Busy day at TCA Sunday with NBC, whose executives were all smiles when talking about the beleaguered network’s turn around in the ratings and $300 million jump in ad dollars generated at this year’s upfronts.
Here are highlights from today’s session:
— NBC renewed three popular summer series and crowed about its surprise hit of the summer “The Night Shift” (NBC’s biggest summer drama premiere in 14 years).
— Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy”) was here to talk about her new fall drama “State of Affairs,” where she plays a CIA analyst. Alfre Woodard co-stars as POTUS. Reporters made a bit of a fuss about Heigl’s mother (“momager”), Nancy, being on stage as an executive producer. Heigl also was asked in no uncertain terms to address her reputation for being “difficult” in Hollywood. (Short answer: She doesn’t think she is.) I thought the rom-com star handled herself pretty well on the panel, despite the weird vibe in the room.
— On the heels of last year’s live musical experiment “The Sound of Music,” NBC is in the process of casting its next musical “event,” “Peter Pan.” NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt announced that tap-dancing Christopher Walken will play Captain Hook. No word yet on who will play the titular character but one thing is sure: It will be a woman, Greenblatt said. He wanted to cast Kristen Bell and said she was interested in the part, but her “House of Lies” schedule ruled her out. “I need this person from August 5 to December 5,” he said. Besides, she’s now preggers.
— The upcoming Hellblazer comic series-inspired drama “Constantine” has recast the female lead with telenovela star Angelica Celaya.One of the scenes in the pilot will be reshot to explain why Lucy Griffiths’ (“True Blood”) character is leaving, producers said during the panel. Celaya will be introduced in a later episode.
— Greenblatt says he has no regrets about passing on the low-rated cult favorite “Community,” which will live on, online, thanks to Yahoo. “It just didn’t make sense for us to have another season of it at that level of audience. I don’t know if we’ll ever know how many people watch it on Yahoo. I’m curious to see if they can get a bigger audience than we did,” Greenblatt said.
— Another “Chicago Fire” spinoff (one with more of a hospital bent) is a possibility, but not in the near future, Greenblatt said.
— More Maya Rudolph might be on the way. The former “SNL” star did well in the ratings with her one-off variety show earlier this year. Executives confirmed they’re in talks with Rudolph to potentially do more.
— The popular U.K. television fund-raising event Red Nose Day is making the leap across the pond for a three-hour live special in May.
— Bill Cosby’s sitcom is moving ahead, likely to debut next year. Greenblatt described it as a multigenerational family comedy with Cosby starring as a father of three daughters and grandfather to many. Like “The Cosby Show,” it will be a multi-cam as opposed to “The Office”-style single cams that are all the rage among comedy writers. It’s being written by Mike O’Malley (“Glee”), who may also act on the show, and Mike Sikowitz (“Rules of Engagement”), who’s also involved with CBS’s upcoming comedy “The McCarthys.”
— The “Heroes” offshoot, “Heroes Reborn,” could hit TV as early as summer 2015.
— Debra Messing revealed herself to be a voracious fan of murder TV, obsessed with the likes of real-life crime on “Dateline,” etc. The “Will & Grace” star returns to series TV this fall as a homicide detective on the dramedy “The Mysteries of Laura,” based on a Spanish format. Executive producers include Northwestern alum Greg Berlanti (“Arrow,” “The Tomorrow People”).
— My favorite fall show of the day was Glencoe native David Caspe’s new comedy “Marry Me,” starring his real-life bride and “Happy Endings” star Casey Wilson. The gist of the show is that Wilson’s character, Annie, and her longtime boyfriend played by Ken Marino are a great couple who happen to be not very good at getting engaged, as evidenced by the melee in the very funny pilot. A reporter pointed out to Wilson that Annie is very much like her former character Penny from “Happy Endings,” which Wilson said she was trying not to avoid but apparently “will have to work harder at that.” Caspe set the comedy in Chicago and said he’d love to film some scenes in his old hometown. (That never happened with the similarly-set “Happy Endings,” but hope springs eternal.) Former “SNL” funny man Tim Meadows, who’s lived in Lincoln Park for the past decade, is part of the ensemble cast as one of Annie’s two gay dads. “I’m always cast as the black man,” Meadows jokingly lamented during the “Marry Me” panel session.