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TCA roundup: ABC revels in the deaths of love and McDreamy

The Muppets' Bill Prady (left), Kermit The Frog, Bob Kushell, Miss Piggy

The story grabbing the most headlines during ABC’s day with the Television Critics Association involved the relationship status of a pair of puppets, indicative of the network’s not-exactly-boat-rocking time at the summer press tour. Yes, when The Muppets begins this fall, Kermit The Frog and Miss Piggy will be on the outs—just as they were at the beginning of the 2011 film The Muppets, and as they have been, more or less, since the days of The Muppet Show. (The validity of the marriage ceremony depicted at the end of The Muppets Take Manhattan is a subject of debate for which there simply isn’t enough time in this life.) The hot-and-cold, on-again/off-again nature of Kermit and Miss Piggy’s romance is one of its core components. After all, it’s incredibly difficult to commit yourself to someone who routinely karate chops you across the vast backstage area of a vaudevillian theater.

The TV press got plenty of additional information on The Muppets—for example, Reese Witherspoon and Imagine Dragons are set to guest star, with the latter presumably disappointing Kermit and company by being non-imaginary, non-dragon musicians—as well as fellow fall debuts Quantico, Dr. Ken, and Wicked City. The cast and producers of that last show faced a grilling on its serial-murderer premise, which finds Erika Christensen and Ed Westwick playing thrill-killing Bonnie and Clyde types on the Sunset Strip of the 1980s. Only five minutes of Wicked City have been made available to critics, but those five minutes show Westwick’s character luring a woman into his car, receiving oral sex, and then stabbing the woman to death—leaving executive producers Amy B. Harris and Steven Baigelman to assure the ballroom that their show is more than blow jobs, knife wounds, and “murder porn.” “I don’t think we can avoid that conversation on our show,” Harris said, adding ”When the story is about violence and it tells you something about the time and place, I understand it. When it’s used to titillate, I’m not particularly interested.”

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Addressing critics earlier in the day, ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee voiced his enthusiasm for Wicked City, then channeled a little bit of its central couple when discussing one of the 2014-15 TV season’s most controversial plot developments. “It was great, wasn’t it?” Lee said of Derek Shepherd’s unexpected death on Grey’s Anatomy, thus reaping enough anguished cries from that show’s fandom to power his newest doomsday machine. “We had a lot of discussions about it. It wasn’t easy or fun,” Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes said during a later panel for the TGIT lineup. To Rhimes, killing off McDreamy was the only way to preserve a love story her show had been telling for 11 years, a preferable alternative to having Derek walk out on Meredith Grey as Patrick Dempsey exited the series.

Of his network’s other ongoing series, Lee touted Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s “really interesting next season,” which will put greater emphasis on the Inhumans plotline. “Now the real thrust for next season ‘Is are you Inhuman?’,” Lee said, a better tagline than the one that could potentially wind up on the lips of moviegoers in 2019: “What the hell’s an Inhuman?” He also confirmed a Golden Age of Hollywood setting for Agent Carter’s second season, a vision of Los Angeles which probably won’t feature any murder porn, either. And it sure as hell isn’t a place where a frog and a pig can find love, because such a place never really existed.

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