Monday was NBCUniversal cable day at the Television Critics Association 2014 Summer Press Tour, with panels for shows from USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen, Esquire Network and more.
Kicking off the day was USA Network’s DaVinci Code-like new limited series DIG, starring Jason Isaacs and Anne Heche. Described as a murder mystery set in the realm of biblical prophecies, DIG is in production in Jerusalem. Recent violence in the Holy Land may impact production of both DIG and FX’s Tyrant, but producers were still trying to assess the situation. We talked with Isaacs, who reveled in the opportunity to film in these ancient, sacred places, and it improved the realism of the performance. It also led to more aches and pains than usual in filming action sequences, as they were shot among huge stone walls and structures, not Hollywood facades and set pieces.
Up next, Todd Chrisley and family were talking about USA’s Chrisley Knows Best (for much more about the Chrisleys, read the stories by our resident Chrisley biographer, Kellie Freeze). Chrisley was asked about difficult topics like his bankruptcy, his previous marriage and rumors about his sexuality. He was forthright on all, but gave us all a nice quote to play with when he said, “Today I’m not gay.”
Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s The Profit discussed his business practices and tips on pitching ideas to him. Lemonis gets almost 1,000 pitch e-mails a day, and has learned to quickly sort the contenders from the pretenders. He doesn’t like pitches that sound desperate, and if you’re going to pitch, be sure you’ve got all your data and details of your business plan together before sending it to him.
The Sunday Night Football broadcast team of Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya were present to hype the show and the NFL season, neither of which really need any additional hype. We asked Tafoya what she thought of the breaking news that Erin Andrews would replace Pam Oliver as sideline reporter on FOX’s No. 1 broadcast team. Tafoya said that while she has nothing but respect for Oliver, she also understands how the business works and that a network has to do what it thinks is best.
Meredith Vieira discussed her forthcoming syndicated daytime talker The Meredith Vieira Show, which strives to be authentically Meredith as possible. There’s a chair from her home (wrecked by her cat) on the set and other new chairs that were intentionally wrecked to match it. There will even be a dog on the set, though her own dog didn’t get the gig because, Vieira says, it attempted to bite a cameraman in the testicles.
The highest of the high-end realtors from Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing discussed their business, and what it’s like dealing with 10 acres in Bel Air that sell for $150 million. The average sale on a Million Dollar Listing home is $4.7 million. In addition to the announcement of a Season 4, MDL will expand with a San Francisco edition.
Bravo’s first unscripted series, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, provided one of the funniest panels, with Marti Noxon revealing several of her own embarrassments that inspired some of Girlfriends‘ story lines.
— Ryan Berenz (@ChannelGuideRAB) July 14, 2014
We got a really beautiful performance of “Roar” by Deitrick Haddon of Oxygen’s Preachers of L.A., Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child/Fix My Choir and the Hermosa Beach Gospel Choir, followed by a panel discussion that included the mind-blowing revelation that Bishop Noel Jones is brother of actress/singer Grace Jones.
— Will Harris (@NonStopPop) July 14, 2014
Esquire Network presented for My Friends Call Me Johnny, an interview series following Jean “Johnny” Pigozzi, a very intimidating-looking fellow who has made a name by hanging out with the rich, famous and interesting, and photographing them. He is believed to have invented the selfie. So you can hold that against him.
Syfy was next with its 2015 limited series Ascension, starring Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) in her return to Syfy. The premise of Ascension: A spacecraft with 600 people aboard was launched by order of President Kennedy in 1963 to preserve humankind in case we destroyed ourselves. We catch up with the people on the craft halfway through their 100-year journey to the planet Proxima, when there’s a murder on the ship that throws the very regulated society onboard into chaos.
Syfy is also adapting 12 Monkeys for a series, reworking some the characters and elements from the 1995 Bruce Willis/Brad Pitt movie from director Terry Gilliam. (Brad Pitt’s character from the movie will be a female in the series.) Producers said they spent hours writing and erasing on a whiteboard agonizing over all the paradoxes of time travel in the story.
And then, the moment that we’ve all been waiting for: Sharknado 2: The Second One! We were treated to a pool party and big-screen sneak preview of the Sharknado sequel, complete with cast members Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox and others. Loaded with a bunch of strange cameos and guest appearances, I initially thought the film was trying too hard to capture the lightning in the bottle of the first film. Sharknado 2 revels in its ridiculousness even more than the first film, but as the The Second One progressed and the action got more intense and weird, I couldn’t help but laugh and cheer and get swept up in it. It will premiere on Syfy July 30.
"#Sharknado2 is a triumph! The feel-good movie of the summer!" – Ryan Berenz, Channel Guide Magazine
— Ryan Berenz (@ChannelGuideRAB) July 15, 2014
Ziering told reporters that he only took the part in the first movie because he needed insurance money. When Sharknado went viral, hundreds of people were calling and texting, telling him “It’s huge!” He was like, “What is?”
Photo: Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC