her sister’s murder. Gerstein said both the book and show do “a really incredible job of talking about culture’s obsession with dead white girls, but also the complicated nature of going on vacation and being a tourist in another country,” and the exploitation that results from that. April 26, Disney Plus
The 1749 novel about the (sometimes randy) adventures of foundling Tom Jones (Solly McLeod, “House of the Dragon”) gets an adaptation for “Masterpiece” from Gwyneth Hughes (“Vanity Fair”): a “more female” take with some updates. Love interest Sophia Western (Sophia Wilde) is now a Black woman, the daughter of a Jamaican slave and an English plantation owner. Other cast members include vets Alun Armstrong, James Fleet, Shirley Henderson and Hannah Waddingham of “Ted Lasso.” “It’s a show with a big smile on its face,” said executive producer James Gandhi. “We want everyone to come away feeling happy and joyous.” April 30, PBS
A Small Light
This period miniseries from Tony Phelan and Joan Rater (“Grey’s Anatomy”) focuses on Miep Gies, the Austrian-born Dutch woman who helped hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis during the Second World War. Bel Powley, who plays Miep opposite Liev Schreiber as Otto Frank and Joe Cole as Miep’s husband, Jan, said she related to Miep as “an ordinary person who ended up doing an extraordinary thing. I found her character incredibly relatable just as a young woman … she was a frivolous, fiercely independent young woman.” Spring, National Geographic and Disney Plus
Justified: City Primeval
More than eight years after we last saw him, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) will return to screens in this adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel “City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit.” Raylan’s foe this time around is psychopath Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook, “The Sandman”). Olyphant’s real-life daughter, Vivian, co-stars as Raylan’s daughter, Willa, alongside Aunjanue Ellis, Adelaide Clemens and Vondie Curtis-Hall. Also returning is original series creator Graham Yost as an executive producer. “I thought as long as we were still in the Elmore Leonard world and the Graham Yost world … I just thought I’d love to be there for it,” Timothy Olyphant said about returning to the character. Summer, FX
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