CBS put its best face forward—which was alternately Jermaine Fowler’s bright-eyed expression and Bill Paxton’s smiling mug—at the Television Critics Association winter press tour this morning. The two actors star in very different series, with Fowler serving as executive producer and regular at Superior Donuts, while Paxton’s breaking in a rookie on Training Day, but both productions have to be wary of stereotypes. Though only so much in-depth discussion on the topic could come from their respective 30-minute panels, everyone from Antoine Fuqua to Judd Hirsch (Fowler’s co-star), weighed in.
The eye network appeared to acknowledge that it was in the red after the drubbing it got over limited representation at the summer version of the event, and came out swinging with The Good Fight. The Good Wife spin-off sees Christine Baranski reprising her role as Diane Lockhart, the impeccably attired attorney whose retirement prospects suddenly look bleak after a Ponzi scheme comes to light. After showing off the first trailer, creators Michelle and Robert King talked about the Chicago connection and whether or not they’d received enough credit for being conservative in the original series. When asked about the Good Wife’s perceived criticism of President Obama’s administration, the Kings just downplayed the political nature of the show. The characters are “political,” they claimed, though not necessarily the storylines. The cast now includes Delroy Lindo and Justified’s Eric Tazel, who play Diane’s former rivals. When asked whether the series will address the homicide rate in Chicago, Robert King admitted it was difficult to touch on the subject in a way that wasn’t exploitative. That’ll be left up to the characters—who, as defense attorneys, literally profit from the situation—said King.
Chicago was the unofficial theme of the day: CBS also shared a first look at Superior Donuts, a Second City-set comedy starring Judd Hirsch, Katey Sagal, and Jermaine Fowler. The half-hour series’ environs are nowhere near as cushy as Diane’s; Hirsch plays the owner of a struggling donut shop in Uptown, a rapidly-gentrifying Chicago neighborhood. With the help of a hip, young employee (Fowler), he fights off prissy millennials and real estate developers. Sagal co-stars as a Chicago cop and cracks wise about her body cam. The executive producers, including Fowler, readily answered questions about tensions between the city’s police department and black residents. Although very much a comedy, Superior Donuts won’t shy away from those matters. The sitcom might feature some stereotypes, Fowler and the EPs admitted, but they say they’ll “thwart those expectations.”
After a first look at Apple Music’s Carpool Karaoke, the conversation returned to law enforcement with a panel on Antoine Fuqua and Jerry Bruckheimer’s adaptation of the former’s Training Day movie. Bill Paxton probably did a better job than anyone selling TCA members on the series, managing to be both confident and self-effacing about yet another reboot in CBS’ lineup. Smilin’ Bill, late of Texas Rising, invoked the gunslinger image of Old Westerns while discussing his take on the story’s not-quite-corrupt cop. The Training Day series isn’t linked to the film beyond a reference to Alonzo Harris’ reign of terror in narcotics, which is probably for the best. (Based on the screeners, Paxton won’t try to fill Denzel Washington’s shadow, let alone King Kong’s.) Justin Cornwell stands in for Ethan Hawke in the rookie role, but in this iteration, his new detective enters the fray with his eyes wide open.
After a summer press tour that saw a lot of familiar (white) faces, both in front of and behind the camera, CBS didn’t boast about the course correction, preferring to let the shows—which feature diverse casts and showrunners—speak for themselves. Not a bad start to the work week.