By Liz Shannon Miller and Ben Travers | Indiewire July 8, 2014 at 5:44PM
The TCAs are underway, technically beginning Monday night with a reception hosted by National Geographic. Panels began this morning, and will continue for the next two weeks. The cable networks -- including HBO, Starz, Showtime, WGN America, and the BBC, among others -- go first, scheduling their presentations this week from July 8-12. Broadcast networks then start with FOX on Sunday, NBC Monday, ABC Tuesday, and CBS on Thursday, along with a scattering of screenings and other outlets taking up any spare time.
Below, Indiewire's TV team picks their favorite story lines going in, why we should expect the unexpected and what shows should dominate their news cycles. Liz Shannon Miller and Ben Travers break it down below to get you prepped and ready for the two thrilling weeks to come:
Ben: So I know the TCA panels technically began today with the fine folks from National Geographic and TV Guide Network, but for me, it's all about Thursday's HBO presentation. I can't wait to hear more about "The Knick" after watching the first episode to prepare, and I'm still holding out hope they'll shock the world by announcing the new leads for "True Detective."
Liz: It'd definitely be the platform for HBO to do so, as everyone seems fascinated by the promise of -- gasp -- an actual lady detective in the mix.
The fascinating thing about the TCA tour at this point is that it's a combination of incredibly insider and incredibly public, thanks to the Internet. Confining TV executives and stars in a hotel with the press for two weeks is already an intense situation, and then you add Twitter. How much news will be broken remains to be seen. But the portrait of the TV landscape painted is incredibly helpful.
This week also includes the panel for "Better Call Saul," which will also be an important moment, given the confidence AMC has shown in that show by renewing it for a second season.
Ben: If they screen footage for "Better Call Saul" -- which they almost have to -- that will make it an exciting Friday at the TCAs, and as close as anyone could come in Week One to rivaling "True Detective" news. Otherwise, it's hard for me to imagine what surprises could come out of the presentations this week.
That being said, the networks will come up with their fair share of shockers, I'm sure, because of exactly what you mentioned. News works differently these days at the TCAs. Many reporters know what they're getting into having a schedule provided for them and screeners given in advance. I think most networks will do their best to introduce elements placating the Twitter crowds, and that's where things will take a turn (hence my ill-advised hope for Brad Pitt to be introduced as the "True Detective" Season 2 lead).
Are you expecting anything from Sundance or Starz that's not on the menu? The latter only has "The Chair" and "Survivor's Remorse" on the docket -- with LeBron James expectedly axed from the panel due to his heated free agency dilemma -- but they have many more projects of interest in development, including "Outlander," which just announced its panel at Comic Con.
Liz: No LeBron? Well, there goes my reason for showering that day.
Exclusive footage is definitely going to be the major draw of the week, especially since (as you mentioned) a lot of the screeners are already out in the open. How many reporters come to the tour hoping for surprises? I'd say all of them. How likely are those surprises? This week, the odds may be slim.
However, while it's easy to write off this week as dull in comparison to next week, when the broadcasters show up, with Sundance, Starz and relative newbies like WeTV and WGN America, the stakes are actually much higher. These networks are looking to prove that they belong at the table -- that they deserve consideration on the level of HBO and the broadcasters. To paraphrase the poet Eminem, it's their moment. They cannot let it go. And in theory, with the right push, they can convince reporters to convince their readership to actually locate their channels on their cable boxes. Those stakes actually make for vaguely compelling drama.
Ben: It will be interesting to see what shows break through the pack, especially with networks pushing some of their first original series. For instance, WGN America better have something big planned for "Manhattan" or it's going to get lost in the flood.
But speaking of next week, do you have a broadcast network you're particularly eager to hear from? I'm eager to see if FOX announces a new entertainment chairman before their presentation, but NBC is my most anticipated showing. The new No. 1 network has a slew of shows coming out, including "Marry Me" from "Happy Endings" creator David Caspe, the romantic comedy "A to Z," and a few veteran TV stars turning out for seemingly generic dramas (Katherine Heigl in "State of Affairs" and Grace, er, Debra Messing in "The Mysteries of Laura").
Honestly, I wasn't too impressed with the early trailers, but I'm eager to see if the creators and stars can sway expectations in their favor. Plus, I want to hear more about the "Peter Pan" live special and more "event" programs headed our way.
Liz: NBC definitely enters in an interesting position -- lots of momentum, but lots to prove. And if the sales pitches at TCA are better than the trailers, then that could work in its favor. But I'm actually weirdly intrigued by CBS this year. For one thing, last year it showed an inclination towards breaking out of its old models and trying new things that didn't end up working out; I'm curious as to how hard they'll course-correct in reaction to that. Also, there's a part of the schedule devoted to the launch of Thursday Night Football -- I'm curious about how they're going to sell cutting back on original programming for yet another night of sports to this specific crowd.
Any events you're dreading sitting through? Or is it pure pleasure?
Ben: Sportsing! Bring it on! NFL will soon stand for the Non-Stop Football League, and that's fine by me. I hope CBS finds some better, more original programming, but I'd much rather watch the Raiders play the Bucs (two very boring pro teams) than just about any show they had to offer last season.
Actually, I don't see any events I'm dreading on the docket. Starz seems light compared to what we know they've got coming down the line, and we haven't received a full schedule for Fox yet (though I can't wait to see the first episode of "Gotham"). Otherwise, I'm just going to sit back and wait to see what each network has in store. Waiting to see who can shock a roomful of reporters is enough drama for me.
How about you? I know you've been talking about a certain El Rey program for a few weeks...anything else striking your fancy?
Liz: I've come to accept the fact that no one on the planet will ever come to match my affection for "Matador," which is a bit heartbreaking. How can people be immune to the charms of a show that combines the sexy action of "Alias" with the sexy action of professional soccer? I fully expect to be the only one on board when El Rey presents the show to critics on Thursday.
I also hope that when BBC America presents its upcoming film "A Poet in New York" on Wednesday, it helps raise the profile of Andrew Davies amongst American journalists. The writer has been behind about 99 percent of the great television adaptations of British literature, including the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth "Pride and Prejudice" and the "Bleak House" miniseries starring Gillian Anderson.
These are tiny things, but they're the sort of programming that I hope gets surfaced over the next two weeks. We know we'll be paying attention to "Gotham" and "Better Call Saul" and "The Knick" when they premiere. Hopefully, the TCAs become an opportunity to learn about things we don't yet know we're going to love.