What are the TCAs? The Television Critics Association press tour is a bi-annual gathering of journalists and representatives of the TV industry at large. Basically, each network is given some time to present its upcoming slate of television programming to a ballroom full of critics, reporters and freelance writers eager to ask questions and get answers. Actors, writers, producers and more host 15-20 minute panels before breaking up to provide one-on-one interviews for various media outlets, all to get the word out about their new shows.
With more TV shows being produced than ever before, clearly this is a big deal. But why should it matter to anyone outside the room? For one, it's when we get the first scoop on a number of exciting new projects, many of which come from fascinating folks working in the indie film community. But there's more to it than that. Here are six reasons to get excited about the next two weeks of TV coverage coming at you live from Pasadena, January 5-19.
1. Indie Directors are Working in TV
2. Indie Auteurs are Creating TV
Over the past decade-plus, we've seen a number of exciting TV projects spring from the minds of celebrated indie filmmakers. But the idea of Woody Allen, a legend among legends, creating a TV show for Amazon is a whole new ballgame. While we have no new info as of yet regarding Allen's expected series, an intrepid reporter (or six) is bound to ask Amazon executives about the status of a show Allen described last May as being "very, very difficult." The Oscar winner, speaking at Cannes, went so far as to say he regretted accepting the deal to make his first TV show ever, but Amazon officials have shrugged off concerns and seem to be pressing forward with the series. We should learn more when Amazon has its day on January 11.
Hopefully things went a bit smoother for Cameron Crowe and Martin Scorsese. Crowe will be stopping by the TCAs January 12 to talk about "Roadies," his new Showtime series starring Luke Wilson and Imogen Poots. The one-hour comedy follows the devoted music fans who travel from city to city with the de facto family they've formed along the way. Scorsese, meanwhile, is also taking on the music world, but "Vinyl" will break it down from the inside. Created by Terence Winter and produced by Mick Jagger and Scorsese, the '70s-set rock 'n roll drama hits all the director's sweet spots: music, the '70s and wild drama. HBO has its press tour day on January 7.
3. TV Festival Favorites are Getting Their Due
A number of series that will be discussed this month have fest cred: "UnREAL," "Mr. Robot" and "Angie Tribeca," which have panels set for the next two weeks, all premiered at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival, where "Mr. Robot" went on to win its first award of many. (And "UnREAL" was technically a SXSW old-timer, as "Sequin Raze," the short film that inspired the series, premiered there in 2013.)
In addition, those looking forward to the Special Events programs at Sundance this year might keep an eye on TCA coverage for ESPN's "OJ: Made in America," Starz's "The Girlfriend Experience," Hulu's "11.22.63" and Amazon's "The New Yorker Presents. Before hitting the slopes of Park City, the casts and producers of those shows will be stopping by Pasadena to give critics a sneak peek. The TCAs might be a strong launching pad for new series, but they now have a little competition — in the best way possible — from the festival circuit, and this year's lineup shows the power of including both approaches in a show's distribution and promotional strategy.
4. Indie Films are Being Reborn on TV
Not all movies make for good TV shows (just ask "Minority Report" or "Bad Teacher"), but many indie films explore such fascinating ideas that transitioning to TV seems like the perfect means to further the discussion. Two such series will take the stage at the TCAs: "Animal Kingdom" and "The Girlfriend Experience."
David Michod's 2010 Australian thriller serves as the inspiration for TNT's new drama of the same name. "Animal Kingdom" stars Ellen Barkin as the matriarch of a Southern California family whose excessive lifestyle is fueled by their criminal activities. Originally developed at Showtime, it will be interesting to see if this hour-long drama can live up to the Oscar-nominated intricacies of the original film. We should get our first taste January 7.
"The Girlfriend Experience," meanwhile, is a Steven Soderbergh project based on Soderbergh's own film. "The Knick's" director won't be helming these episodes, though. Instead, he's signed on as an executive producer, while Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz run the show. Indie fans will remember Seimetz as one of the stars of "Upstream Color" and the writer-director of "Sun Don't Shine" and a few well-received shorts. How they mimic the unique tone — or establish a new one — based on the story of a New York call girl hired for more than just sex should prove fascinating, and we'll hear (and possibly see) our first preview January 8.
5. Indie Films are Getting Wide Distribution
One of the largely unheralded benefits of TV is its popularity. That can be kind of like a bad word when it comes to the indie community, but it's nothing but a good thing when lesser seen films get wide exposure. Take, for instance, "He Named Me Malala." The Telluride and TIFF documentary has pulled in just over $2.6 million at the U.S. box office, but it's about to land in front of a lot more eyeballs when it premieres on the National Geographic Channel in early 2016. Not only are they airing the well-received doc, but they're also devoting part of their TCA press day to discussing it. That may not bring out a lot of breaking news stories, but it's certainly valuable to the film itself — and thus valuable to the indie community as well.
6. Indie Channels are Getting Their Shot
In addition, long-term supporters of independent film like IFC and SundanceTV will have their time on stage, while a newbie makes a play for critical attention with some high-profile talent: VICELAND, a new channel from the folks at VICE, has a lot of interesting stuff in the works, including series from Ellen Page and Eddie Huang, all of it overseen by creative director Spike Jonze.