This fall, Blair Underwood stars in “Ironside,” an NBC reboot of the classic police drama that featured Raymond Burr as a paraplegic detective.
But viewers shouldn’t expect many similarities between the new show and the “Ironside” that aired from 1967 to ’75.
Besides the title, the fact that the title character is a detective and in a wheelchair, “everything else is re-imagined,” Underwood told reporters here at the TV critics press tour.
One of the chief differences is the personality of Ironside himself. As portrayed by Underwood in the pilot episode, he’s a gruff and very intense guy who demands a lot of himself and his team.
“He’s kind of a bad ass,” Underwood said. “In terms of his bad-assness, he’s a great character.”
The character is also very self-sufficient. There are no handles on his wheelchair and he doesn’t get much assistance in making his way around. That aspect of Ironside, said Underwood, is derived from the show’s technical adviser — a man who was paralyzed at the age of 19 in a skiing accident and has gone on to lead an extremely independent life.
“A lot of what you see in this portrayal of Ironside is inspired by him,” he said.
Underwood, who had never before played a character in a wheelchair, acknowledged that the role presented a big learning curve for him.
“It’s something I had to delve into and continue to delve into,” he said. “Our job is to make you believe it and to be as authentic as possible.”
Along those lines, a producer was asked if any actual paraplegics were considered for the role. They were not, he replied, because the series will feature many flashback scenes showing Ironside before his injury.
The Voice” may have developed into a huge hit for NBC, but it has yet to create a major, chart-topping star. And the show’s principal players seem to be a bit prickly when you bring that up.
During a stop at the TV critics press tour, “Voice” coach Adam Levine told reporters, “I don’t know if that’s the overall mission statement of the show,” prompting host Carson Daly to quickly chime in with an emphatic “It’s not.”
Still, it’s worth mentioning: While “American Idol” has given the world big names like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson, and had Phillip Phillips enjoy a gigantic hit single in “Home,” the NBC singing show can’t come close to matching that resume.
“It would be really nice if we were to launch a new star,” Levine said. “A lot of things have to happen in order for that to take place. The goal of the show is to do what we can do with these amazing singers while they’re on the show to get somebody into the front to win the show. We all know that the lightning in a bottle that you have to capture in order to be successful in the business is extremely difficult.”
Levine was joined in the panel session by Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green, both of whom will be returning to “The Voice” after taking Season 4 off. Blake Shelton, was absent due to a concert commitment.
Aguilera, who was replaced by Shakira last season, says she needed a break to work on other projects and to simply wind down.
“I cannot live in front of the camera 24 hours a day. I have to take breaks and stay connected with myself,” she says. “I’m a mom and … when the cameras go off, I put on sweats and a T-shirt. The red lips come off. I needed some time to do that.”
Green, who stepped away to launch a two-month “Loberace” show in Las Vegas, found it a little strange to watch Usher take over his big red seat on the show.
“It was awkward and intriguing at the same time,” he said. “It was a bit of an out-of-body experience.”
“The Voice” returns Sept. 23 at 8 p.m.
Shake It Up!,” the hit musical-comedy that co-stars Oakland native Zendaya, has been canceled by the Disney Channel.
The series, which also features Bella Thorne, will conclude its run after its current third season, with the final episodes set to air this summer and the fall.
“Shake It Up,” which debuted in 2010 to an impressive average of 6.2 million viewers, is pegged to a pair of best friends who star on their local TV dance program.
The cancellation might be surprising, given that “Shake It Up” still pulls in robust ratings — ranking No. 1 among children 6-11 and 9-14 — but the Disney Channel tends to end some shows before the decline sets in.
It’s certainly not the end for Zendaya. The talented 16-year-old, who recently finished second on “Dancing With the Stars,” has signed on to star in a Disney Channel original movie based on the book “Boys Are Dogs.” Meanwhile, her debut album, with Hollywood Records, is set to debut in September
Thorne also has a Hollywood Records deal, a three-book deal with Random House and will star in the indie thriller “Home Invasion.”
Sean Combs wants to stage a Revolt.
The music mogul/rapper dropped by the TV critics press tour Friday morning to promote his new music cable station, Revolt TV, which is scheduled to launch this fall.
Combs, clad in a snappy gray suit, spoke with his usual passion about how he’s seeking to appeal to young viewers — or millennials — who have “unplugged from TV and run to the Internet.”
“My mission is to bring kids back to television,” he said, pointing out that TV is going to be everywhere, including the “toilet and sidewalk.”
Revolt, Combs said, will rely heavily on social media, allowing viewers to approve and create content. He insisted that the channel will cover “music as a culture” and “in a journalistic way.”
“We’ll take risks on young and new artists,” he added.
Revolt grew out of a diversity program initiated by Comcast. Combs said he has harbored a dream to control his own TV network for 11 years. But the work that has gone into the project has exceeded his expectations.
“It’s the hardest, most stressful thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
HBO executives said on Thursday that they will not air the pilot episode of “Criminal Justice,” which featured scenes with the late James Gandolfini.
“I can’t imagine us airing the pilot with James in it,” said HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo, who added that the actor’s sudden passing “took the wind out of our sails.”
In the pilot, Gandolfini played a downtrodden jailhouse attorney who visits police stations for clients.
Lombardo told reporters at the TV critics summer press tour that HBO is contemplating the future of the limited series and is in the process of recasting the role.
Other HBO highlights:
– There is no end game for “Game of Thrones.” Not yet, at least.
“It can go on as long as there are stories to tell,” Lombardo said of the fantasy epic, which continues to grow in popularity.
The same apparently goes for “True Blood,” which was recently renewed for a seventh season and has experienced a new creative energy, according to Lombardo.
– Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” may be a target of dersion for critics, but the drama will most likely be renewed for a third season. Lombardo said the odds for an extension are “excellent” and that an official announcement should come soon.
– Selina Meyer, Julia Louis Dreyfuss’ character in “Veep,” will run for president in Season 3. “We’ll see her on a bus a lot,” said Lombardo. “She’ll be out on the campaign trail.”
– On the cancellation of “Enlightened,” which recently earned Laura Dern an Emmy nomination, Lombardo said, “We felt creatively that the story had come to a natural resting place. It felt like we should end where we did.”
– Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) returns to HBO in the film, “Clear History” (9 p.m. Aug. 4). David, who wrote the script, plays an unlucky marketing executive who leaves his start-up company, only to see it go on to make billions.
– Sarah Silverman will star in her first HBO comedy special, “Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles,” which is scheduled for Nov. 23.
– The shortened five-episode final season of “Treme” is slated for Dec. 1.
As Matt Smith’s time-traveling days on “Doctor Who” near an end, he admits that there are moments when he wonders if he’ll deeply regret his decision to leave the beloved sci-fi drama.
“Just because I’ve done ‘Doctor Who’ doesn’t give me a divine right to walk into any other jobs,” he told journalists gathered here for television’s annual summer press tour. “I have pondered it on several occasions and sometimes think, ‘I’ve made a huge mistake. What am I doing?’ Don’t leave.’”
Smith, the 11th actor to play the eccentric, two-hearted alien, is preparing to shoot his farewell episode — the show’s Christmas special, which will arrive on the heels of the much anticipated 50th anniversary special.
He called the decision to leave after four years “a hard choice,” but pointed out, “I’ve done it for four years, and we shoot nine, 10 months a year. The show has come to a natural tipping point. It’s at the top of a cycle and it’s a good time for me and the show.”
Smith added, “I feel very proud to be a part of such a wonderful legacy. The thing about Doctor Who is he always looks forward. The show will get bigger and better and carry on without me.”
He called his time with the show “a transformative experience” that has dominated his life.
As far as future jobs are concerned, Smith already has one lined up: He’ll star in “How to Catch a Monster,” a fantasy film produced and directed by Ryan Goslin.
Meanwhile, the search for Smith’s successor is ongoing, according to “Doctor Who” producer Marcus Wilson.
“You want the best actor for the role,” he said. ” … You just have to cast the net wide and hope you find somebody brilliant.”
The recent failure of a Silicon Valley-themed reality show hasn’t deterred HBO from proceeding with plans for a scripted series set in the Bay Area’s tech community.
According to Michael Lombardo, president of HBO Programming, casting will soon begin for “Silicon Valley,” a dark, single-camera comedy pilot to be directed by Mike Judge (“Beavis and Butt-Head,” “King of the Hill,” “Office Space”). Shooting, he said, will likely start in March.
Lombardo claimed that he hadn’t seen “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley,” the Bravo reality series from Randi Zuckerberg that was blasted by some Valley insiders and became a ratings dud. But he admitted that the show’s poor performance might have indirectly benefitted HBO in that it hasn’t muddied the creative waters,
“I was actually sort of glad that it didn’t seem to register very much with viewers,” he said between panel sessions at the Television Critics Association press tour.
Lombardo said the “Start-Ups” failure, in no way, indicates that there isn’t an audience for Silicon Valley-themed material.
“There’s clearly an interest in what’s going on there,” he said. “What is that subculture and who are those people? It’s a world we all read about and all chat about, yet we don’t really know what it’s like. But at the end of the day, (the show) has got to be funny, it’s got to be interesting and it’s got to be well-done. Hopefully, we’ll hit all those marks.”
According to Lombardo, the “Silicon Valley” pilot will be at least partially shot in the Bay Area.
“You need some of the local color to make it as honest as possible,” he said.
When growing up as best pals in Concord, Blake Anderson and Kyle Newacheck, star and director of the Comedy Central series “Workaholics,” sensed that a show-biz career was in their future. So soon after they graduated from Clayton Valley High School, they bolted for L.A.
“There was just something in my soul saying that you can’t settle in at home,” Anderson recalls. “We had bigger dreams. And you’re never never going to get attain that dream sitting on your mom’s couch.”
Now they’re part of one of Comedy Central’s biggest hits. Just days ago, they were surprised to learn that the cable channel renewed “Workaholics” for not one, but two more seasons. The irreverent and edgy series about a trio of slacker buddies who work and party together averaged 2 million viewers last summer.
The show does especially well with young male viewers, but Anderson says he’s always amazed by the vast range of their fans.
“It’s surprising. You just never know,” he says. “We’ve heard from little kids whose parents probably shouldn’t be letting them watch, and older people that you worry about having a heart attack while watching.”
Meanwhile, the success of “Workaholics” has been a big calling card for Newacheck, who has been hired to direct episodes of major network sitcoms such as “Happy Endings,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Community.”
Still, his heart remains with “Workaholics,” which he helped create and write.
“I was real excited to work on those shows. It’s a cool experience,” he says. “But it kind of feels like babysitting. I always want to get back to my own baby.”
Anderson, who is one of the show’s main castmembers — along with Adam Devine and Anders Holm — forsees a day when they all branch out into movies. But for now, he’s counting his blessings and looking back gratefully on the day the left home behind.
“That was a big key,” Anderson says. “So many parents these days are totally cool with their kids living on the couch the whole time. It’s like a new thing with families. But you’ve got to leave the nest and get out there.”
Season 3 of “Workaholics” begins at 10 p.m. Jan. 16
Hide the kitchen knives. Apparently we haven’t seen the last of Norman Bates.
One of cinema’s most iconic characters returns — along with his mysterious mother — in “Bates Motel,” an A&E TV series inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s landmark 1960 horror film, “Psycho.”
“Bates Motel,” set to premiere on March 18, is a prequel that dares to imagine the twisted relationship between a teen-aged Norman (Freddie Highmore) and his overprotective single mom, Norma (Vera Farmiga). But instead of going retro, executive producers Carlton Cuse (“Lost”) and Kerry Ehrin (“Friday Night Lights”) chose to set their dark drama in the present day.
“We did not want to do an homage to ‘Psycho,’” Cuse told journalists at the Television Critics Association press tour. “We just wanted to sort of take these characters and the setup as inspiration. … And it may surprise you what you actually learn about what the relationship is like between these two characters and what drives Norman Bates to be the guy that he becomes. We didn’t want to stick to what had been done.”
The opening episode, made available to critics, has Norma seeking a fresh start after the tragic death of her husband. She and Norman move to an idyllic coastal town, where she purchases an abandoned motel. The series will go on to explore how Norman evolves into the deranged killer seen in the 1960 film.
“Bates Motel” is the first project for Cuse since “Lost” ended, and though the series figures to be tense and suspenseful, he promises to eschew any traces of dense mythology.
“No polar bears, no smoke monsters, for sure, OK?” he said with a smile. “There’s no supernatural elements in play. We view this as a psychological thriller.”
As for the mama’s boy at the heart of the story, Highmore said the series will challenge viewers as they try to figure out exactly how Norman turned bad.
“We all know that he’ll go on to be psycho,” he said. “But is that necessarily because of his upbringing? Is it nature versus nurture? Or is it because they move to this dodgy town and there’s a sort of weird, intimate relationship between Norma and Norman? That challenges the audience to think, ‘Well, if I was in that situation, would I be slightly different?’ You know, we all go a little mad sometimes.”
AMC, as expected, has renewed “The Walking Dead” for a fourth season, but the zombie drama will undergo another change at the top as showrunner Glen Mazzara announced that he will be leaving the series.
In a statement, AMC said, “the two parties have mutually decided to part ways.”
“Glen guided the series creatively for seasons 2 and 3,” the statement read. “AMC is grateful for his hard work. We are both proud of our shared success. Both parties acknowledge that there is a difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward, and conclude that it is best to part ways.”
AMC described the decision as “amicable” and said that Mazzara will stay on through post-production on Season 3, which resumes Feb. 10.
“The Walking Dead” is AMC’s biggest hit — and one of the biggest hits on television, becoming the first basic cable show to lead the ratings in the highly coveted adults 18-49 demo. Even so, it has had its share of behind-the-scenes drama. Frank Darabont, who adapted the series from Robert Kirkman’s comic books, was abruptly forced out as showrunner midway through Season 2 for reasons that still haven’t been made clear.
In a separate statement, Mazzara said, “My time as showrunner on ‘The Walking Dead’ has been an amazing experience, but after I finish Season 3, it’s time to move on. I have told the stories I wanted to tell and connected with our fans on a level that I never imagined. It doesn’t get much better than that. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey.”
Meanwhile, Kirkman issued his own extensive statement, saying, “I am in full support of both AMC and Glen Mazzara in the decision they have come to and believe the parties came to this decision in the best interest of the future of the show. I thank Glen for his hard work and appreciate his many contributions to ‘The Walking Dead’ and look forward to working with him as we complete post production on Season 3. I am also excited to begin work on another spectacular season of this show that I know means so much to so many people. This show has always been the result of a wide range of extremely talented men and women working tirelessly to produce their best work collectively. I believe the future is bright for ‘The Walking Dead.’ Thank you to the fans for your continued support.”
Despite those warm-and-fuzzy declarations, you have to wonder what exactly it was about Mazzara’s vision for the show that AMC objected to — and why the network would even want to mess with such amazing success. And “amicable”? Probably not.
Either way, fans have reason to be nervous. Under Mazzara’s direction, “The Walking Dead” became more tense and tough and gripping, even as it did up the gore quotient. The show landed on several end-of-the-year Top 10 lists issued by TV critics.