TCA: Amazon Rides High With New and Returning Series

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A Man, a Plan ... a Canal Golden Globe winner Gael Garcia Bernal returns in <Mozart in the Jungle.

After a boozy night of TCA Awards, the Television Critics Association convened in The Beverly Hilton ballroom for much coffee and a jolt of Amazon.

Amazon Studios head Roy Price asks, “What are you gonna watch — when you want to watch it — this fall?”

The network is riding high on back-to-back Golden Globe wins for comedies Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, preschool series, TumbleLeaf continues to be lauded with industry awards. Red Oaks and The Man in the High Castle also return with new seasons.

Joe Lewis, Amazon’s Head of Half Hours, calls fall 2016 the streaming network’s “Riskiest, most artistic and funniest” season ever. This fall, it will premiere original comedies One Mississippi, Fleabag and Woody Allen’s highly anticipated project — Crisis in Six Scenes; and new dramas Good Girls Revolt and Goliath. The wealth of new programming bowing within the same timeframe is starting to make Amazon feel like a traditional network.

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John Rothman and Tig Notaro star in the Amazon original, One Mississippi Amazon

One Mississippi — premieres Sept. 9
In the traumedy — love the portmanteau — comedian Tig Notaro moves from L.A. and returns to her Mississippi hometown as her mother lay dying. The series explores complicated family relationships and how they change when the foundation is rocked.

Notaro explains the series comes from an intense period from her own life. “My mother died, I had cancer, I had an intestinal disease and couldn’t eat and experienced a breakup … and also had pneumonia.” The pilot captures all of that, but overlaps the trauma, instead of the real-life span of four months.

Notaro admits that the premise is heavy, but says, “The humor comes in the real moments.” If you’re a fan of Amazon’s Transparent, you’ll find a nice companion in this new series.

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Falling for Season 3 of Mozart in the Jungle is like riding a bike. Amazon

Mozart in the Jungle  — Season 3 returns Dec. 9
Ciao Italia! This season, production moves to Venice, Italy where Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) is conducting an opera. The cast and crew shared challenges and delights of working in the ancient, canaled city.

Saffron Burrows reveals that this season, Cynthia starts the season in a lonely position and is still feeling the effects of last year’s strike and lockout. She teases that she gets to play “rock Cello” and spent a three-day train trip across the U.S. playing the same guitar piece, over and over — driving her travelling companions mad. “I love the musical challenges,” she admits.

“It was incredible,” Bernal says of working with Plácido Domingo. Bernal reveals that he once mentioned in an interview, that he’d like to work with Domingo, and considers the it an honor to share time with the singing legend. He also gushes, “Plácido Domingo is a fantastic actor; he was incredible!” and notes that Domingo was able to improvise scenes in Spanish, English and Italian.

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Jennifer Grey, Craig Roberts and Richard Kind in Red Oaks Amazon

Red Oaks — Season 2 returns Nov. 11
Next, we took a time warp to 1986 where we put on our tennis whites and hit a few balls with the members and staffers of Red Oaks Country Club.

The cast was asked about Season 1’s memorable “Bodyswap” episode, where David (Craig Roberts) swapped bodies a-la Freaky Friday with his father (Richard Kind).

“I had a bad back” Roberts joked after mimicking Kind’s mannerisms. Kind teased “My mouth hurt,” from channeling Roberts’ more subdued mannerisms. The cast reveals that the premise of that memorable episode came from producer Steven Soderbergh.

This season, the show will have a fun roadtrip episode, and Paul Riser says it felt like the “Deck has been shuffled,” and he gets to work with different scene partners. The actor, also calls working on series to “going to summer camp,” because the work order is less than network and he’s simply acting, instead of writing and producing.

Despite the show taking place in and around a country club, the cast reveals that they still stink at playing tennis.

The show is a blend of Caddyshack meets The Graduate, which is a good thing.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge is Fleabag

Fleabag — premiering Sept 16
Today’s most curiously titled series, Fleabag, comes from playright Phoebe Waller-Bridge and is based on her award-winning one-woman show of the same name.

“In the play, I play all of the characters,” shares Waller-Bridge, so populating Fleabag’s world with other actors, “was a relief but also an umbilical cord” that had to be cut.

In the series’ six episodes, Fleabag addresses the camera directly. “I wanted to play with the idea of complicity and keeping connected to Fleabag,” Waller-Bridge says. She wanted to give her character control in being able to address the camera directly. Even as her character falls apart emotionally, she still uses direct address as a confessional. As the drama of the character escalates, she becomes less and less inclined to address the camera, but the camera stays a constant — although unwanted — presence.

Harry Bradbeer directed all six episodes and was delighted that his star wrote all six episodes. He notes that it allowed the filming process to move quickly because rewrites could be done on the fly.

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In Season 3 of Transparent, Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) considers surgery. Amazon

Transparent — Season 3 premieres Sept. 23
The third season of Amazon’s Peabody, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning dark comedy arrives with the Pfefferman family at a critical moment of self-discovery. Most notably, Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) considers taking her transition to the next stage with cosmetic and gender confirmation surgery. “Stay tuned,” teases Tambor.

Series creator and executive producer Jill Soloway, who based the series on her own parent’s transition was on a much-needed vacation, but series writer Our Lady J descries the theme of the season as “come out of your shell.” The scene will include flashbacks to Maura’s life in the 1958’s as an early teen when she struggled as a young transgender person.

Tambor revealed that at the beginning of each season, “I always have a little trepidation of ‘do it right, this is more than you.’ But I’m honored by that.” The actor reveals, “I have more confidence this year. I was in Germany and London doing films, and people were coming up and talking about Transparent.” The knowledge that the show is starting a conversation and raising consciousness worldwide gives the actor that confidence.

After living in Maura’s world for 2 years, Tambor reveals, “I like Maura a lot, she’s very real to me. She instructs me.” I’m very grateful. I met Jill 4 years ago, and she changed my life.” At the end of the day, I take off my costume … but I never take off Maura.” And playing the groundbreaking role has changed him as a human, “She has made me a better person, a better parent, a better citizen. And she keeps teaching me.”

Transgender actress Alexandra Billings took a moment to applaud Tambor’s bravery and says that Tambor’s reach goes far beyond the screen. “He is affecting society in such away that it’s affecting the political climate.”

Tambor admits that playing a woman has made him aware of the cost of beauty that women pay. Judith Light shares that Tambor commiserates with the other women on the cast about the physical discomfort of womanhood.

Crisis in Six Scenes — premieres Sept. 30
Woody Allen makes his first foray into television playing a 1960’s version of a classic Woody Allen character whose life is flipped on its head by the arrival of free-spirit played by Miley Cyrus. We got a glimpse of two scenes form the series. Casting shocks: Allen as a jittery curmudgeon? Cyrus as a free spirit? Is this even acting?

Coming Soon to Amazon?
We also caught glimpses of three pilots that Amazon will premiere on Aug 19, where viewers can vote whether to make the pilots into series.
I Love Dick from Jill Solloway Kevin Bacon
Jean-Claude Van Johnston, staring Jean-Claude Van Damme
The Tick, starring Peter Serafinowicz

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A Nazi with a heart of Gold Rufus Sewell in The Man in the High Castle. Amazon

The Man in the High Castle — Season 2 premieres Dec. 16
After lunch, Morgan Wendel, head of Amazon Drama happily introduced “the most popular original show in Prime Video’s history.” The jaw-dropping series, that envisions an alternate history, where The Axis Powers were victorious in World War 2, and carved the United States into the Nazi-controlled United States of America and The Pacific States of America. The second season builds on the momentum of Season 1 and Wendel promises “romance, suspense and big surprises.”

In the second season, the show will still be able to draw upon Phillip K. Dick’s novel, and we will finally meet the man in the high castle, promises EP Isa Hackett.

The last scene of Season 1, brought us into our Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s character opened his eyes and saw himself in a world where the allies had been victorious in WWII. Tagawa reveals that Season 2 says that this realization of a different possibility will become a part of his character’s journey. “It wasn’t a dream,” says Hackett.

Rufus Sewell, says that when playing a Nazi, the trappings of the character are his least important part. “I have to constantly remind myself that he was a guy, and an American guy.” Since his character didn’t appear in Dick’s novel, Sewell immersed himself in reading German history to understand how former Nazi’s rationalized their decisions.

“Joel de la Fuente noted that the world of High Castle’s alternate reality has ties to today’s world, as a warning against “When big things happen and people don’t speak up.”

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Genevieve Angelson (with Grace Gummer as Nora Ephron) wants to kick her Go-Go boot through the glass ceiling in Good Girls Revolt. Amazon

Good Girls Revolt — premieres Oct 28
This smart and sexy drama transports viewers to the swinging sixties where equal rights were espoused in the streets, but strict gender roles were enforced in the segregated newsrooms of “News of the Week.”

It’s a visit to the era of Mad Men, but it’s more Man Women. “We’re embracing the era differently” explain the show producers.

Executive Producer Dana Calvo says that there is still a pay disparity in the news room, and actress Erin Drake says that working on the show has made her realize “It’s okay to get angry” about patent and latent gender bias. She says that there are fights still to be waged for gender equality.

The series is based on Lynn Povich’s book The Good Girls Revolt, which chronicled the real gender discrimination case that she was a part of in the 1960s. The series was fictionalized from there; the characters in the series are based on real women but were changed to protect their identities.

It was important for EP’s Dana Colvo — a former journalist — for the journalism of the series to “pass the smell test.”

Grace Gummer appears in the pilot as Nora Ephron, but Joy Bryant is the only regular cast member who is portraying a real woman — Eleanor Holmes Norton. “She is absolutely extraordinary,” gushes Bryant. The actress reveals that she feels a tremendous responsibility to play the icon and says, “I hope she thinks I don’t suck.”

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Billy Bob Thornton battles big law in Goliath

Goliath — Premiering Oct. 14
Legal producer extraordinaire David E. Kelly presents a new drama where a down and out lawyer (Billy Bob Thorton) seeks redemption in a new case against his old partner (William Hurt). Executive producer David E. Kelley explains the series is about one lone warrior who knows he hasn’t got the resources to fight big against big law firms, but knows that if he can just get his cases in front of 12 other people, democracy still has a chance.

EP Jonathan Shapiro says, “A trial can destroy and elevate people” even ones who aren’t a part of the case. He reveals that he and Kelley first conceived the series concept while working on The Practice but could never find the time and a way to properly delve into the dark world of alcoholism and depression that plagues the law profession. Shapiro also mentions that cases go to jury trial less than 1% of the time. Kelley says that the law industry has changed in the last 20 years. “The system is rigged” he challenges.