TCA: Kiefer Sutherland back on TV; J.J. Abrams’ new series; FOX announcements

Sunday’s sessions of the Television Critics Association (TCA) 2012 Winter Press Tour are being presented by FOX Broadcasting. After one of its usual outstanding breakfast spreads (and the ever-popular mix of candy at the critics tables), FOX began its morning sessions, which provided a mix of television and even some movie news.

The first panel was for Touch, which marks Kiefer Sutherland’s return to television after eight seasons on 24. Naturally, the actor couldn’t escape questions about his signature role as Jack Bauer, as several reporters wondered if his new role in Touch — as a father desperately trying to break through to his son, who appears to be autistic but may rather have an almost supernatural ability to see the interconnections between people — is a lot more emotionally open of a character than 24‘s Bauer. While Sutherland admitted he appreciated the opportunity to play a new type of character, he also said, “The real choice to do [Touch] is not because I wanted to get away from 24.”

In fact, Sutherland won’t be away from 24 for long, as he told us that shooting on the 24 movie should begin in late April or early May.

After a special preview Jan. 25 at 9pm ET/PT, Touch makes its series premiere March 19.

Next up was Alcatraz, a new mystery drama series from executive producer J.J. Abrams, premiering Jan. 16 and starring Sam Neill, Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia (Lost). It’s about three investigators trying to solve the shocking reappearance of 302 of Alcatraz’s most notorious prisoners and guards, 50 years after they vanished.

Abrams had an interesting story about how he approached Garcia — with whom he had worked on Lost — to appear on this series. It turns out that Garcia’s girlfriend had been working on a book about the infamous prison herself at that time.

Although Abrams gushed that he loved serialized TV, he said that Alcatraz (like Touch) is not a serialized drama, and will focus on a criminal a week.

Obviously, Abrams’ producing/directing hand extends into feature films as well, and on stage after the panel, Abrams told a group of reporters that shooting of his latest high-profile theatrical film (the next Star Trek movie) begins this Thursday.

The final panel of the morning, before the Simpsons 500th episode-themed lunch (the 500th episode airs Feb. 19), was the anticipated executive session with entertainment president Kevin Reilly. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many solid answers on the fates of a few series. House, Terra Nova and Fringe were brought up, and while Reilly said no decisions had been made on any of them, he did sound hesitant even as he praised each of them ([Terra Nova] looked great; creatively, it was hunting,” for example). Regarding House, he did say, “Should this be the last season, it won’t be an unceremonious finish.” And Reilly sounded adamant that he would not want a House spinoff unless an “inspired” idea came about.

Reilly did have a definitive answer on one series: “We will not be making any more Allen Gregory‘s.” Reilly did say that FOX will be working with Jonah Hill on future projects.

In terms of new initiatives, Reilly announced the formation of a new unit to create alternative animated programming, which will air on FOX in a late-night block on Saturdays from 11pm-12:30am ET/PT. This block will feature four new animated series per season starting in January 2013. This sounds like a good idea given the success of Adult Swim, especially given Reilly’s point that Adult Swim was basically “built on the back of Fox Animation” (reruns of Family Guy, American Dad, Futurama).

Finally, for you Gleeks, Reilly confirmed that Glee‘s story arc this spring would have the seniors headed toward graduation, but that Ryan Murphy has a “cool” idea for including the graduates in the show next season that he wouldn’t go into (but he did say Lea Michele would continue to be involved with the show). There will also be no Glee spinoff series.


Photos: Frank Micelotta/FOX

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